Category Archives: architecture

The Abbaye de Villers

Tuesday 6th August 2019, 12.40pm (day 2,903)

Villers Abbey, 6/8/19

This abbey was built by the Cistercians in the 12th century and finally abandoned after being sacked by French revolutionaries at the end of the 18th. Much of it is still basically standing, and makes a truly magnificent ruin. Second picture in a row stood somewhere in Belgium and basically pointing the camera upwards; this roof has a kind of space alien look to it, like we are looking up into the mothership at the end of Close Encounters or Independence Day.

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The Atomium

Monday 5th August 2019, 2.00pm (day 2,902)

Atomium, 5/8/19

The Atomium is a 100m tall representation of an iron crystal, built for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. It was supposed to only stand for six months, but was such a good idea that it’s still there, and gives you a pleasingly retro (though slightly overpriced) tourist experience as you go up into the various spheres and tubes. Probably somewhere in these reflections I appear, and thus this is a self-portrait, but let’s not worry about that too much.

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Pyongyang (or, Milton Keynes)

Wednesday 24th July 2019, 4.40pm (day 2,890)

Pyongyang MK, 24/7/19

This blog (and my general sanity) depends on a steady drip-feed of new places to explore and photograph. This place is one of the weirder ones: Milton Keynes, the new city built from the 1960s on, and now a very strange mix of comfortable suburbia and stark brutalist architecture that looks to me like I expect Pyongyang, North Korea to look. This is particularly true around the railway station, which is to my right as I took this shot (but architecturally is much the same).

I may be coming back more times in the future if a work collaboration comes to fruition, but if I do, I will need to find ways to get my head around Milton Keynes…. at the moment it just confuses me.

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Durham cathedral, from the train

Wednesday 17th July 2019, 3.15pm (day 2,883)

Durham cathedral, 17/7/19

Scenes from the East Coast Main Line… there is plenty to see (like the Forth Bridge which also nearly made it today), but this view of Durham, its cathedral and castle, from the station rivals that of any other railway view in the world. But you have to know when to click the shutter. One of these days I will get out at Durham station and look around, as I don’t think I’ve been to the city since at least 2004.

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4th July gathering, Hallgrimskirkja

Thursday 4th July 2019, 5.05pm (day 2,870)

Hallgrimskirkja, 4/7/19

The Hallgrimskirkja is Reykjavik’s most distinctive architectural landmark. The design is meant to reflect basalt columns and thus the country’s volcanic geology. The statue in front is of Leif Eiriksson, who got to America several centuries before Columbus; it was presented by the USA to Iceland in 1930 and today seemed to be the focus of a 4th July gathering as a result, although maybe it was just a big bunch of tourists celebrating the fact that after 36 hours of rain since we arrived yesterday morning, the sun finally put in an appearance. Let’s hope it stays….

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Bee house

Sunday 30th June 2019, 9.55am (day 2,866)

Bee house, 30/6/19

And you thought all bees lived in hives, correct? Well, apparently not. Some bees are solitary and if one wants to be nice to them, building a little place like this in the secluded corner of a garden is one way to do it; they like nesting in the tubes. None seem to be at home today in this one that my in-laws have set up, however.

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Accrington, Lancashire

Sunday 26th May 2019, 3.15pm (day 2,831)

Accrington houses, 26/5/19

Getting the train from Hebden Bridge to points further north-west involves passing through — or rather (on a viaduct), over — the town of Accrington. I once got involved in a conversation on social media as to which was England’s most ‘Northern’ town, meaning, not geographically, but culturally, stereotypically. This place won, and each time I cross the viaduct and see its seemingly endless ranks of terraced, back-to-back housing, I remember why. This is just a small part of the whole. LS Lowry could paint Accrington as it looks today, and few would doubt the authenticity.

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The Arndale Centre

Tuesday 21st May 2019, 9.00am (day 2,826)

Arndale centre, 21/5/19

The Arndale subsumes a huge chunk of Manchester under its architectural footprint. The third-biggest city centre shopping mall in Europe, or something like that. It’s safe to say that when it was built it wasn’t popular. My late Gran would not go in it; it was too large, too enclosed, too alien. These days it’s getting middle-aged, having been completed in 1979. But that still doesn’t make it as old as me.

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The Old Quadrangle

Tuesday 14th May 2019, 2.20pm (day 2,819)

Old Quadrangle, 14/5/14

Even Manchester’s crowded, fully urban campus can crank up the architecture quotient now and again, especially on a sunny May day. The Beyer Building and its cloak of ivy have featured before. My only day on campus this week, so I’m glad it was a pleasant one.

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The IG Farben Building

Friday 10th May 2019, 5.55pm (day 2,815)

IG Farben building, 10/5/19

At one point during the conference I was attending at the Goethe University in Frankfurt today, there were vague references to ‘our famous building’ that drifted through my Friday consciousness but didn’t take hold. Then, on my way back into the city centre afterwards, I saw the building.

The IG-Farbenhaus has had a chequered history to say the least. HQ to the eponymous company, when built in the 1920s it was the biggest office building in Europe and remained so for thirty years. IG Farben manufactured the world’s first antibiotic — and also the gas that was used in the Nazi concentration camps. After the war the USA used it as a military base — the ‘Pentagon of Europe’; following German reunification ownership passed to the state of Hesse who renovated it and then helped the Goethe-Institut build a new campus around it from 2001 onwards. And all set in parkland (kept free of development by the Americans for security reasons) right in the city centre.

I’m sure this photo doesn’t do the architecture full justice, but what the hell, the sun looks good too.

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