BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘brutalist’

#365daysofbiking Splendid isolation:

Monday December 21st 2020 – I can’t get used to Walsall deserted, especially at peak times. The effects of this pandemic will resonate socially for years, in ways we’re only just beginning to see – the death of town centres is clearly being accelerated.

The town’s Christmas tree, today standing in splendid isolation in St Pauls Square is an excellent specimen, though and cheered me up. The twenty year out of time, brutalist, newly renovated bus station beyond it looked welcoming, too, if only for the want of passengers. Must say the warm white lighting in there was a clever choice.

It’s hard to believe that this is 4pm on Monday before Christmas. Strange days indeed.

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#365daysofbiking Things that happen when you’re not looking

February 14th – I haven’t been to Birmingham much this winter, and the first time passing though overground since Christmas in daylight made me stop in surprise at a building growing in the Colmore Row business area.

This office block has grown on the site of John Madin’s now demolished brutalist gem 103 Colmore Row: The former Birmingham Natwest Tower.

103 had passed its time and it is right, I guess that it has gone and change is happening. But I do miss it, it was a startlingly beautiful bit of brutalist design – a priapic monument to mammon.

The building replacing it is so far unknown to me: But it seems huge. In my head 103 fitted perfectly, in a forest of towers, but it clearly never was so, and the rising of a replacement is somehow shocking in size and imposition.

This is what change looks like. I’ll be interested to see this develop.

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#365daysofbiking Vanishing points

November 4th – Returning from work late, I spun down the High Street as I usually do, riding along the parade of shops called Silver Court. This odd, split level semi-brutalist building is probably in it’s last years now and has never been – shall we say – salubrious at night, but I actually adore it: The forced perspectives and weird lighting effects always make me think of the great Mancunian designer Peter Saville.

I can see this place being swept away before too long, and I doubt many will miss it: Except me.

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#365daysofbiking Violet ultra

September 7th – A busy day, so I slipped out late with a good opportunity to try and learn more about the Canon camera’s behaviour in low light.

This meant paying a visit to an old favourite – the brutalist portal that occurs every night in Silver Court, Brownhills when an ATM’s lights tun part of the 1960s parade of shops violet.

This still fascinates me as it’s so, well, dystopian I suppose.

An odd, hometown curiosity.

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October 10th – I passed through Birmingham in a hurry on business in the late afternoon. Passing through Cathedral Square, I noticed something I hadn’t before – the wonderful, priapic Alpha Tower as viewed in low sun down Waterloo Street – past an example of nearly every period of architecture in Birminghams history of continual change.

I stopped for a moment, and caught my breath.

August 20th – A much better, brighter day for me, but not the weather, which got worse as the day went on.

Out for a meal and a ride with someone I’d been missing while they were on holiday, a ride out to a local pub for a huge steak blowout and then a ride to work it off.

There was no wind, and I started in sun; but it soon became overcast and the rain started. But for once it didn’t matter. Returning home 50 miles later in darkness and soaking wet was actually a joy after a wonderful trip out.

Travelling up the A515 through Abbots Bromley, I noticed the modernist, brutal concrete Jubilee Memorial bench, which must be one of the first examples of a very particular municipal style; and then the Best Kept Village trophy sign, which lists all the winners since the competition in Staffordshire began, which is actually fascinating.

I do wonder why that’s in Abbots Bromley, though, and not somewhere else. It seems very… specific.

June 5th – An awful day that found me running around the Black Country on errands. A strong wind, threatening rain and late for a meeting caused me to hop on a train at Wolverhampton.

Wolverhampton station is functional, but I dislike it – it always feels harsh, inhuman and exposed. With threatening skies today it was almost dystopian.

June 10th – Anyone interested in the canals of the Black Country knows about Smethwick Galton Bridge – the beautiful cast iron structure; the multiple railways, roads and two canals intersecting at different heights.

However, there’s something not half a mile away that’s as wonderful; where the M5 crosses a railway, which is running alongside two canals, and crossing a third.

This is a fantastic thing – right next to the sadly derelict Chance Glassworks, Victorian Aqueduct jars with 60s brutalism, which pays no heed to the water. A fine, fine thing that makes one wonder at the progress of engineering, the wildlife that perches in such situations, and the smallness the scale makes you feel.

You may not agree, but it’s beautiful in it’s harshness and ingenuity.

March 3rd – Birmingham, late afternoon. I’d finished for the day and needed to get a few errands done, and while I was about it, check out the slow death of Birmingham’s affair with architectural Brutalism.

This grey, colourless day was the perfect day to survey the wounds being inflicted on the skyline by the cranes, breakers and cutters currently removing Madin’s Central Library and 103, Colmore Row. The demolitions are fascinating, dramatic, conflicting. On the side of the library, soon to disappear, the mural proclaims ‘Todos eat posible’ – all is possible. Survival for that mural isn’t, but change is a certainty.

Until dusk, colour only existed in bright demolition machinery and the hi-vis of the wonderfully nonchalant crane driver; but dusk brought the lights and glimpses of the other Birmingham.

I don’t know what I feel. Uneasy probably applies best.

October 2nd – The run from Leicester to Derby is lovely, and contrasted sleepy waterways with stunning brutalist architecture, wide vistas, quiet trails and bustling shared-use tracks beside busy roads. 

I love the wind turbine, and the halls of residence at Loughborough University look like some spaceship ready to launch. But the sleepy views over the west Leicestershire countryside were gorgeous, as was the tranquility of the car-free trail into Derby over the Trent at Swarkestone.

A great ride.