Friday, May 31, 2013

Tall Tales: Creative Writing Inspired by Architecture

"Buildings became unusual to me and I realised this oddness was a lot more interesting... I wondered what would happen if I put my work at the service of the unusual."

Pip Adam, a student from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand has taken a novel approach to her Creative Writing PhD thesis by immersing herself in the world of architecture and engineering. 

She shares her experiences of the influence of architecture on the creative-writing process in an article, 'At the Service of the Unusual,' which appears in The Pantograph Punch, an online magazine reporting on arts and culture in New Zealand. 

The article is interesting for its insight into a creative person's attempt to understand and capture the essence of what constitutes a building, and as a fascinating outside perspective on the world of engineering and architecture. Pip describes how a meeting with an architect-friend shifts her focus from the people in her stories to think differently about the ubiquitous university buildings she sees on campus. She enrols in engineering classes at Victoria University School of Architecture and Design and becomes fascinated by the 'rhythm' of buildings and the relationship between individuals and built forms, bravely surrendering herself to the language and philosophy of an alien world!

A philosophically-complex piece of writing that challenges our thoughts and ideas about the building and the creative thought-process around trying to tackle the subject.We particularly enjoyed Pip's humorous observations and easy-to-read, conversational style. Who knew for example, that Dostoevsky, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer were all engineers!?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Brutally Honest - Scottish Brutalism Site from University of Strathclyde

The threat of demolition looming large over increasing numbers of Brutalist buildings has inadvertently thrust the style back into the public conscience. Down the road at University of Strathclyde, planners are still refusing to rule out demolition of its famous architecture building while in England, Preston Council's bid to block Preston Bus Station being granted listed heritage status rumbles on.

Brutalist architecture has courted controversy since its inception in 1950s Britain. Simultaneously held up as an affordable solution for public buildings and cheap housing and as an urban decay problem, the buildings have, over the decades, weathered the critics little better than the elements. As more beleaguered buildings are condemned to demolition, efforts are being stepped up to conserve the architecture style's heritage.

Enter research student Ross Brown who has launched the website to accompany the Scottish Brutalism project at the University of Strathclyde. The site is modestly being billed as a work in progress, downplaying the extremely useful and well-researched content on offer. The aim is to illustrate the quality and variety of the architecture style around Glasgow and the west region of Scotland through the continuous mapping, documenting and archiving of prime examples. There are a number of high-quality images of the Strathclyde campus and the Charing Cross area, as well as an article by Brown on Glasgow School of Art's former Newbery Tower. Our top tip would be to check the links to other sites, which lists Robert Proctor and Ambrose Gillick's project-blog on Roman Catholic Architecture in Britain, and the illustrated online database of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia images. The fact that many of these sites have direct relevance to the Brutalist style, is in itself, evidence of growing popular interest.

To be alerted to new posts from the website, follow @scotbrut on Twitter, or join the mailing list.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Plan to Restore Jaded Langside Halls has Green Light

Local architecture firm Collective Architecture have won the tender to begin restorative work on Glasgow's Langside Hall in Shawlands. While the Georgian exterior is still in good condition, the jaded Victorian interiors are in need of a refurbishment to transform the space into a social hub for the southside community.

The A-listed building is in fact, a rebuilding of the National Bank of Scotland, which in 1847, was located on Queen Street in the city-centre. Each stone used to construct the bank was moved to the building's current location in Shawlands for its conversion to public halls in 1902-03.


Engineer A.B. McDonald remodelled the halls to include a green-tiled entrance hall which the architects are referencing as their inspiration for the new interior design. The above CAD-drawing shows plans to extend the existing green tiles throughout the building to accentuate this Victorian period-feature.

The creation of a new emerald-green space comes as good news for local action group Southside Glasgow Heritage Environment Trust (SGHET) who have been spearheading the campaign to restore the halls to their former glory. This local committee were successful in their funding application to the European Enterprise Fund last year, bringing the total budget to conserve this hidden architectural gem to £4.8 million.

The development is part of Glasgow City Council's wider Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan which aims to reinvigorate Shawlands and its surrounds. Locals can look forward to a planned cafe-bar, restaurant, heritage information centre and cultural venue when work is completed after two years. In the meantime, the elaborate exteriors can still be enjoyed including the frieze-work and coat-of-arms, done by John Thomas, the same sculptor who worked on the Houses of Parliament.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

National Library Scotland Release Hutton Architecture Drawings

George Henry Hutton must have cut an interesting figure in the late eighteenth century, fascinated as he was by architecture in spite of losing an eye while serving a soldier in the Royal Artillery in the West Indies.

The National Library of Scotland certainly seem to think so and have added documents and drawings of Scottish churches and monuments from Hutton's collection to their digital gallery.

The collection is presented across two volumes and contains over 500 drawings, maps, plans and prints relating mainly to ecclesiastical buildings with a few more depicting castles and other dwellings such as this one showing the ruins of Innerwick Castle in East Lothian. Many of the drawings are by Hutton himself and show a sketchy, graphic style at odds with the picturesque scenes depicted. In some of the featured images the artist is unknown, however thanks to Creative Commons licensing, most can be reproduced, thereby forming a rich image-bank for architecture historians. Short blurbs for each image provide more contextual information.

One of the interesting quirks of the collection is that many of the buildings cited still exist today. Try entering in the name of a historic Scottish building or area into the National Library's search engine to see if Hutton recorded any details of your research area over two hundred years ago.

What's more, links can be made between the collection and GSA Library. The above image for example, entitled 'Part of Balmerino [missing text]' appeared in Volume 1 of Francis Grose's book, 'The Antiquities of Scotland,' a copy of which is held in the GSA Library's Special Collections. Check our thematic guide to rare books written about Scotland if historic architectural illustration and photography inspire your research.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Plans to Demolish B-Listed Building For Commonwealth Development Plans

A 1907 board school designed by architects Thomson & Turnbull is under threat of demolition following plans submitted by Glasgow's Celtic Football Club to replace it with an expanded superstore. The club want to knock down the disused London Road Primary School as part of their plan to regenerate the area around the ground in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Included in the plans is the formation of a landscaped avenue paved with inscribed stones which would run from Dalmarnock Station past several key venues towards the football stadium. Due to financial budgets and time constraints, it seems unlikely the club's full plans could be realised before the start of the games, however the avenue is being heralded as a necessary development to make the area more attractive to the influx of visitors expected next year.

London Road Primary is understood to be Glasgow's sole remaining B-listed school and is a fine example of English Baroque with carved ornamental features and Venetian and circular windows in the pedimented end bays. Historic Scotland are bound to object to the proposed plans, however as the school has been unoccupied for several years, the case could well proceed on the basis of the building being structurally unsound. Councillors are in support of the club's plans, perceiving the school as an unnecessary eyesore making it even likelier that the building will eventually be razed. Indeed, it seems that the financial advantages to be gained from redevelopment in the East End will inevitably outweigh the costs of conserving some of its architecture.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Manufacturing Pasts - University of Leicester Learning Resources

A new online resource developed by University of Leicester tells the story of what life was like and how quickly it changed in British industrial cities during the second half of the twentieth century. Manufacturing Pasts is arranged into four major themes: 'Conservation and Urban Regeneration,' 'De-Industrialisation,' 'Factory and Community' and 'Social Life of the Factory.' Each theme links through from the site's main page to a vault of learning resources about the city's industrial history including photographs, maps, architectural drawings, oral history interviews, company publications and newspaper articles.

The great news is that thanks to Creative Commons licencing, the sources are copyright-cleared, easy to access and free to reuse for educational purposes. 

Much like Glasgow, the city of Leicester serves as a strong example of the effects of industrial growth and decline on the transmutable city which challenge architects and urban planners to think imaginatively about the future use of space. This retrospective case study considers the impact of industry on the city and more than that, analyses what happened to the buildings that previously housed and supported Leicester's manufacturing sector. Rather than demolition, can the carcasses of buildings left behind from Leicester's manufacturing past be used to support its commercial future...? 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Discovery Guides

We've recently updated all our guides to make them easier to use and more helpful. You'll find guides to our collections (such as graphic novels or artists' books), finding aids and bibliographies (for particular research topics), info skills guides (for services such as Google and Wikipedia), and support guides in a brand new Discovery Guides section of our website. In addition we've developed new attractive branding to differentiate between different types of guide. Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Glass-House Community Led Design

They say people in glass-houses shouldn't throw stones but community participation experts 'The Glass-House Community Led Design' have been pitching some weighty ideas around community engagement in urban design since 2006. 

The charitable organisation brings together communities and regeneration professionals to equip both groups with the skills to contribute to urban design projects that benefit local people. The idea is to better inform the design process with the result being "more intelligent, dynamic and sustainable places." And the theory is backed up by practice; the group are actively using their experiences of supporting projects to influence policy and practice around the issue of community led design. Projects have so far included various buildings, spaces, homes and neighbourhoods including the Aviemore Sports Centre Project with collaborative research projects underway at University of Sheffield, University of Birmingham and the Open University.

Follow the links to the group's blog, project showcase and list of useful resources for a directory of regularly updated opinion, project information and publications. Also, look out for touring events which offer the opportunity for everyone with an interest in urban design and community initiatives to share experiences and debate the priorities behind area-planning and redevelopment projects.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Pastmap - Free Interactive Mapping Tool

An interactive map which allows anyone to map Scotland's historic environment online has just been launched by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). 'Pastmap' consolidates information previously held on five heritage-organisation databases into one multi-layered, online space. Visitors to the website can navigate to their area of interest, zoom in on a section, arrange the information into layers, and click on the map's objects for more information.

The visual nature of the site and it's easy-to-use controls means that it will probably appeal to both those with a professional interest and others who may simply take delight in exploring the archaeological and historic features of their local area. A great way to explore local heritage and architectural landmarks from the comfort of your armchair!