Friday, 23 March 2012

Loch Ryan in Spring

Yesterday, with the weather forecast looking very promising, I went down to Loch Ryan in Dumfries & Galloway (south-West Scotland) to photograph ferries in the landscape - inlcuding Stena Line's smart, recently-introduced Superfasts (see blog-posts passim). There was indeed a lovely quality of light - gentle sun with a little haze on the water - and soft spring colours. Here are a selection of images:

Monday, 19 March 2012

My beautiful workplace from the air

Thanks to my splendid colleague, Dr Robert Proctor, and a very kind Jesuit priest at St Aloysius Church, today we went up the bell tower to take some rare aerial views of The Glasgow School of Art, where we both work. Over the past couple of months, the School of Design, facing the famous Mackintosh Building across Renfrew Street, has been demolished and so presently there is a unique unobstructed view from the church tower. Already, however, pile-driving has commenced as the first stage of the construction of a new School of Design, scheduled for completion in 2013.

The Mackintosh Building, in which my office is located in the basement, facing the cleared site. This is a masterpiece of late-Victorian and Edwardian aestheticism, the masterwork of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in case anyone didn't know:

 That rarest of views - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, in fact.

 The view west, looking across the Garnethill district (above) and the view south, towards the City Centre (below):

 The view north-east towards the Cowcaddens flats

 Decomissioned bells:

 St Aloysius was designed by the Belgian architect Jean Ménart, a GSA graduate, and completed in 1910. Within, it contains the sort of detailing I really like about RC churches - garish colours and didactic decorative panelwork:

Thursday, 15 March 2012

It's been a funny old week.  One of several pinacles of a-typicalness was Wednesday evening, as I had been invited to give a public lecture for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society's Stirling Branch. The RSGS is a fine and upstanding learned society, whose public lectures in Scotland's provincial towns have quite a following, mainly among retirees and others with enquiring minds. The requested subject was contemporary tourism, so I called the lecture 'Glad they built the castle so close to the shops' - appropriate for Stirling, which has a splendid medieval castle, well, conveniently placed right next to the (somewhat newer) shops. The rehearsal went well, but, closer to the point of delivery, I began to worry that the audience might not enjoy a lecture with such a substantial theoretical content as the one I'd prepared. Fortunately, my lovely hosts put my mind at ease and, in the end, all went well.

My name in lights on the facade of the Albert Hall (above) and dinner (below):

One of several plates with a selection of biscuits to accompany post-lecture tea (the details of biscuit-arrangements in venues across provincial Britain always delight the eye):

The Albert Hall, before the audience was allowed in:

 In full flow:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Aalborg Funkis

The city of Aalborg in Northern Jutland, Denmark is where most of my family lives. Tourists who go there mostly photograph the city's pretty vernacular and renaissance buildings - most notably Jens Bang's Stenhus, a magnificent merchant's house on Østerå in the city centre. They therefore ignore the most impressive and distinctive characteristic of the city - its very large amount of 1930s buildings in the 'funkis' manner. Why Aalborg should have so much of this type of architecture may be due to at least three factors - the city was a major and progressive centre of industry, it was led by a visionary mayor, Marinus Jørgensen, and, in the early 1930s, a new road bridge was constructed across the Limfjord, requiring the bulldozing of a new boulevard, Vesterbro, to reach it. Along this street, most of the new funkis buildings were constructed.

The Limfjord road bridge's original funkis 1930s control tower is now located at the Aalborg Sailing Club (above). The bridge itself is otherwise much as built. At its northern end in Nørresundby, a superb white concrete funkis block by Charles Jensen, originally containing Clausen's Hotel, faces the oncoming traffic across the bridge (below):

Some details of the brick-faced appartment blocks along Vesterbro on the Aalborg side of the Limfjord. Many of these were designed by the architect Carlo Odgård:

On a granite plinth in the middle of Vesterbro stands a statue of a bull, made by Arne Bundgaard and presented by DeDanske Spritfabrikker (Danish Distillers), one of Aalborg's leading businesses.

The statue is impressive - but strangely, the bull seems to have only one very large testicle. Is this usual for bulls?

Charles Jensen's Clausen's Hotel building and the adjacent brick-faced block by N.K. Mørk, originally housing the Regina cinema. Unfortunately, on this one, the balconies of the flats have been glazed in, rather ruining the building's intended aesthetic (above).

A group of private villas in the funkis manner in the suburb of Hasseris:

This particularly fine example was the architect Niels Sørensen's own residence.

Anneberghus on Annebergvej, containing student accommodation:

This funkis bungalow was designed by Carlo Odgård as a 'home for the future' as part of the 1933 Nordjysk Udstilling (Northern Jutland Exhibition) - an event which followed in the manner of the Stockholm Exhibition only three years previously:

Another very wonderful surviving relic from the exhibition is the Aalborg Tower, a futuristic observation platform which one can still visit in summer:

On the Nordjysk Udstilling's site at the base of the tower, many years later, a new art gallery, the Nordjysk Kunstmuseum, was designed by Alvar and Elissa Aalto and opened in 1972. It was Alvar Aalto's last major work and, in my opinion, one of his best:

A corner without any art on display shows off to best effect the gallery's very subtle but sophisticated detailing:

1920s metal furniture by Poul Henningsen:

Looking at architecture on a cold day is bound to make one hungry - and thirsty too:

(the cigarettes belong to Uncle Axel, not to me)