Tag Archives: structure

Brutalism 50 years before Brutalism

Roof of entrance hall

Roof of entrance hall

I recently had the good fortune to pass through Dornach, effectively a suburb of Basel and an area very close to the German, Swiss and French borders. This unusual location is one reason why the the Austrian thinker and philosopher Rudolf Steiner chose to build his flagship headquarters building here in the early 20C. Sitting in a very prominant position midway up the hill overlooking the town and commanding fine views into Switzerland, Germany and France, you’ll see the second Goetheanum.

Steiner’s first attempt at this building was a very different affair but also had some ground breaking elements. It was an entirely wooden structure sitting on a concrete podium based around two intersecting domes made of of laminated timber, preserved in beeswax. The interior was entirely hand-carved and the building incorporated carved glass windows. It must have been a remarkable structure but it was also a giant fire-lighter. It burnt down a few years after it was finished, leaving just it’s concrete base behind as a stark reminder of what was there.

Front Facade

Front Facade

Rear Elevation

Rear Elevation

Front Facade

Front Facade

The second building was, not surprisingly, built entirely of unadorned concrete. It is not the most attractive of buildings and looks like a lump of grey clay. But it is the way the forms have been made that is interesting (don’t forget that this was conceived in 1920) and the fact that there isn’t a right-angle in sight which must have been a bit of a headache for the engineers and builders. I do not particularly like the building but I do find it curiously compelling and rather frustratingly I am unable to pinpoint why. I think it may be to do with the kind of haphazard nature of the forms. Unlike his contemporaries in the Expressionist “movement” who drew direct inspiration of nature and organic forms (Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion in Cologne for example), Steiner’s building seems to come from another place.

We are now used to seeing walls and surfaces fabricated out of poured concrete and are equally familiar with the unfinished nature of surfaces at The National Theatre and RCP(Lasdun) and of the Hayward Gallery (Engleback,Herron & Chalk). But our experience of these structures (to my mind anyway) is dominated by a pretty rigid adherence to grids, flat planes and right angles. However to use this technique of construction without a right angle in sight is a technical marvel if nothing else.

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

The large window at the top of the stairs places the building squarely in the early 20C and shows an unusual display of right -angles.

The large window at the top of the stairs places the building in the early 20C and shows an unusual display of right -angles.

Irrespective of one’s views about either its effectiveness as an architectural style or the ideas that gave birth to its creation, it remains an intriguing structure and one that I think was rather more influential in the domain of 20 century architecture than it is given credit for. Hold those great concrete edifices of Lasdun and Alison & Peter Smithson in mind and the hereditary link to the Goetheanum is clear. The unadorned concrete, exposed forms and solidity were key aspects of Steiner’s design and were reincarnated in architectural expression fifty years later. There are important differences however but these are to do with style rather than structure. A key and defining difference is the avoidance of right angles here vs the dominance of right-angles. The Goetheanum is clearly a building designed to fulfill a purpose beyond it’s practical function – I guess Steiner would argue that in fact the form of his building is defined precisely by it’s function but that the function itself is as much to do with spirit as it is to do with human practicalities.

As for me – I am still making up my mind about it!

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Steel versus Stone

Cutting edge engineering of C18th Bath Abbey VERSUS cutting edge engineering of C21st London Olympic Stadium

I recently had the good fortune to spend a weekend in the lovely city of Bath and visited the Bath Abbey with it’s explosion of fine English perpendicular architecture. It might not be as old as Canterbury but despite it’s relative youth it remains a fine example of some of the highest-tech engineering solutions for the time.

It occurred to me that the works I am photographing as part of the ongoing commission at the London Olympic Stadium Transformation project perfectly illustrates the same high tech and cutting edge engineering brought up to the minute. So I thought it might be interesting to look at the two buildings alongside each other:

THE NAVE OF THE STADIUM

Image: Robert Greshoff

THE NAVE OF BATH ABBEY

Image: Robert Greshoff

STRUCTURAL DETAIL OF COLUMNS AND ROOF SUPPORTS – LONDON STADIUM

Image: Robert Greshoff

STRUCTURAL DETAIL OF COLUMNS AND ROOF SUPPORT – BATH ABBEY

Image: Robert Greshoff

THE CEILING OF THE LONDON STADIUM

Image: Robert Greshoff

THE CEILING OF BATH ABBEY

Image: Robert Greshoff

London Pinhole images from early 1990’s

Pinhole Pics
I have begun 2015 by embarking on the mammoth task of producing hi-res digital files from my Uncle Jan (Greshoff’s) film archive. (My brother Martin is already well underway with the lower res scans and he regularly uploads some of these to the Jan Greshoff facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/Jan.Greshoffs.Photographs?ref=br_rs).

So I have got my film scanner out of retirement and have upgraded my software but it still takes forever and the post-production takes even longer but it is actually quite refreshing not to be working on my own work with all that entails and to be putting myself in someone else’s mind to try and produce the kind of images that he would have printed. We have lots of his prints so it is relatively easy to see the kind of quality he was aiming for.

However, I digress… during a New Year sortout I came across a small pile of pinhole prints from negs that I did in the early 1990’s with an adapted Sinar. As my scanner is out again I thought I put them through and here they are. There are a few more tucked away somewhere but someone else can scan those when I am pushing up the daisies.

I just love the feel that pinhole images produce and still find it entirely amazing that they are possible in the first instance. I shot a few more a couple of years ago, using my last remaining large format camera (all the Sinars being sold off ages ago), a baby Linhof but the rolls of film are still waiting to be processed I am ashamed to say. I even bought a 6×12 custom-made wooden pinhole camera that is still waiting to be used, I am even more ashamed to say!

Maybe 2015 will be the year of dusting off my processing cans and reels as well as my scanner.

So here is the inside of Smithfield Market:

Image: Robert Greshoff

And one of the Loading Doors:

Image: Robert Greshoff

These are the fine bridges that are a signature feature of Conran’s Butlers Wharf development just east of London Bridge in SE1. It wasn’t long finished then.

Image: Robert Greshoff

Here is Greenwich’s finest gasometer, it is still there going up and down like a great breathing lung. This picture was done when it had just breathed out:

Image: Robert Greshoff

A slight gear change, this is the view towards Kent from near London’s oldest ancient woodland that is Oxleas Wood:

Image: Robert Greshoff

Back to the city, this is a random view in South East London very close to where IPC magazines used to be. (It is in fact the building adjacent to the then HQ for Sainsbury’s), I guess they have probably moved by now. I did this after dropping off some pictures for Homes and Gardens I recall:

Image: Robert Greshoff

And here is the Sainsbury’s building itself, with the reflection of the local bolthole for all those overworked subs and picture editors there were lot’s of them then:

Image: Robert Greshoff

I have saved the best, or my favourites at any rate, till last. Here is Canary Wharf when it was newly finished, at the height of the recession and pretty devoid of tenants. Interestingly, there were no private security guys then either. If you tried to to this shot now (you can’t because there are now buildings where I was standing) or indeed use any camera bigger than an iphone you will be pounced on by 2 or 3 security guards and they are amazing adept at appearing out of nowhere very fast:

Image: Robert Greshoff

And finally my most favourite pinhole from that period has got to be this view of the Houses of Parliament from the south bank, complete with marvellous with pinhole flare:

Image: Robert Greshoff

Better get back to my scanning now…

London Docklands from Olympic Stadium roof

It has been a while since I last posted anything here.  this has been due primarily to the pressures of my commissioned work but while I was shooting at the Olympic Stadium project today I took this from the very top of the structure.  It wasn’t the best lighting but it remains a fine view and one that is not often seen and once the project is complete it will be seen even less!

 

OlympicDocklandsView©Greshoff

From the heady heights of LA to semi-rural Hertford

I was doing an editorial shoot this week at Hertford County Hall and got there early.  It was a glorious day so I filled my time by doing a few snaps of the building showing that even rather dull early 20C civic architecture has it’s little highpoints, including the handbasin in the gents!

Hertford County Hall, Skylight

Hertford County Hall, Skylight

Hertford County Hall, Colonnade

Hertford County Hall, Colonnade

Hertford County Hall

Hertford County Hall

Hertford County Hall, Sink in gents

Hertford County Hall, Sink in gents

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Time-Lapse in Middlesex

It has been a busy few months as is witnessed by the dirth of postings here!

I’ve just finished installing a long-term time-lapse set up on a construction site in Middlesex for those pillars of the civil engineering world: Conway.  Time Lapses are slightly curious things that can make even the mundane buildings interesting,  I guess seeing the passage of time (in the case many months) compressed into a minute or two kind of compresses the fascination too.

I’ve developed a PV powered system for this project that will, I hope circumvent the temperature and battery drain issues I’ve experienced in the past, particularly through the winter months.  Short duration projects don’t have this issue but battery drain plagues long term set ups like this one.

So here is how it looks this month:

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More Art Deco Architecture and more Wallis, Gilbert and Partners – The Daimler Garage in Bloomsbury, London

You may think that I have a bit of a thing about Art Deco architecture – in fact I don’t but having shown the Hoover Building here recently I could not help noticing the Daimler Garage on my travels in London.  This is not quite as spectacular a project as Hoover but it is clearly from the same stable despite it’s tucked away location. It predates Hoover by one whole year (!) so certainly springs from the same creative impulse that was driving WG&P at the time.

There is not that much information about the building itself but it was built for the Daimler Hire Company to accommodate their fleet of chauffeur driven hire limousines for the rich, the idea being that you hired that car and driver together for three months at a time thereby by eliminating the hassle of having to buy the car and employing a driver. It was also a “try before you buy” scheme in as much as you got a refund if you decided to go the whole hog and buy a car.  If you have money to burn, I guess it makes sense.

The building itself is home to the McCann advertising agency and there is very little to indicate how exactly the building functioned as it is all now offices where as presumably at least some of the floors would have been garage space.

Anyway here are a few shots of it. (I didn’t do many as I was running late for my meeting and it was a very dull day!)…

1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London

All Saints Church, Icklingham, Suffolk

Granted, All Saints was built as a church but given that this building hasn’t been in use for over 100 years to call it a “Church”  is perhaps something of a misnomer.

I swung by Icklingham on my way back to Kent after a shoot in Suffolk a week or so ago as it was only a 3 mile detour. All Saints Church is a Churches Conservation Trust museum piece and whilst it certainly was a church it has more of a museum feel now.   It is interesting that while I wholeheartedly support the work of the CCT they are effectively creating a network of little museums across the country, preserving the structures of buildings that have lost their spirit and in a sense their way too.  However this church remains a fine example of a thatched Suffolk Church and is positioned on what once was an ancient and important trade route.

The setting of this particular building is rather plain, pretty but nothing extraordinary although the key guardian was exceptionally cheerful and friendly which did add a kind of warm glow.

Inside, the building has a slightly curious kind of double nave which is in fact a nave plus side aisle but the huge window at the end of the side-aisle kind of elevates it’s visual significance to me.  Unfortunately nearly all the stained glass is long gone that the little that remains is not in the same league as the Canterbury Cathedral glass I have been photographing for the Getty Museum recently.  So I guess the space is very much brighter than it would have been originally, no doubt the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day when I visited, added to this.

Side aisle with large winbdow

Side aisle with large window

There were a few things that caught my eye:

I liked the well chewed pews, no doubt worn down by generations of small children (pre 1900) anxious to get out and play.

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A gnawed Pew

I was also intrigued by the curious short spiral staircase built into the wall dividing the main nave from the (single) side aisle.  This didn’t seem to go anywhere except to a small opening a few metres above the entrance which presumably was used as a pulpit, giving the priest a commanding view of his gathered flock.

The spiral staircase and pulpit

The spiral staircase and pulpit

The early 14C font had some crude but pleasing carvings around it’s perimeter and I particularly liked the faint but lovely octopus-like carving on the sarcophagus by the side door.  This door also sported a fine anchor shaped knocker.

All Saints Details

All Saints Details

The thatched roof was also interesting:

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

You can read the CCT blurb about this church here:  http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/All-Saints-Church-Icklingham-Suffolk/

And I’ll let the pictures do the talking now:

132251-4-019aBlog

The Nave

132251-4-012Blog

Looking across the nave towards the side aisle

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Light from the side Aisle Wndow

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Those chewed pews again

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Side aisle window

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Hadlow Tower, Kent – Britain’s tallest folly now folly restored

Here is something I thought I had posted a couple of weeks ago but realised just now that it slipped through without a look in!

I visited the marvellous and recently refurbished Hadlow Tower a few days after it opened last month.  The project has been completed by the Vivat Trust with the support of English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund and sees this once derelict folly restored to beyond it’s original glory – I say beyond because whereas it was not built with any particular use in mind other than standing tall, now it has a real function and houses a pretty swanky  three bedroom house on it’s lower five levels as well as a museum on the ground floor.

The original structures were designed in 1838 by the architect George Ledwell Taylor,for a client who had benefited from a substantial legacy and so  had no need to work but did need to do something with his time.  (the best kind of client, I should think!).  Taylor was recently made redundant from the military, where he supervised a number of mundane projects and the Hadlow Tower was one of his early commissions as a private practitioner and he was obviously relishing the break from military architecture.

Enjoy

Hadlow Tower,Kent, Heritage, Restoration, Refurbishment, Vivat Trust, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund Hadlow Tower,Kent, Heritage, Restoration, Refurbishment, Vivat Trust, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund Hadlow Tower,Kent, Heritage, Restoration, Refurbishment, Vivat Trust, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund Hadlow Tower,Kent, Heritage, Restoration, Refurbishment, Vivat Trust, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund Hadlow Tower,Kent, Heritage, Restoration, Refurbishment, Vivat Trust, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund Hadlow Tower,Kent, Heritage, Restoration, Refurbishment, Vivat Trust, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund Hadlow Tower,Kent, Heritage, Restoration, Refurbishment, Vivat Trust, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund Hadlow Tower,Kent, Heritage, Restoration, Refurbishment, Vivat Trust, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund

Relevant Links:

The full Wiki article is here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadlow_Castle

The Vivat Trust is here: http://www.vivat-trust.org/properties.php?pid=121