Archive for the ‘buildings’ Category

Lincoln Heritage Day

September 10, 2017

Heritage Open Day is when buildings not normally open are open to the public, or with the example of Lincoln Cathedral, the entrance fee is waived.

There was though something extra. A guided walk following the route of The Battle of Lincoln.

I would have participated yesterday. Heavy rain put paid. I caught the end of the walk opposite Norman House on Steep Hill. I apologised for not joining the walk and learnt there would be  a repeat on Sunday.

Thus I was outside The Museum of Lincolnshire Life for an interesting walk.

As we finished up outside the Visitor Information Centre, to see if they had anything useful on The Battle of Lincoln, they do not, apart from 1217 The Battle of Lincoln, a Ladybird-style book aimed at children.

I did though find a collection of miniature knights. These were used by the artists to show what their full-sized Knight would look like. What will happen to these I do not know. They should be given permanent exhibition space somewhere.

It was unfortunate the Knights were removed last week. A huge mistake. Typical bureaucratic thinking. They have proved to be highly popular and should have remained in the street until at least the end of September, if not longer.

I picked up a programme for the Lincoln Book Festival. Small, with emphasis on quality. Contrast with the Guildford Book Festival, large with the emphasis on hyped authors.

I would love to go to the talk on Mona Lisa.

After the walk, I wandered to Stokes Lawn Café. A mistake, I should have walked down Steep Hill to Makushi.

It was then through the Castle Grounds, visit the Castle Shop, which is worth a visit. Usually such places house tourist tat. Lincoln castle must be the exception. I have never visited before. Worth a visit.

I picked up a copy Magna Carta by David Starkey. I am no great fan of his, but this was the best book on display.  I wanted it, not only for Magna Carta, but also the life of King John.

A bad King. He was forced by the Barons to sign, strictly speaking, place his seal on Magna Carta. What most do not realise, it was almost immediately reneged upon, annulled by The Pope, a French Invasion followed, and led on his death to the decisive Battle of Lincoln, the route I had just followed.

Appalling the amount of damage caused by Graduation in the Castle Grounds last week.

It had been cold and windy all afternoon, now rain.

I headed for Lincoln Cathedral.

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House of Cards portent of things to come

June 18, 2017

House of Cards 1993.

Grenfell Tower 2017.

Cob house within solar geodesic dome in the Arctic Circle

January 6, 2017

The Hjertefølger  family has been living on Norway’s Sandhornøya island, where they started their journey into sustainable living, since 2013. Their three-story cob home—built from sand, water, clay, and other organic materials—is encased in an aesthetically pleasing, and functional, solar geodesic dome by Solardome.

Placing the 25-foot-high dome around the five-bedroom, two-bathroom home gave the six-person family protection from strong winds and heavy snow loads, as well as cutting down on heating costs. The geodesic dome, which also covers a garden area, gives the family the necessary greenhouse environment to grow much of their food.  Apples, cherries, plums, apricots, kiwis, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, squash, and melons are just some of what they can grow in an area that is without sunlight for three months a year.

Tower of the Winds

October 17, 2016
Tower of the Winds

Tower of the Winds

The Tower of the Winds or the Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrhestes is an octagonal Pentelic marble clock tower within the Roman Agora in Athens that functioned as a horologion or clock.

The structure features or did a combination of sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane.

It was supposedly built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus around 50 BC, but according to other sources, might have been constructed in the 2nd century BC before the rest of the forum.

The water clock may have taken the form of a waterwheel.

The roof is a series of triangular slabs locked in place by a circular keystone.

Around the periphery is represented the eight winds.

Saint Vitus Cathedral

May 11, 2016
figures on main doors

figures on main doors

one clock shows the hour another the minutes

one clock shows the hour another the minutes

Prague Castle, seen from across the river, dominates the skyline,  especially  Saint Vitus Cathedral  and Lobkowicz Palace.

Saint Vitus Cathedral is situated  within the Prague Castle complex.

To pay to walk around inside, but can enter the main doors and enjoy the stunning view looking down the nave.

Had I paid, I would have learnt contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors.

Two key features are the figures on the main doors and above the doors, and the clocks.

The figures on the doors, cast in metal, are amazing.

I was puzzled by the clocks, why one above the other? Why two clocks?  The time was such, they both appeared to be showing the same time.

It was only after observing over a period of several minutes, I realised one was showing the hour, the other the minutes.

Prague Castle

May 10, 2016
Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Lobkowicz Palace

Lobkowicz Palace

stunning views over Prague

stunning views over Prague

steps leading down from Prague Castle

steps leading down from Prague Castle

No 22 tram took me up to Prague Castle.

Novel way of paying. Pay for time not distance.

Ticket has to be bought in advance from a machine.

I alighted at the right palace and wandered in.

Police and soldiers on guard with semi-automatic rifles.

Very cold.

Prague Castle is a castle complex, many streets and buildings including churches, Saint Vitus Cathedral, museums, monasteries and palaces, including Lobkowicz Palace.

Stunning views over Prague.

Starbucks at Prague Castle

Starbucks at Prague Castle

Prague Castle, the location with the most stunning view over Prague, occupied by Starbucks. A grass terrace, a spiral stone staircase. They were even queuing.

Steps lead down from Prague Castle.

Stench of hypocrisy

May 4, 2016
The Tumbledown Dick demolition

The Tumbledown Dick demolition

Nothing like the stench of hypocrisy, especially when from a bunch of local politicians.

36 out of 38 local councillors have signed a letter condemning a decision by the Planning Inspectorate to approve the building of a block of flats in the middle of a roundabout on a busy main road, on the site of which once stood the Ham and Blackbird pub.

Anyone care to name names, who were the two who neglected to sign and why?

Let us pause and reflect here a moment.

These are the same bunch of local councillors who collectively stuck two fingers up to the local community and approved:

  • demolition of half of Farnborough town centre for a supermarket that faces out of the town
  • destroyed social housing at Firgrove Court for a supermarket car park
  • destruction of The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s
  • destruction of Firgrove Green for a multi-store eyesore Premier Inn
  • are pushing for development of the last remaining green space in Farnborough town centre

And this is not counting the decades of bad planning decisions that have destroyed Aldershot town centre.

The local councillors complain at the lack of local democracy, have whinged to the Local Government Association.

And what of this local democracy? Decisions by local councillors falling over backwards to satisfy the greed of developers, what has that got to do with local democracy?

What of the demos, the people?

There was massive local opposition to destruction of Firgrove Green, destruction  of The Tumbledown Dick. Was this taken into account?

Er, no.

Not only was the views of local people ignored, Keith Holland head of planning, explicitly told members of the planning committee to ignore the views of local people. He also blatantly lied, said health was not a planning issue, asset of community value not a planning issue, that traffic congestion, litter, anti-social behaviour not a problem, that the trees at Firgrove Green were dying.

Gareth Lyon, chair of planning committee, who is bleating about the decision, is unfit to hold any public office. During the discussion on The Tumbledown Dick, his chairing of the meeting was a disgrace, he had the head of planning whispering in his ear, telling what to say.

This is the man who behind closed doors, stitched up a dirty little deal with McDonald’s to destroy The Tumbledown Dick, then later bragged that his committee had approved the deal he had reached with McDonald’s.

The only place for Gareth Lyon, is rotting in a  prison cell.

Prior to it being pushed through, internal e-mails show the council thought to approve the destruction of Firgrove Green would bring the planning system into disrepute. It was pushed through, and yes it did bring the planning system into disrepute.

So why all this bleating about the Planning Inspectorate? All they have done is approve a scheme the local council would normally happily rubber stamp, no matter how bad the scheme for the locality, no matter how strong the local opposition.

Could it be there are local elections tomorrow?

None of this is to argue in favour of the planning decision, far from it. It is merely to highlight the appalling hypocrisy.

Building a block of flats in the middle of a roundabout on a busy main road, it would be difficult to imagine a worse location. At the end of a runway maybe.  It is an accident waiting to happen.

And what of air quality? Doe it meet WHO guidelines? Was this even raised at the Public Inquiry?

The dysfunctional planning department in bed with developers  may be able to lead thick-as-two-short-planks councillors by the nose, but when it comes to Planning Inquiry, they are shown as wanting, useless jobsworth not up to the job. And that is even assuming they did not throw in the towel.

Long before planning application was submitted, the useless councillors failed to do what was needed to safeguard the site and the Ham and Blackbird.

Why was there no TPOs on the trees? When the developer started cutting down the trees, why was no emergency TPOs issued?

Why was the Ham and Blackbird not listed as local building of historical interest? Once known as the Railway Tavern, its construction coincided with the arrival of the railway.

It is now being claimed there will be a legal challenge. More hot air? On what grounds?

The decision cannot be challenged on the grounds you do not like it, no matter how bad the scheme. That was the role of the Public Inquiry.

There are six weeks within which a legal challenge may be mounted. This can only be on a point of law, that correct procedures were not followed. Leave has to be requested from a Judge, to take the case.

No grounds have been shown.

Will this all be quietly forgotten, once local elections are over?

A handful of local councillors do their best to act for the local community. But sadly they are just that,  a handful. The rest are a bunch of carpetbaggers.

The flats when built, will not be marketed locally. They will be marketed in London.

What to do with a dead shopping centre?

April 21, 2016
The Galleries

The Galleries

The Galleries

The Galleries

The Galleries

The Galleries

Aldershot is a dead town, boarded-up shops, charity shops, betting shops, fast food outlets. A very depressing place to visit. Which is why few do. The dead town centre the result of decades of bad planning decisions, a dysfunctional local council that has not a clue what constitutes good town centre planning, how local economies function.

In the midst of this desolation is an empty shopping centre, The Galleries. It could be the film set for a post-apocalyptic movie. The occasional zombie is even seen to walk through negating the need to hire extras, though could hire locals and ask them to be themselves, no acting required. The shopping centre has been derelict for years, is likely to be for the foreseeable future.

What to do with this empty space?

The local council claims to have plans for redevelopment.

This should set alarm bells ringing.

This is a local council that has:

  • got into bed with a developer and destroyed Farnborough town centre
  • got into bed with a developer and destroyed The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s
  • got into bed with a developer and destroyed Firgrove Green to erect an eysore Premier Inn
  • got into bed with a developer to construct Wastegate which has laid waste to Aldershot town centre

Hence the last thing we need is the council involved in redevelopment of this dead shopping centre.

The top down approach of the council, contempt for the views of the local community, has been an unmitigated disaster for Aldershot.

In is now time for an alternative approach, bottom up, the local community in charge.

First, as it has been empty for six months, the dead shopping centre should be designated as ReSpace. This opens the way for negotiations with the property developer for use by the local community, for social enterprises that contribute to the common good, irrigate the collaborate commons. These social enterprises would pay a peppercorn rent, the property developer no business rates.

There is already one social enterprise occupying the dead shopping centre, TechStart.

TechStart, run by volunteers, recycles computers, carries out repairs, provides training and help, a net café is available for walk in use.

TechStart last Saturday, closed, its funding had been pulled. Luckily, common sense has prevailed, and a four month extension of funding has been made available.

We now need to build on TechStart, open the dead shopping centre to other social enterprises.

The claim in the local rag that TechStart is ‘unviable’  is simply not true.

 

ReSpacing Conference at The Hive

April 21, 2016

skipping breakfast

skipping breakfast

I arrived half an hour later than I would have wished as I caught two buses from Waterloo, rather than one, but at least arrived, and alighted more or less at the correct bus stop on Kingsland Road in Dalston.

The Hive is an office block just over the canal.

I recognised where I was as the social enterprise café established by Russell Brand is nearby.

Initial impressions, a legalised squat, though they would probably object to my description.

Up a flight of stairs, then a vast open space, but arranged into smaller areas, a kitchen cum café  in one corner, a  little rooftop garden outside. There were upper floors, these I did not explore.

Everything I saw, the chairs the tables, the stage, all had been salvaged and put to use.

Although half an hour late, an hour later than start time, I was still one of the first.

Did I understand Skipping Breakfast? Yes, food from skips.

We are told to recycle. Do we? No.

We waste food, we waste materials, we waste space.

Derelict building are everywhere. The Hive was a derelict building. In Aldershot, a dead shopping centre, with TechStart occupying one large unit, but begging to be used.

The Hive approached a developer, and with reservations, he agreed to let them use. A very short lease, the volunteers provided everything, all of which was salvaged.

The developer Michael has been completely won over, he is now a big cheer leader for ReSpace, putting derelict buildings to use for the community.

What is ReSpace?

ReSpace is a planning designation that any local council or planning authority can use.

Any property that is empty for six months can be designated ReSpace. It is then open to local communities to use, pay a peppercorn rent, the developer pays no businesses rates.

Everyone benefits.

There is now a petition calling for ReSpace to be written into planning law. Everyone is urged to please sign.

We are losing community space. We are losing green space, pubs, libraries.

Who runs these reclaimed spaces?

Volunteers.

How de we found them?

We don’t, they appear.

Nomadic Community Gardens: Two people toiling away at derelict land, bringing back into use. They did not ask for volunteers, the community joined in.

This is what happened at The Hive.

It is not only materials and spaces we need to recycle, we also need to recycle people. Idle hands, idle minds, that can be put to use on behalf of the community.

The Hive is a not for profit. The space is for use by not for profit, even for profit, they have helped set up several business, but they have to contribute to the common good. In other words they have to contribute to the collaborative commons.

The next step, having demonstrated the feasibility of The Hive, not forgetting an enlightened developer who wishes to contribute to the local community and without who The Hive would not be possible, is to establish a network of Hives, Holistic Urban Regeneration in action.

In Revolution, Russell Brand talks of Greys, a town in Essex, boarded-up shops, an air of desolation. Paul Mason mentions a similar town in PostCapitalism. These towns are everywhere.

The question is how do we regenerate them? Top down does not work. It has to be bottom up, small businesses, social enterprises, open coops, collaborative commons, sharing economy.

Aldershot is one such dismal town. Decades of bad planning decisions, a dysfunctional council with no understanding of what constitutes good town centre planning, no understanding of how local economies function, the need to recycle money within the local economy.  The streets are deserted, the shops boarded up, homeless in the shop doorways, the few who are on the street, no money to spend.

In the midst of this deprivation lies a derelict shopping centre. It could be the set for a post-apocalypse movie. There is even the occasional zombie walking through, saving on the need for extras.

The question is, what to do with it? It has been derelict for years. It is likely to remain derelict for the foreseeable future.

The one ray of hope, TechStart opened two years ago. Run by volunteers, they recycle old computers, run a net café, carry out repairs, provide training.

Last Saturday, TechStart closed, their funding had been pulled. The good news is, an outbreak of commons sense, funding for four months. But they have to become self-sufficient.

The empty shopping centre, instead of being seen as a liability, should be seen as an opportunity to showcase that alternatives are possible, that we do not have to be drawn into the addiction  of consumerism.

Look what could be possible:

  • TechStart
  • social enterprise café
  • repair shop
  • tool swap
  • credit union
  • start-ups
  • conferences
  • exhibitions

All it requires is vision.

Replicate across the country, make a difference.

What uses can that derelict building in your community be put to?

Does the local council maintain a list of derelict buildings, is it made public, are they designating as ReSpace?

For the developer, nothing worse than a derelict building, it soon falls into disrepair, becomes vandalised. Added to which the cost of securing the building. Occupation, put to community use, is better than sitting empty.

At the very least there has to be an exploration of what the The Hive in Dalston are doing. Hive started with just £250.

As a showcase building, The Hive in Dalston has demonstrated the feasibility of such a model and in only nine  months has seen over 4000 people, held 17 art exhibitions, numerous performance, environmental, political and cultural events and helped about 50 local charities. Has enabled people to start businesses and even had a skate park. This has all been achieved using a system that is self-sustaining and utilises volunteers, donations, up-cycling, recycling and sharing.

Local councils are almost an irrelevance. If they wish to work with the local community fine, if not bypass and work directly with a property developer.

The Hive are fortunate in not only having an enlightened local council, but also an enlightened property developer, who wishes to work with the local community, put something back into the local community.

Where else other than The Hive would you find activists praising a property developer, and vice a versa the property developer heaping praise on the activists?

Discussion of the London Mayoral Hustings to be held at The Hive the following day. Questions people wished to put. What are they going to do to resolve growing homelessness, we cannot sweep under the carpet or push into neighbouring boroughs. Air pollution, expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick. Encouragement of growing food locally cf Dig for Victory during WWII.

A handful of groups were invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts. The ideas in themselves not that interesting. What was of more interest, was the advice given and the constructive criticism that followed. One important piece of advice, have a property lawyer with you to help negotiate and draw up a contract.

The Hive held their ReSpacing Conference on Wednesday 20 April 2016. A second day will be for London Mayoral Hustings.

The Hive is reclaimed space.

The Hive is community space.

The Hive is Holistic Urban Regeneration.

Reposted in Light on a Dark Mountain.

Church of the Infant Jesus

April 14, 2016
font

font in the Church of the Infant Jesus

cloak worn by the Infant Jesus

cloak worn by the Infant Jesus

Strictly speaking  Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana but commonly known as Church of the Infant Jesus for the little infant Jesus wearing a cloak.

The infant Jesus is 16th century. Legend has it that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila.

Up a spiral stone staircase, a museum of various cloaks.

When I visited, I was struck by a girl in her twenties, her face was lit up with joy as she looked at the statue.

I caught up with her as she left. She told me she was a student in Prague.

When Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho was unknown, he had yet to write, he travelled Europe. He asked the Infant Jesus to help make his dream come true to become a writer. He noticed the Infant Jesus was wearing a shabby cloak. He promised, that if he became a writer, he would return with a cloak.

Paulo Coelho marks St Joseph’s day with his friends. This year it was at Lobkowicz Palace in Prague  Castle. During the morning he visited the church and presented the Infant Jesus with a  new cloak.

The Infant Jesus is credited with miracles. Hence the pilgrims.

I was appalled at the disrespect shown by the hordes of visitors to the church.  Two women having a very noisy conversation on the stairs leading up to the museum, the noise echoing up and down the staircase. Two women walking down the aisle having a loud conversation. Then bang, crash, a tourist group erupted through the doors, their tour guide, Italian, laughing and shouting. I wish I gone after her and took a picture of her as she left, as she was unfit to be a tour guide. Then it got worse and worse.

I walked out in disgust.

Why do they not bar tour groups?

A shop near the church entrance, but closed when I left.

Across the road, shops selling tourist tat, images, replicas of the Infant Jesus.