The Singers of Jingshan Park

As I walked through the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing  a tree covered hill stood in front of me, on top two colourful Pagondas. This seemed like a great place to view the surrounding area and after taking a look at my city map it would be possible to visit.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The area was known as Jingshan Park. To enter there was a small fee of 2 Yuan, which was very little compared to the 40 Yuan I had just paid to visit the Forbidden City.

Just inside the entrance a crowd had gathered to watch as a woman waved spirals through the air with a long coloured flag. As I watched I realised that a large amount of the crowd weren’t that interested in the woman at all but instead they were watching me and taking photographs.

The Singers of Jingshan Park The Singers of Jingshan ParkAt the top there were great views in all directions, particularly to the south over the forbidden city and then to the north where the city stretched never ending into the distance.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

View to the north from Jingshan Park

As I stood looking over the view I could hear singing coming from below but little sign of people through the trees. I walked down towards the sound and found several large groups of people who had come together to sing.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The Singers of Jingshan Park

Each group was made up of fifteen or so people, there were no instruments expects for an accordion, and no clear leader. They just sang. When one song finished they were on to the next with little hesitation and with everyone joining in.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The groups were very diverse, men and woman, all from what seemed like different backgrounds. One man came dancing towards the crowd in brightly coloured clothes with a speaker as a hat. Another with a cane and a large black military coat, perfect for the winter weather.

But there was one thing they all had in common, they were all of retirement age.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The Singers of Jingshan ParkDuring my short stay in Beijing I noticed on several occasions groups of the older generation joining  in activities or socialising together. Sometimes in the strangest of places. A large group of women dancing in unison on a busy intersection. More often than not there would just get together in parks or public spaces to play cards or even board games.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

These photos feature in my new zine OFFBEAT along with many others from my time in Beijing. It’s an exploration into a different side of the city. Highlighting daily life, Chinese culture, architecture and of course metro stations. Copies are limited and can be found here:

allabouttheimage.bigcartel.com

Further Reading:

My visit to Tiananmen Square and The Body of Chairman Mao

Rajamäki and the Molotov Cocktail

During World War II Finland was fighting Russia all down its Eastern border and protecting its country from invasion. The Finns were hopelessly outnumbered and the Russians were a superior force. This period would later be known as The Winter War.

Under the leadership of General Mannerheim the Finns had to resort to clever tactics and guerilla warfare. They relied heavily on regiments of ski troops, sent out world renown sniper Simo Häyhä, but lesser known is the large scale production and use of the Molotov Cocktail.

Hidden amongst the trees in the town of Rajamäki are two identical abandoned towers made of poured concrete used during that period, but for what?

Rajamäki and the Molotov Cocktail

Rajamäki and the Molotov Cocktail

Rajamäki is small industrial town 45km from Finland’s Capital, Helsinki. The town has been home to an alcohol bottling plant since before World War II. During The Winter War this plant was used for another purpose, to produce Molotov Cocktails on an industrial scale.

Though the Molotov Cocktail had been used throughout history it was the Finns that realised its effectiveness in guerilla warfare and against the armoured Russian tanks.

With the Molotov Cocktail factory working flat out and vital to Finland’s success it became a key target on the Russians attack. Two concrete towers were built just outside Rajamäki. These would provide a platform just above the tree line where anti-aircraft guns would be positioned, from here the Finn’s would be able to protect the town and the factory from an aerial assault.

Rajamäki and the Molotov Cocktail

Rajamäki and the Molotov Cocktail Rajamäki and the Molotov Cocktail

Shortly after their completion The Winter War was concluded when Finland ceded a large portion of its Eastern border to Russia. Now, these towers are locked up and abandoned, forgotten and hidden in the Finnish forest. Their history just as mysterious as the structures themselves.

Rajamäki and the Molotov Cocktail

Further reading:

The aftermath of The Winter War and the Germans Scorched Earth.

My visit to Porkkala and discovering its hidden Russian history.

How a Small Force of Finnish Ski Troops Fought Off a Massive Soviet Army

As usual you can see more from my travels on Instagram.

The Tricorn

The Tricorn was a car park situated in the city of Portsmouth. Designed in the early 1960s by Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon, the concrete structure was envisioned as a blank canvas where shop fronts and market stalls would bring colour and life to the building. Originally the building was going to be called ‘Casbah’ meaning Market in the Sky.

The Tricorn

At first the building was heralded with an award for its design, but gradually fell into disrepair. The Tricorn never reached its full potential and it quickly became clear that it would never be used for the purpose for which it was originally intended. 

The Tricorn

There was much debate in the city and the Tricorn gained notoriety as one of the ugliest in the country. It wasn’t long before people were calling for the building to be removed and the area redeveloped.

The Tricorn

After years of delays demolition on the Tricorn began in March 2004, to make way for a large modern shopping centre that would bring change to the City of Portsmouth. Now, the area remains undeveloped. In its place a temporary car park that has slowly become a permanent feature.The Tricorn

Further Reading:

BRUTAL – The Tricorn

My very first printed zine BRUTAL is available to order HERE. It is an A5 book featuring images of the Tricorn shot on film in 2004 shortly before the building was demolished and a cover illustration from Nick Coupland. They were taken as part of a series documenting several changes that the city of Portsmouth was going through at that time. I am hoping to bring other projects to life like this and I can only do that with your support.

The Tricorn

 

It’s too Late to Save Welbeck Street Car Park

It's too Late to Save Wellbeck Street Car Park

Welbeck Street Car Park is a short walk from Oxford Street in London. It was designed and built in the Brutalist style in the 1970s as parking for the nearby Debenhams. Its facade made from prefabricated concrete polygons has become very recognisable.

It's too Late to Save Wellbeck Street Car Park

In 2017 a petition was started in order to put pressure on Historic England to grant the building with listed status or at least consider a design of the new hotel that incorporated the iconic facade. Unfortunately, both were unsuccessful.

It's too Late to Save Wellbeck Street Car Park

It's too Late to Save Wellbeck Street Car Park

The demolition was scheduled and plans went ahead to turn the site into a 10 storey, 206 bedroom hotel.

It's too Late to Save Wellbeck Street Car Park

It's too Late to Save Welbeck Street Car Park

I visited the car park in early 2019, at the time demolition hadn’t begun on the facade but work was definitely in progress. There were workman on every corner taking their breaks and the lower level entrances had been boarded up. Since then, scaffolding has been erected around the outside.

It's too Late to Save Wellbeck Street Car Park

I made it just in time to take my photos, maybe a little too late. I would have like to see the building from the inside and had the freedom to move around the building more freely with uninterrupted views. Hopefully I will be able to return in the future and photograph the change, whether or not it is for better or worse.

It's too Late to Save Wellbeck Street Car Park

 

Further reading:

Brutalist Welbeck Street car park will definitely be demolished

The design for the new hotel can see seen in the article from Architects’ Journal

The now closed petition Save Welbeck Street Car Park from Demolition !!

Fair Welbeck Street

Fair Welbeck Street

FAIR WELBECK STREET, in all your brutalist majesty,

Balanced & bold against the massive London sky,

Teetering house of cards, it would be such a travesty

To bring the barrier down, and say goodbye.

In your storey-stacked style, you seem to call

To days when we were young, shook hands, dreamed dreams

Of progress, motion, of standing tall, a future fast and fine as jet streams.

These five-sided triangles, pointing down from above, certain in saying: YOU ARE HERE. You are loved.

And now your days are nearly gone, but turning off the thoroughfare

I find your striplights glaring on, the ever-widening dream, still there.

I know I shall pass by one morning, to find an absence in your place.

Let traffic dip its lights in mourning, for your cemented charm, your concrete grace.

Farewell, fair Welbeck Street, too beautiful to last

Once you were the future

Welcome to the past.

Unknown

A Day in the New Forest

The New Forest is an area in Southern England, widely known for its nature and wildlife. The Forest was first proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conquerer in the 11th century, and today a large proportion is still owed by the crown. Since 2005 the New Forest has been a national park.

A Day in the New Forest

Wildlife

One of the features that the New Forest is known for the most is its wildlife. Animals are able to roam freely within the national park and there is quite an abundance, especially of horses. At Hatchett Pond we encountered our first, a group of very friendly donkeys.

A Day in the New Forest

A Day in the New Forest

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is a short, narrow stretch of road just outside the town of Brockenhurst. Here you can find some of the tallest trees in the New Forest. In and around 1859 many trees were planted in this area as part of the Rhinefield Estate.

A Day in the New Forest

At both ends of the Drive there is a car park. From here you can pick up the Tall Trees Trail, a short walk that runs parallel to the road.

A Day in the New Forest

A Day in the New Forest

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive hosts many non-native species of trees, including Redwoods. At only 150 years old these trees are very young in comparison to their American cousins but, nevertheless, they are among the tallest in the forest.

A Day in the New Forest

The Knightwood Oak

Turning off from the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive you will be able to find the Knightwood Oak, a five hundred year old Oak tree. The Knightwood Oak is an example of ‘pollarding’, which is where a tree is harvested for wood without killing the tree. The oak is one of the largest and oldest in the New Forest and also goes by the name ‘Queen of the forest’

A Day in the New Forest

This is such a small selection of what the New Forest has to offer. There are many towns, including Lyndhurst and Burley, that are worth your time, as well as the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. All of these situated in the beautiful surroundings of one of England’s oldest forests.

 

Oodi – Helsinki’s Central Library

Oodi - Helsinki's Central LibraryHelsinki Central Library Oodi

Oodi is a recently opened library in Helsinki’s centre. It was designed by ALA Architects and commissioned in connection with Finlands centenary of independence in 2017. The huge wooden structure dominates the area in which it is located. Oodi is an excellent example of modern architecture, filled with workspaces, books and services a library provides for its community.

Oodi - Helsinki's Central Library

Inside Oodi is clean, spacious and minimal. This theme runs through each floor of the building, though from a design perspective they are all very different from each other. The top floor is walled with large glass windows that creates a light and open space.

Oodi - Helsinki's Central Library

Design is the heart and soul of the building, there are no half measures here.

Surprisingly, Oodi features very little books for its size. It’s billed as a modern library, one that focuses on services and workspaces rather than physical information. The bookshelves it does have are small and minimal, though part of the Helmet network you are able to access a much larger selection of books.

Oodi - Helsinki's Central LibraryOodi - Helsinki's Central LibraryOodi - Helsinki's Central Library

 

From the top floor the library offers 360° view of its surroundings. Unfortunately some of Kansalaistori still remains under construction, though the view to Helsinki’s recently renovated Parliament House is uninterrupted.

Oodi - Helsinki's Central Library

Oodi - Helsinki's Central Library

What Oodi does well is the creative use of workspaces, and there are plenty of them. Each level is filled largely with communal spaces, each with its own design and character. There are also meeting rooms, individual work rooms and quiet spaces, not to forget those dedicated to specialisations such as a music studio.

Oodi - Helsinki's Central Library

From the outside Oodi is remarkable from every angle. The sheer size of the building isn’t fully understood until you stand at its front door and look up its wooden facade. From end to end it stretches and curves naturally into the distance.

Oodi - Helsinki's Central Library

Oodi is proof that functional buildings don’t have to be boring and I couldn’t imagine many other countries investing money in buildings, such as libraries, as highly as Finland does. But, even after my visit, I find it hard to understand Oodi and its purpose. It’s a huge and costly building most dedicated to work spaces, if nothing more it is a fine example of architecture and design in a city that continues to out do itself.

Further Reading:

If Oodi doesn’t convince you then take a look the other great libraries in Does Helsinki Have the Best Looking Libraries? And a more detailed look at my favourite The National Library of Finland.

Inside Oodi, Helsinki’s new flagship library by The Economist.