Saving the Three Ships

When I first joined the conversation about Brutalism it was largely focused on Welbeck Street Car Park and the failed attempts to preserve it. Plans had been approved and demolition had begun, at the time of writing the building is completely gone.

But since then there has been a new agenda on the table, the Hull Three Ships Mural by Alan Boyson.

When I first began to read about the fight to preserve the mural as the council made plans to develop the surrounding building it felt as if it were a million miles away. A place I was never going to visit.

But I would.

During a trip to Yorkshire the conversation was reaching a critical point and this felt like as good as time as any to go. Under two hours away I wouldn’t be any closer for a while and it looked like I might not get the chance.

It had already been decided by the council that the mural wouldn’t be able to be saved, as originally thought, due to high amounts of asbestos in the building. In their opinion there was little they could do to preserve Alan Boyson’s artwork and it would be demolished with the building as planned.

Saving the Three Ships

Simple in design but excruciatingly detailed in execution it towers over the pedestrian cross roads. The mural is made from millions of small tiles of glass and features three ships, representing Hull’s fishing industry, and the cities name spelled out in their masts. Also, across the centre of the mural a latin phrase can be read, res per industriam prosperae meaning the success of industry.

I stood there photographing the mural as people passed on their way through the high street, paying more attention to what I was doing than to what has become a symbol of their city.

The former BHS store was large and appeared to have been empty for quite some time. I walked around the exterior and you could understand why the local council were interested in redeveloping the area. Inside was another mural by Boyson depicting a shoal of fish, it had been lost behind a wall for a number of years, but there was very little chance of seeing it from street level.

Saving the Three Ships

Later that week news came that the Three Ships had been approved for Grade II listed status and would now be protected during any future development plans. 

Of course for Hull City council the news wasn’t ideal, with one referring to the decision as ‘ridiculous’.

Saving the Three Ships

I was glad to see a positive outcome, people had worked hard to keep something that was important to them and hopefully for others in the future. I had seen failure before with the Tricorn and a city that was unable to come to a solution that the only choice they were left with was to demolish it.

Further reading:

Two buildings of unique design that weren’t as lucky to receive listed status and have been demolished, Welbeck Street Car Park and The Tricorn

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

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.

 

Tell Me All Your Secrets – Hotel Viru

Tell Me All Your Secrets - Hotel Viru

The building now known as Original Sokos Hotel Viru first opened in 1972, after construction delays and a fire in one of the upper floors. Apart from being a hotel the building and its secret history plays an interesting part in the history of the city.

Tell Me All Your Secrets - Hotel Viru

View of the Hotel Viru from Tallinn’s Old Town

The hotel is known for once hosting the KGB. Though, like anything involving the Soviet Union, the details are foggy. It is known that the 23rd floor of the building, now a museum, was home to a radio centre and that a number of rooms were under surveillance.

At the time the hotel was becoming a meeting point for international guests visiting the city and prime location for gathering information. Mystery still surrounds why information was collect, for what purpose and what was done with it after.

Tell Me All Your Secrets - Hotel Viru

In 1991 the KGB quickly abandoned residence in the hotel when Estonia became independent. Now, the hotel is operated by the Sokos Hotel chain.

Further Reading:

A winter’s Day in Tallinn’s Old Town

Modern day Sokos Hotel Viru and its KGB Museum

Other Soviet stories in A visit to Porkkala and 1950’s Era Russia