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

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

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.

 

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

A winter’s Day in Tallinn’s Old Town

A winter's Day in Tallinn's Old Town

Over the years I have visited Tallinn many times thanks to it being only a short ferry ride from Helsinki. Each time visiting new places and getting to know the city that little bit more. Whatever my plans they always include a trip to its Old Town.

A winter's Day in Tallinn's Old Town

Tallinn’s Old Town refers to its medieval region that dates back to the 13th century in the heart of the city. Its cobbled streets, gothic architecture and well preserved city walls make it a must to people visiting the Baltic region.

A winter's Day in Tallinn's Old TownA winter's Day in Tallinn's Old Town

There are plenty of small laneways to walk and discover. You don’t need to worry about get lost because, more often than not, you end up at the Town Hall Square, home to one of the best Christmas markets, and surrounded by authentic restaurants, bars and cafes.

A winter's Day in Tallinn's Old Town

There are two great view points over Tallinn’s Old Town. They can be difficult to find but after a climb up hill and winding through the small cobbled streets you will be rewarded with uninterrupted views, even on a snowy winter’s day.

A winter's Day in Tallinn's Old Town

A winter's Day in Tallinn's Old Town

Exploring Tallinn’s Old Town can easily take a day but make sure you spare some time to travel further afield. Telliskivi, Kadriorg park and the beautiful neighbourhood of Kalamaja are all worth a visit.

A winter's Day in Tallinn's Old Town

Further Reading:

For more photos from Tallinn visit my Instagram.

Take a look at one of my other visits to the city in Doors of Tallinn.

The National Library of Finland

I recently wrote about Helsinki and put my case forward for it being the city with the best looking libraries, though I am completely bias as I have only seen a handful of libraries outside of Helsinki, I stand by this.

There were two libraries missing from that list though mentioned. The first was Oodi, the new addition to Helsinki that I am eagerly waiting to visit, the second was missing intentionally.

The National Library of Finland

The National Library of Finland

The National Library of Finland is one of the finest buildings that Helsinki has, from the inside at least. From the outside the building is underwhelming and you would have little reason to believe that the inside would be any better. For me this is why I enjoy it so much. It is overlooked, underappreciated and visited mainly for academic purposes, which some may argue is the only reason needed to visit a Library.

The National Library of Finland

The library was designed by architect C.L Engel, who designed a large majority of the buildings surrounding Senate Square where the library is situated, including Helsinki Cathedral.

The National Library of Finland

Hidden away in the centre of the building is a large open atrium with a glass domed roof, on each level of course more books.

The National Library of Finland The National Library of Finland

The National Library is a legal deposit library, which means it has an obligation to keep a copy of any printed material, as well as audiovisual materials produced in Finland or distributed in Finland.

A large percentage of the collection is kept in an underground bunker drilled 18 meters down into solid rock known as Kirjaluola in Finnish or Bookcave.

The National Library of Finland

The rooms are large and lined with books, tall detailed pillars support the upper levels and painted ceilings. It’s these features and details that make the National Library of Finland such a magnificent building.