Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Blueprint for a better world

The image on the left is part of a frieze taken of a building under threat of demolition.

One of my main working principles when photographing a building is to try and capture its essence, and the identity of the people who built it, worked and lived in it; particularly when the building is under threat or at risk. This way the images I make can be used as a sort of cultural swatch to help provide a greater range of nutrients to any new development or to any interior refurbishment.

This brings to mind a fascinating article in November's BLUEPRINT magazine. Entitled : FRUITS OF LABOUR. It describes the remarkable philosophy behind the latest Timberland Boot Company Store development. The company has taken over a historic building (former banana warehouse) in Spitalfields, London, and through a philosophy of understanding the building, helped restore a delapidated structure. They have also created a fascinating retail space which helps build bridges with the fiercly conservative community. To Quote Blueprint "Russell Ashdown, who headed up the project at Checkland Kindleysides, describes the creative process as being more 'investigative archaeology' than retail design. Intensive research was done into the sites history.......In this way the look and feel of the store would grow organically out of the site itself. Not only would Timberland save money but a piece of local history would be left intact."

This sort of approach doesn't always apply just to buildings, but also to whole townscapes and cityscapes. Today I had a meeting in my local town which has a wonderful conservation area but has been affected by the unimaginative placement of a traffic island (in the 1970's) which effectively split the town in two and cauterized the lifeblood from the area. New planning decisions and developments should grow out of our local communities in the same way that Timberland has shown with the Spitalfields development.

Blueprint Magazine: www.blueprintmagazine.co.uk

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