Archives for : February2012

Southampton pubs update Feb 2012

There is good news and bad news in this latest update.

The good news is that Talking Heads in Portswood will be reopening, as a traditional pub during the daytime and with music/spoken word/theatre entertainment in the evenings. An exact date has not been confirmed but it is to be during March.

The bad news is that The Junction, near St Denys station had a significant fire last night. This was one of the highest rating pubs in my 2007 survey and home to one of the last Bar Billiards games in Southampton.  Let’s hope it reopens as soon as possible.

The latest rumour is that The Highfield is to close but at the moment there are no leads on that. Meanwhile, at The Woodman, conversion to a Tesco supermarket is nearly complete and apparently has been done in a sympathetic way, so while no substation for a pub, the building at least continues to be a local landmark.

Clarence Pier

Clarence Pier – a vision of the space age in Hampshire!

This building comes as something as a surprise in a Hampshire seaside town, as it would be more at home in Los Angeles than in conservative old Blighty. This building is very extravagant and that’s quite appropriate as it was always designed to be a pleasure palace and some boring old Prince Charles style ‘recycled Georgewardian (best before 1900)’ would hardly have been appropriate.

It seems that the architects were allowed to go completely over the top but that’s why I love this building so much. It must have been incredibly modern and exciting when it opened in 1961, a replacement for original buildings that were victim to enemy WWII air raids.

In the 1950s, there was a bold vision for the future, showcased at the Festival of Britain and so spaceships and atomic power were the subject of much excitement and kids’ TV shows such as Thunderbirds and Stingray offered an insight into this. Clarence Pier would not have looked out of place on  the set of any of those numerous visionary programmes. It’s a real building of the exciting space-age future.

Concrete ‘shell roofs’ were very much in fashion in the 1960s and found themselves into numerous buildings in their different forms but it was rare to have so many different types of structure in one relatively small building. Probably the most memorable feature is the building’s tower, coloured in bright blue and yellow; a dominant colour scheme across several parts of the building. This is topped by a circular disc that appears to be floating on the glass windows and clearly resembles a flying saucer.

The side profile of the main building has a zig-zag roof known as a folded plate shell roof; the ‘folds’ in it giving it strength to span wide areas without needing supports.

Attached to this is a building with a different type of folded concrete roof; this one resembling the wings of a bird or perhaps of a jet aircraft.  It’s hard to explain  the geometry of this one and I am getting too far into the scary realm that is maths to go there!

The building has been used as The Golden Horseshoe amusement arcade ever since I can remember but it’s still associated with the adjacent funfair (which has greatly reduced in size sadly). It also contains a Wimpy bar and a kid’s play area.  I believe it originally had a ballroom in but I have not been able to dig up much info.

Finally, adjacent to, but separate, is a smaller building. This used to be a pub but is now the Wheel of Fortune, another amusement arcade. This has another shell roof that looks as though it is going to take off.

Buildings I disklike

Southampton, like a lot of cities, has some very good architecture but also some that I dislike.

It seems that the majority of this dates back to the ‘Postmodern’ era of the late 80s/90s.

First up, is The Marlands Centre. I think the critics at the time said it looked like something a child might build out of Lego and that pretty much sums it up really. It was never a major success, due more than anything to its location I guess. It was anchored by Dunnes clothing and that didn’t last long but it’s a Matalan now. The council have made public their intention to redevelop that block in  the next decade or so – along with the ASDA and multistorey car park that all seemed state of the art at the time.

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Pretty much in the same category is the awful multi-storey car park behind the BBC studios. It looks like the builders ran out of brown bricks halfway through building it and had to revert to beige ones.

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 Probably the biggest horror of all in the ‘Lego’ category though has to be the Hyde Housing building in St Mary Street. The only positive thing I have to say about that is its symmetrical. The arch shaped support at the bottom looks exactly like something from a Lego box.

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In a different category now are Southampton’s main shops in Above Bar. You know the ones, where Primark/BHS and so on are. These were all put up in a hurry after the city centre was devastated by WWII bombing but there seems to have been a missed opportunity to me here. Southampton’s parks are one of its best features yet all the aforementioned shops (except a couple) turn their back on the parks and just have a ‘blind’ facade of loading bays and dark alleyways. The backs of these buildings are at best utilitarian but actually pretty ugly in places.

I don’t think the buildings themselves are ugly, as the white stone facades along Above Bar look fairly decent and perhaps have a vague hint of the International Style, particularly with the metal windows sthat were so popular in those days.

The council has put forward some ideas for redeveloping these shops to reconnect the retail area with the parks and that would make a big improvement to the current situation. However, I am not sure that lesson will ever be learned. Leisure World for example – it has virtually no facade. Just a giant metal box with one small entrance. Now admittedly a cinema is going to have to have blind facades for obvious reasons but it looks like a large version of those shipping containers nearby.

And that brings me on to…those shipping containers. They’re piled up very high along the docks and if laid end to end would probably stretch around the world three times…or maybe not. They’re not particularly attractive and it begs the question of what ‘The Port’ (whoever runs/owns/etc/bored of that now) is trying to hide. A fine backdrop to that shiny new Police HQ nearby.

IKEA and ASDA also have blank facades. Perhaps it is a problem that afflicts retailers who name is made up of four letters.