Archives for : Architecture

Berlin 2015 – day four (26 March 2015)

It was raining this morning so I decided to check out the German Museum of Technology. I thought they may have the odd camera or projector but I was absolutely delighted with that section of the museum as they had a whole floor devoted to photo cameras and the floor above to moving picture projectors and cameras, both amateur and professional.

An old wooden process camera, used for graphic reproduction.

An old wooden process camera, used for graphic reproduction.

Photographic equipment, note the photo in the background of a large process camera.

Photographic equipment, note the photo in the background of a large process camera.

8mm cine film editors, used by many budding directors to cut and splice film.

8mm cine film editors, used by many budding directors to cut and splice film.

A seelction of cine cameras and projectors, mostly 8 mm. There is also a large tape deck; the only way to have sound in home movies before the advent of the Super 8 format was to use one of these machines. There were even various gadgets to synchronise film and sound.

A seelction of cine cameras and projectors, mostly 8 mm. There is also a large tape deck; the only way to have sound in home movies before the advent of the Super 8 format was to use one of these machines. There were even various gadgets to synchronise film and sound.

A Eumig P8 and Bolex Paillard 18-5 cine projectors (for 8 mm standard 8 film). I have both of these in my own collection and they are highly regarded.

A Eumig P8 and Bolex Paillard 18-5 cine projectors (for 8 mm standard 8 film). I have both of these in my own collection and they are highly regarded.

There was also, in the museum, a 1960s TV studio setup, with all the camera and editing technology on show, and several old electromechanical computers. Sadly, my time had ran out by then so I was only able to have a very fleeting glance at the rest of the museum. There is easily enough to see to take up an entire day!

1960s black and white TV studio equipment.

1960s black and white TV studio equipment.

German rocket technology!

German rocket technology!

After a brief drink in an Irish pub, I headed on to the Fernsehenturm. Although the visibility was poor, I would have regretted not tsaking the opportunity to go up it. Fortunately, my fear of heights was almost completely nullified by the fact that the viewing gallery was completely indoors.

The space age architecture of the building at the base of the Fernsehenturm is stunning, with the concrete 'wings' evoking a spirit of excitement.

The space age architecture of the building at the base of the Fernsehenturm is stunning, with the concrete ‘wings’ evoking a spirit of excitement.

The space age architecture of the building at the base of the Fernsehenturm is stunning, with the concrete 'wings' evoking a spirit of excitement.

The space age architecture of the building at the base of the Fernsehenturm is stunning, with the concrete ‘wings’ evoking a spirit of excitement.

The space age architecture of the building at the base of the Fernsehenturm is stunning, with the concrete 'wings' evoking a spirit of excitement.

The space age architecture of the building at the base of the Fernsehenturm is stunning, with the concrete ‘wings’ evoking a spirit of excitement.

Viewing gallery in the Fernshenturm. There is a revolving restaurant on the floor above but it is by reservation only.

Viewing gallery in the Fernshenturm. There is a revolving restaurant on the floor above but it is by reservation only.

View from the Fernsehenturm, facing south

View from the Fernsehenturm, facing south

 

View from the Fernsehenturm, facing east

View from the Fernsehenturm, facing east

View from the Fernsehenturm, facing west

View from the Fernsehenturm, facing west

View from the Fernsehenturm, facing SE

View from the Fernsehenturm, facing SE

Finally, I returned to Gatwick via Berlin Schönefeld airport, whiling away my time in the terminal in an Irish pub with a Bratwurst.

Berlin 2015 – day three (25 March 2015)

Today’s plan was to cover the western extents of the city centre so I got the U-Bahn to the furthest west place of interest. This was Schloss Charlottenburg, a former royal palace.

Schloss Charlottenburg

Schloss Charlottenburg

After that, I decided to walk along Berlin’s main shopping street, Kurfurstendamm. It was a long and rather unrewarding walk south to this but the shopping street itself contained the international designer brand shops that are ubiquitous in most major cities. At the top (north-eastern end) of this street was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This got bombed during WWII and only the main tower remains. A replacement church was built in the 1960s and it is a concrete waffle-like frame containing small fragments of stained glass. The interior looks stunning. A bell tower constructed from the same frame (being smaller in plan but a lot higher) is on the other side of the original tower; however, it is currently clad in scaffolding.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

 

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Near the Kaiser Wilhelm church is a small shopping centre that looks unchanged since the 1970s. Inside this was a café where I had slices of gammon and chips of potato (kartoffel chips). I then went in KaDeWe, Berlin’s most famous department store and one of the largest in Europe. The lower floors contained the usual expensive handbags/perfumes etc but on the top floor was a true gastronomic paradise. The food hall contains dozens of counters, all of which seem to have a bar. Each food department has several of these counters. There is meat, fish, cheeses, chocolate, cakes, sweets but unlike a supermarket, these products are served for eating in the shop rather than just being for home consumption.

Food hall at the KaDeWe department store

Food hall at the KaDeWe department store

The next place on my list was the Tiergarten, a massive park (like Hyde Park in London). However, the walk there seemed to go on for miles. On arriving at the Siegessäule monument, the walk to Brandenburg Gate looked an enormous distance away. I was after some refreshment and was most annoyed to see that the café was closed, having negotiated several labyrinthine subways and pedestrian crossings to get there. The offer from a rickshaw rider of a lift to the Brandenburg Gate was one I gladly accepted, despite being fleeced of my change. Like the beggars at Checkpoint Charlie, some of these people give them all a bad name by making them all seem suspect.

Siegessäule (Victory Column), Tiergarten

Siegessäule (Victory Column), Tiergarten

My exploration out west was thus complete, although there were a few places outside the immediate city, such as Potsdam, (and its surrounding lakes)  and Spandau. I headed back into the Eastern Bloc via the U-Bahn/S-Bahn and got off at Wernaucher Straße . Here is one of Berlin’s alternative areas (Friedrichsain) and is also home to the Oberbaumbrücke, one of Berlin’s most iconic bridges and a key border crossing of the cold war years. Nearby is a stretch of the river with the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall next to it, although there is a strip of land between the wall and the river that is used as a beach in the warmer months. Despite Berlin being such a long way from the sea, the soil appears to be quite sandy anyway. I first had a drink in a vaguely pirate-themed restaurant that had sand and palm trees in its beer garden.

Garden at the Pirates bar/restaurant, near Warschauer Straße.

Garden at the Pirates bar/restaurant, near Warschauer Straße.

I then followed the longwest remainign section of the Berlin Wall, known as the East Side Gallery, where various graffiti artists have decorated it. Of course, if anyone tried to do that 40 years ago then they’d probably have been shot! I then headed to my next destination via Ostbahnhof and the U-Bahn.

Oberbaumbrücke, one of Berlin's most famous bridges

Oberbaumbrücke, one of Berlin’s most famous bridges

Berlin Wall, part of the East Side Gallery. This longest remaining section of the wall has been decorated as a work of art.

Berlin Wall, part of the East Side Gallery. This longest remaining section of the wall has been decorated as a work of art.

Berlin Wall, part of the East Side Gallery.

Park and ‘beach’ facing Oberbaumbrücke. The East Side Gallery (part of the Berlin Wall) is on the far left.

Park next to the Berlin Wall. The shoprt section of wall on the right shows a cross-section of it.

Park next to the Berlin Wall. The shoprt section of wall on the right shows a cross-section of it.

Tempelhof Airport was in use until 2xxx but has been closed ever since. The airfield has been given to the people of Berlin as an open space, which is very popular for all sorts of activities, from picnicking to kite-flying. However, the terminal building was of more interest to me. This is a vast brick edifice shaped like a crescent and unlike most airports buildings, it includes all the hangars in the main building. While parts of the building are used by organisations such as the police, and aviation-related industries, the main terminal has been left as it is.

Tempelhof airport's main terminal entrance.

Tempelhof airport’s main terminal entrance.

Tempelhof Airport's vast terminal building.

Tempelhof Airport’s vast terminal building.

Tempelhof Airport

Tempelhof Airport

On the runway at the former Tempelhof airfield. Everything has been left in place as a massive open space for Berliners to enjoy.

On the runway at the former Tempelhof airfield. Everything has been left in place as a massive open space for Berliners to enjoy.

In the evening, I decided to head to Friedrichsain. Simon Dach Straße is packed full of bars and restaurants, ranging from posh eateries to ordinary pubs. I decided to start with Paul’s Rock Eck, which was (as the name suggests) a rock pub. This was very English, particularly in terms of the drinks available on draught. Next up was The Himmelreich, which is a gay bar and 2-for1 drinks was great. Finally was Kptn A Muller, recommended by a beer guide. It was kind of quirky.

Berlin 2015 – day one and two (23-24 March 2015)

Day one – Monday 23 March 2015

I flew out from Gatwick at 12:20 pm after taking the train from Southampton to Gatwick, via Horsham. I didn’t realise it went that way – I thought it went to the Brighton junction and turned north. At Gatwick, the South terminal, which is very impressive inside, is like a vast shopping mall with food and drink outlets as well, not dissimilar to West Quay. Luckily there was a Wetherspoon’s although even that was expensive!

The flight itself was in largely good weather, although there was some cloud here and there obstructing the view. The approach to Berlin was really interesting, as I could see all the lakes and forests surrounding the city.

 

Approaching Berlin

Approaching Berlin

Compared to Gatwick, Berlin Schonefield Airport was surprisingly modest. None of the usual vast retail space that you get with most of the airports that I have been to. I got the S-Bahn to Hermannplatz then the U-Bahn to Kottbusser Tor. Not the nearest metro stop to where I was staying but the next one along the line. I walked south and over the canal to near Schönleinstraβe station where I went in a local-looking pub – Bei Schlawinchen. This was a baptism of fire as it was full of bearded men drinking tankards of beer and smoking (yes, it’s not illegal in Germany). However, it wasn’t hostile and I would have gone back in there given the time, as it was the sort of place I was looking for rather than the gentrified touristy pubs in the city centre.

After checking into my room, which was within an art gallery and had some very retro furniture, I went for a walk to see if a nearby Biergarten was open but, not surprisingly given it was a Monday night in March, it wasn’t, so I went to Das Hotel, a lovely dimly-lit and quirky place where the staff were friendly and welcoming. I walked down to the lower end of Kottbusser Damm seeking more bars but all I found was a sports bar that was a cross between a betting shop and a pub. Finally, I bought some bottled beer in the off-licence that was literally next door to the entrance to my lodgings and had a pint in the pub/restaurant (“The Bird”) next door on the other side.

My room for the trip to Berlin

My room for the trip to Berlin

Day two – Tuesday 24 March 2015

I started this morning by getting the U-Bahn from Schönleinstraβe to Hallesches Tor and I walked due north along Friedrichstraβe to Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most high profile border crossings between East and West Germany. Here, the East German border was to the north of the checkpoint and West Germany to the south. While it originally had a hut like the one pictured, it was actually upgraded over the nearly three decades it was in place so by the time the wall fell in 1989, it was a ten-lane checkpoint. I looked at an outdoor exhibition about the checkpoint, which was very interesting although spoiled by beggars collecting money “for the disabled”. If that is actually what they are collecting for then that is fine; however, I suspect this is an act designed to trick tourists. Before going to Checkpoint Charlie, I had a look at (from the outside) the Jewish Museum, which was fairly imposing.

Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstraβe

Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstraβe

Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstraβe. The guy dressed as a US soldier will pose for photos for a few Euros.

Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstraβe. The guy dressed as a US soldier will pose for photos for a few Euros.

A small section of the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstraβe. This is within a small outdoor museum featuring boards with photos and text about the history of one of Berlin's most infamous border crossings.

A small section of the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstraβe. This is within a small outdoor museum featuring boards with photos and text about the history of one of Berlin’s most infamous border crossings.

After posing at Checkpoint Charlie for a photo with a guy dressed up as a US soldier, with a US flag, I continued my journey North and found a Kamps Bäckerei cafe, which offered a reasonable lunch so after stopping for some coffee and getting some essential sustenance, came to the expensive part of town, where the posh shops are (global brands such as Gucci, H&M, Timberland etc). I was amused about the fact that this part of town was in East Germany; the former Soviet leaders with an anti-capitalist agenda would be turning in their grave!

One of Berlin's finer churches.

One of Berlin’s finer churches.

What are all these blue pipes around Unten den Linden? It appears that there is a branch of the pipe going into the ground under every building. Perhaps it is a district cooling system of some kind?

What are all these blue pipes around Unten den Linden? It appears that there is a branch of the pipe going into the ground under every building. Perhaps it is a district cooling system of some kind?

I then backtracked south to Unter den Linden, the grand avenue leading to the Brandenburg Gate (known as Brandenburger Tor in German). This is probably Berlins’s most famous landmark and like Checkpoint Charlie, a key border crossing between the east and west parts of Berlin. I managed to get a map at last from the adjacent tourist information centre. I have plenty of maps in a book back at my apartment but I only have a rucksack or nothing to carry it in so a pocket-sized map was very useful. Particularly as my mobile ran out of juice about the same time.

Plaza to the east of the Brandenburg Gate. The buildings on both side appear to be post reunification as the wall must have been here.

Plaza to the east of the Brandenburg Gate. The buildings on both side appear to be post reunification as the wall must have been here.

 

Brandenburg Gate, facing West.

Brandenburg Gate, facing West.

Brandenburg Gate, facing east.

To the south of the Brandenburg gate, and where part of the Berlin Wall was is a large plaza full of stone slabs; this is a memorial to the Jews murdered in Europe. It felt very strange thinking that these atrocities took place here only 70 years ago. I then went in a bar and had a stein of lager. This was a strange place as there were no toilets and it was about a 50 metre walk along the road to get to the public loos, although the bar did give me a ticket to pay for the entrance fee.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Eberstraβe.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Eberstraβe.

After that, I went south to Potsdamer Platz, where part of the Berlin Wall used to be but now home to some high-rise office buildings. One of the most prestigious of which is the Sony Centre, which contains the Museum of Film and Television. I went in here and it was worth the admission fee.

Potsdamer Platz and the high-rise buildings that were built after the fall of the wall. There are some sections of the wall that have been placed as artworks.

Potsdamer Platz and the high-rise buildings that were built after the fall of the wall. There are some sections of the wall that have been placed as artworks.

Sections of the Berlin Wall as works of art by Potsdamer Platz.

Sections of the Berlin Wall as works of art by Potsdamer Platz.

The Sony Centre, a very impressive ring of buildings containing a public plaza at the centre. One of the buildings contains the Museum of Film and Television.

The Sony Centre, a very impressive ring of buildings containing a public plaza at the centre. One of the buildings contains the Museum of Film and Television.

Berlin's main library. I'm not sure if this is 60s or contemporary as the cladding looks quite new.

Berlin’s main library. I’m not sure if this is 60s or contemporary as the cladding looks quite new.

In the evening, I went to Alexanderplatz and saw the Fernsehenturm (TV tower) for the first time. I then walked south via a restaurant where I had a beer but was the only customer and then Das Meisterstück, a gastro-pub that had an extensive selection of bottled beers.
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Yorkshire Sep 2012 – part 1: Friday 21 September 2012

Friday 21 September 2012

Today started out with a nice sausage bap and cup of tea at Southampton Airport’s airside café. The flight to Leeds was, as usual, slightly ahead of schedule, arriving into the airport at around 8.00 am.

My original plan was to get the bus to Leeds and then onward to Scarborough; however, as it was raining steadily and there was a half-hour wait for the bus, with nowhere to go and nothing to do around there, I decided to get the next bus, no matter where it was going, and work things out from there. Bradford was the destination and the bus journey seemed a lot quicker than the previous time I took that bus but fortunately, there were only a few minutes to wait at Bradford Interchange for a train onwards (to Leeds, my original destination). I changed at Leeds onto a direct train to Scarborough, seemingly a long way away from Leeds.

I was intending to have a look at Filey but the train timings just didn’t match up and I had limited time. Scarborough is an odd seaside town, with it being on two different levels due to the fairly high cliffs. The first sight one sees on walking out Scarborough station is a massive and very ‘brutalist’ monolithic municipal building and after that is a high street, complete with the usual shops one expects to see. This meanders on for a while and the chain stores gradually change into independent smaller shops. No sign of the sea yet though!

Brutalist civic building near Scarborough station

Scarborough ‘s high street

I had dinner in a very nice café in the lower end of the high street and this boasted a nice view of the sea! Fish and chips, bread and butter and a pot ‘o tea for £6.00, now that’s good value compared with a lot of places, although finding fish and chips in somewhere like Scarborough was never going to prove too much of a challenge.

View from the Harbour View Cafe, Scarborough

After dinner I found the lower part of the town, where the seaside part of the town is. This is a nice promenade at the bottom of the cliffs and the land side had the usual assortment of amusement arcades, tacky gift shops and cafes, while the other side had a harbour/marina. Further South was the actual beach, which looked very nice.

Scarborough’s promenade

Scarborough beach

Scarborough harborough

I went up to the North end of the promenade and round a headland with the remains of a castle on top but there were major building works in progress so not much to see. I climbed the path part way up to the castle for some great views, although it was a bit of a rabbit warren of narrow paths and steps that didn’t seem to go anywhere.

Road around the castle headland at Scarborough

Building works by Scarborough’s castle headland

The doorway to nowhere: this leads to the steep slope of the cliff.

Panorama of Scarborough viewed from the path up to the castle

A bit pushed for time, I went south along the promenade and took the cliff railway to the top of the cliffs, although I was a bit disappointed as it didn’t seem to go very far. Next to this was another cliff railway, in a derelict state and obviously closed. I don’t know what the need for two almost adjacent was. At the top, near the aptly-named Grand Hotel, I went across a bridge that spanned a valley, or chine and again, offered good views.

Scarborough’s short cliff railway (the one that is still in use)

Scarborough as seen from the top of the cliff railway

Scarborough’s grand footbridge

Disused cliff railway, Scarborough

Back outside the station, I got the Arriva X93 bus towards Whitby. £7 for an all-day ticket between Middlesbrough-Whitby and Scarborough was good value and the scenery of the North York Moors was splendid. Before going to Whitby itself, I wanted a look at Robin Hood’s Bay. This is a delightful village on a steep hill that winds itself towards the sea. The bay itself, at the bottom of the hill, is stunning but as tempting as the adjacent pub looked, I was in a hurry so climbed back up the hill and got the next bus onwards for the short journey North.

Top of the road to the lower part of Robin Hood’s Bay

The Bay Hotel – Robin Hood’s Bay

Panorama of Robin Hood’s Bay

Whitby is a very nice small town with a fishing harbour like many places in Cornwall. It has an active fish market and a myriad of fishing trips on offer. There is a large column on one of the harbour jetties (presumably used as a lighthouse) and there are also two other attractive navigation towers. I thought I’d stop in one the many pubs by the harbourside but the one I chose (The Ship) was very dead. The other one I tried, by the station, seemed to be a bit rough so I didn’t hang around.

Whitby harbour

Whitby harbour

Whitby’s western beach

Whitby’s famous ruined abbey

Whitby harbour wall tower

Whitby harbour wall tower

I then continued on the bus route, across the bleak splendour of the North York Moors, towards Middlesbrough. Most Northern towns and cities appear to have had a scrub up and are quite tidy now but Middlesbrough is definitely an exception to that. The outskirts had some very rough-looking places and further on in, it was like a massive industrial wasteland, the engine room of Great Britain.

Travelling from Middlesbrough to Darlington was relatively easy. Darlington is much larger than I thought it would be, with a suitably-grand station to match. Unfortunately, it is one of those towns where the station is at the far extreme of the town centre, with my hotel being on the opposite far extreme. It seems like a nice town, with a nice town hall and market hall and the usual myriad of shops, including two shopping centres.

Darlington market hall

My hotel, the Greenbank, was rather eccentric, with a lot of military ephemera in the lobby, bars ands corridors. That was a nice touch of character; a departure from the usually-bland hotels I am accustomed to.

The evening’s proceedings started off in the Joseph Pearce (sp), a pub with cheap drinks that was popular (unsurprisingly) and busier than I would have thought bearing in mind how young the night was. I then went in the Golden Cock, the name of course being part of its charm. This was quieter apart from the karaoke in progress but the staff were friendly. I finished in The Britannia, a more traditional pub near the hotel.

The Golden Cock pub, Darlington

Coastal walk 8 September 2012

Faced with the prospect of a sunny weekend, perhaps the last one of this year’s poor summer, and no particular place to go, I racked my brain for some outdoor pursuits so I didn’t stay in all day and feel guilty for wasting the nice weather. The seaside would be nice but can’t go too far, saving my pennies. Bournemouth? Nah that’ll be heaving. In the end, a look at my trusty OS Explorer Map brought about the idea of filling some gaps in my conquering the Solent Way along the east coast of Southampton Water. Every August, when I take the ferry from Southampton to Cowes, I notice the unusual golden-coloured cliffs between Warsash and Hill Head. I was very familiar with most of that area but the Warsash to Hill Head section was completely unexplored.

So, I took the no 4 bus from Southampton to Warsash, noticing on the way the free Wi-Fi on board (which I discovered by accident in attempting to get my laptop to connect via my mobile) and, more significantly, that the Crow’s Nest pub has been demolished. This was a large suburban pub and a landmark at the top of the hill on the main A27 through Bursledon. A place that I enjoyed many karaoke nights a few years ago. It was one of those pubs that made it into bus timetables, like the Target in Sholing was and I’m sure there were others.

Arrival in Warsash was marked by the sighting of an unusual pebbledash clock tower.

The pebbledash clock tower of Warsash

The walk itself is fairly unremarkable at first, going across heathland and marshes, and is marked by a lot of massive houses and a large Brutalist building of some kind, I presume it is part of the sailing college that’s in Warsash. Most of the views are dominated by Fawley Refinery and Calshot Power Station; the latter in particular seems to muscle in on nearly every photo. The walk was surprisingly quiet, apart from people walking their dogs and their children, and eager twitchers.

Dog walkers and children; an occupational hazard for adventurers like myself.

The remains of gun emplacements like this are common along this part of the coast.

Coastal path near Warsash

A bit further on those elusive cliffs appear and I was surprised to find cliffs like that in the otherwise-very-flat surrounding area. They are golden in colour rather than chalk or granite, most unusual. The best thing of all was that there was not another soul as far as the eye could see. There is no way down from the top of the cliffs for most of their length and it felt like being somewhere very remote; an oasis of tranquillity in the otherwise-hectic Solent conurbation.

The golden cliffs!

The cliffs

The next leg of the walk brought me into the middle of an unusual settlement that consisted entirely of small wooden single-storey chalets. Nearly all of the shacks had a wind turbine on the roof; perhaps it was a self-sufficient community? The only place it reminds me of is Dungeness, which has similar small shacks but those are spread out much more sparsely. This brought me back into the familiar territory of Titchfield Haven, which gets the twitchers very twitchy but I don’t have the patience for such pursuits. The place hasn’t changed a bit. The small marina round the corner was inhabited by a load of Mallard ducks making laughing noises, perhaps jealous of all the attention the twitchers are paying to other birds.

Titchfield Haven chalets

My good self (!) at Hill Head

This concrete wall at Hill Head protects the nature reserve and provides a nice walkway for kids.

It was over four miles and not a drop of fluid had passed my lips so I went into the Osbourne View, a massive gastro-pub with an enormous garden adjacent to the beach – nice. A cold pint of Stowford Press went down like a treat, although I was very tempted by the Tanglefoot and Fursty Ferret ales (I used to drink those a lot in Isobar last year). Adjacent to the pub was a very modern new house, something that Frank Lloyd-Wright and Le Corbusier would have been proud of. It goes without saying that you’d have to be seriously rich to live on top of the cliffs with those views.

Aren’t I clever? Both the Osbourne View AND the modern house in the same shot. Two for the price of one.

Put off by the pub prices for food (£2.95 for a bowl of chips?!), I continued onwards, past a long row of beach huts (and it was fascinating to see how each hut occupant had personalised their small space) and came across a seaside caf like I was hoping to find. Sausage and chips for £1.50, that’s more like it! ‘The Shack’, at the northern extent of the Marine Parade road is the name of the place. Highly recommended.

A graveyard for elderly hovercrafts, like Concorde, that high-speed dream never took off (pardon the pun)

I continued along the seafront at Lee-on-the-Solent, past giant aircraft hangars and giant mothballed hovercrafts, past the playground where the lido used to be and to the main seafront (next to the amusements where the station used to be). Lee-on-the-Solent and Art Deco architecture have some interesting links. There used to be a wonderful Art Deco lido but every trace of it to the smallest detail was destroyed to make way for a kids’ playground. There used to be an Art Deco tower next to the station as well, and that was also destroyed. I’ve always loved the Art Deco shops (in the parade where the famous Bluebird Café is) and fortunately, they are still there.

Fab Art Deco shops in Lee-on-the-Solent

It became apparent that Lee-on-the-Solent is very bereft of any pubs in that main shopping area and on the seafront. The only one I know of is the Old Ship. I went in here for another drink, and noted that the food prices were more reasonable here although I had already eaten. There didn’t appear to be a gents’ toilet anywhere; they must have hidden it well. There’s no shortage of public WCs along the coast path though, although some of them are probably of a dubious nature.

After Lee-on-Solent, the landscape changes dramatically, and gives way to gravelly heathland, part of the MOD training camp at Browndown. The MOD seems to own half of the Gosport peninsula but this part is open for the public to walk through. The only signs of its military use are the badly-broken remains of concrete walls about 2 metres thick and a large concrete mushroom (which on further inspection was some kind of ventilation shaft).

Browndown beach, MOD-owned land

Onwards to Stokes Bay, familiar territory again and the beach here was fairly popular; not surprising given the weather and making the most of it. After Stokes Bay was Gilkicker Point and rounding this felt like I was onto the home straight. Not far to go now…that was until the coast path came to a very abrubt stop, with a fence topped with rolls of barbed wire going far out into the sea, and no indication of where the path went. I couldn’t be bothered to get the map out of my rucksack so I thought I’d follow the perimeter of the fence until I got back to the sea. This meant going across a golf course and then back onto a very suburban road. This eventually led to the car park I remember next to the prison. I thought the aforementioned fence surrounded the prison but my map says it is ‘Fort Monckton’, the prison being the other side of the car park.

Gilkicker Point

It is rare to see The Solent that blue (near Haslar)!

I continued along the coast path from the prison (now known as an ‘Immigrant Removal Centre’) and passed the large Haslar hospital; not sure whether this has closed yet or not; I know there were plans to close it. It’s very big and very Victorian. After this, the path once again came to an abrubt halt, this time with padlocked gates adorned with razor wire. I had to retrace my steps and eventually found the road between the Haslar hospital on one side and whatever the top-secret Qinetiq site is on the other. I’ve been to Gosport many times but I don’t think I have ever been to that part of it. A sort walk over Haslar Bridge and past those tower blocks with the fab 60s mosaic murals on brought me to Gosport bus station, very weary!

 

Haslar hospital

Tower blocks in Gosport. These two have became quite an iconic landmark, with their groovy 60s mosaic artwork and rooftop observation decks.

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.