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Sunday, 2 January 2011

Awesome Beauty

Of all art forms perhaps our exposure to architecture is the most subconscious and the easiest to ignore. One day somebody tells you that Giles Gilbert Scott designed your university library and suddenly you see connections, the development of a legacy which up until that point you had absolutely ignored.

A picture of the Cambridge University library from the Telegraph website. Few people agree with me, but when I am inside I feel like I am in a great naval ship, climbing green-steel staircases in to the depths of its labyrinthine underbelly. I can see why people are intimidated by this building, as a copyright library it holds (or at least has to access to) every book ever printed in the UK. The classification system has descended in to a chaos of algorithms and there are hundreds of books you have to request. However if you have a real, deep passion for anything, the UL has the means of satisfying it. I have spent hours looking through hand-printed books from the St. Dominics, Golden Cockerel and Ditchling Presses or tracing a finger over the inky signature of an idol. But this is all a little off topic, the contents of the library have distracted me!
Building immense structures that embody the wasteland of industrialised England, Gilbert Scott's architectural creations are distinctive and strikingly recognisable. Filling landscapes and devastating them with their power; the Tate Modern, Battersea Power station, Liverpool Cathedral are just a few. All of these buildings would have been inconceivable once, but as plumes of smoke rise in to the air and the Thames is filled with freight ships, these structures rise out of the contemporary imagination.

A picture of the Tate Modern from the Tate website. This emptied/converted factory carries the perfect message about the movement of Modern art and its reclamation and re-designing of the past. The Tate's vast, echoing Turbine Hall is a space designed for experiments and confrontations.
On a train journey to West Dulwich I tried to steal photographs of the iconic Battersea Power Station through the windows as we passed. This is one of the nuclear photographs I captured before rushing away. Borrowed by Pink Floyd for their album cover, the power station still remains deserted, an awesome shell on the London landscape.

While doing a little research for this post I discovered that Liverpool Cathedral is also one of Scott's masterpieces. When I was at school I put together a small sketchbook of churches, cathedrals and religious architecture for an art project. Greedily absorbing interiors and exteriors as I travelled. Liverpool Cathedral was one of those marvellous discoveries you accidentally stumble upon, I remember dragging my dad in to see it after we passed it in the car.
Gilbert Scott's buildings are contemporary icons, you could dismiss them as ugly, but for me they have an awesome beauty comparable to that fear or the modern, ever-changing world.


  1. The Tate Modern is getting an extension- quite like the concept but prefer the previous design

  2. thank you for your january 2 comment.

    you might appreciate this as well: