I was in London this month for a conference and as luck would have it the venue was to be the brutalist paradise of the Barbican centre. For some at the conference, the beauty, geometry and texture of brutailsm was a new experience. Personally this is an architectural style which has never failed to inspire. In my minds eye I see a vision of the future which embodies hope. A coming together of form and function designed to make you take notice whilst at the same time creating an environment you can live with and in.
The conference involved long days in hot lecture halls but as the evening light lingered with promises of summer I had plenty of time to capture my two favourite subjects, people and architecture.In fact if you ever get the chance to shoot the Barbican I recommend going when the sun is low in the sky and the buildings cast majestic shadows across the squares and walkways. Some may think concrete can be nothing but boring and flat but I would challenge anyone to find a single surface of the Barbican which is anything but a feast for the eyes.
The Barbican centre itself is brimming with culture and I certainly need to book another trip where I have time to enjoy the galleries, cinema and cafes. The energy from the people who come for the performances and shows is palpable and spills out across the fountains and into the buildings themselves. Light and sound bounces back at you so you are surrounded by the electricity of the place and the people.
I stopped and talked to Tony, a professional musician who was sitting below a grand crest of the City of London. Tony was waiting for friends and had tickets for a Tchaikovsky violin concerto. We talked of London and his career in music. The following day he was playing piano at a retirement home near to where my grandad lives and where my family are from. I find the happy coincides which come from talking to strangers are always memories to cherish. All in all my trip to London and the Barbican was a very successful one indeed.
This is my city. There are many others like it but this one is mine. Or at least that is how I am starting to see Nottingham. For in seeing a city the way I see Nottingham now I feel like I am part of it and that it is mine to be a part of. My relationship with the city has been a relatively short one but like many love affairs it already feels like I couldn’t be without it.
I still know very little about the city in truth. Most of my my time has been spent on the south and east sides of Nottingham but what I have found has already given me a more than I could have expected. For me a city is as much about it’s grand architecture as it is it’s beautiful mistakes. In a city colour and form come together in ways which inspire and enchant but are simply passed by and ignored by most.
I have met many interesting people and found many interesting places in Nottingham but the jewel in the crown is Nottingham Contemporary. Just seeing the building brings a smile to my face and sometimes I feel I am drawn to it like a compass to magnetic north. Despite our short acquaintance this is now one my of favourite places to be in the world. I have found joy, sadness, humility, contemplation and plethora of other emotions within the white gallery walls and I come away feeling renewed. My photography has benefited greatly from having such a fantastic cultural resource so easily accessible.
The gallery isn’t my only draw to the city. The near by lace market district is a gift to any street photographer. Its fantastic architecture and laid back atmosphere makes for a great place to shoot and relax. Each corner and side street holds a different cafe, record or book shop which are a welcome distraction. Photography comes to the slow and deliberate, the contemplative, those who live and feel in the now. The lace market helps me find that place in my mind.
So whilst there are many beautiful cities across the world I am happy to be able to call Nottingham my own even if it is only in some small way.
The Odeon cinema in Loughborough has drawn me like a moth to a flame since our arrival in the town last year. I find the art deco façade of the building to be inspiring and I have photographed it on many occasions. The lines and contours of the building look to me as if a graphic designer has taken a pen and drawn across the sky. I love the way the Odeon sign works with the building. The lines of the sign like the façade are very clean but in a very different way, modern and shinning. Where the sign meets the building the paint has flacked away as if it is sympathetic to the older façade. The overall result is extremely pleasing.
It’s not clear as to whether the building you see today was how it was when it was built. The cinema was originally opened as the Empire in 1914 and was designed by Archibald Hurley Robinson. It seems that the building was refurbished in 1936 and perhaps the façade was updated (1). I would image that the architecture would have been even more splendid when it first opened it’s doors.
Recent news in the town is that we are to have a new multiplex cinema. The cinema including it’s new bars and restaurants will be built on the site of the old hospital at Baxter Gate. The construction has began but there is little above the ground at this stage. The hoarding around the site includes an artists impression of what the finished building will look like. I can’t say that it fills me with the same level of inspiration as the Odeon. I wouldn’t expect the new cinema to be built in a similar art deco style but I would have preferred it if they had designed something more inspiring than brown brick and shop fronts.
I wonder what the fate of the existing Odeon will be? Whilst the university increases the number of people in the town during term time I can’t imagine that there will be enough demand for two cinemas. It would be a shame if the Odeon were to be abandoned and it fell into disrepair. The cinema in my old neighbourhood of Kings Heath was left in this way and it wasn’t long before it was struck by arsonists. That would be a sad ending indeed for a building which has inspired me the way the Odeon has.