Saturday, February 03, 2007

Good News continued

Hebdomadary asks whether they really built the horrific Westgate house next to the Victorian Union Rooms ( currently a Wetherspoons pub). Indeed they did. The first picture gives another view. The next building to the west of the Union building is one of the medieval churches of Newcastle, St John`s, Grainger Street. The second picture of the church gives a glimpse of Westgate house looming in the background



Hebdomadary said...

Hurrah, a new triumph of Victorianism then (architecturally speaking), in the 21st century! Onl in postwar England I think, due to the generally more contained parameters of urban planning due to space restriction, could you get such an aggregiously disproportionate juxtaposition of architectural brutalism. That's just CLASSIC! It's enough to bring tears of laughter...until the laughter dies away and only the tears remain. It reminds me of a splendid clipping that a professor friend of mine who specializes in urban-development preciently clipped out years ago, of the proposed "Palumbo Tower" to have replaced No. 1 Poultry in the city. Mansion House on one side, and across the street, in the place of old Mappin and Webb's, thirteen stories of Palumbo! Talk about brutalism. But of course we all remember 1950's version of Paternoster Square.

Nevertheless, as I am wont to say to other Trads, it's only architecture, just like sanctuary reorderings and wreckovations, it's only making work for future Catholic architects to whom will fall the task of putting things right. Of course it won't last. Just as Holy Mass will still be said in little St. Etheldreda's in London long after Norman Foster's pickle has been consigned to the ash heap of history.

I recently went to a meeting of an architectural society in the US where I live, at which a presentation was given on the state of London architecture after the Millenium. It included quite a preface on the history of London's urban development, including rather alot of postwar brutalism such as the Brunswick Center in Holborn, and some of the cement housing units alongside the Regent's Canal. It was embarrassing. Every example whether from humble (but brutal) Gospel Oak to Barbican grandiosity, made bums squirm on seats ("But Dorcas, it looked like such a good idea at the time!"). Whatever the economic constraints of the post-war years, it's all just so obviously ideologically driven, and by a dead ideology at that. "Worker Utilitarianism," as the socialists would have it. But workers have souls too, as Cardinal Newman would have said.

With that in mind, I was gratified to see, during the time I lived in Walthamstow, the tower-block housing units of Leyton pulled down and replaced with curving streets of traditional attached housing of good yellow and brown brick. Children were to be seen playing, and the place looked like a neighbourhood again. So you see, there is hope. It all come's 'round in the end; patience is the only commodity.

Despite the fact that he was (wholly unaccountably!) a big fan of the Bull Ring in central Birmingham (thank heaven it's gone!), deep down, something tells me that Ian Nairn would be pleased.

Jeffrey Smith said...

Congratulations on getting rid of the monstrosity. You should consider yourselves fortunate, though. In America, the vandals would have bulldozed the surrounding buildings for a big open ( paved, of course ) "public space" that no one would have used.

Anonymous said...

The Union Rooms is a quite recent change of name (when, to give them credit, Weatherspoons saved the building) from the 'Union Club'. It was, some said, the premier gentleman's club in Newcastle. Oddly enough, Pevsner, in his Northumberland volume of The Buildings of England seems to have closed his eyes as he passed it since it is not mentioned at all but almost every other building is. The now happily-extinct Westgate House was actually inspected by myself and other union officials in the 1970s to see if it came up to the standards we required for our members and we passed it! But, it did have decent office accomodation behind its ugly facade.


Fr Michael Brown said...

Thanks Hebdomadary. There have been some other sensitive developments in Newcastle such as the mock-Georgian development at Gray`s monument. It wasn`t that long ago since two sides of the Georgian Eldon Sqaure jst along from the monument were demolishe to created the blank walls of the Eldon Square shopping complex. It`s almost imossible to imagine such a thing happening now. I suppose it will take some time for Church to tear itself away from `Worker Utilitarianism`

Fr Michael Brown said...

Thanks Sceptical. Glad to hear Westgate House had sme redeeming features. I forgot to mention of course that on the other side of the street is the Station hotel, home to the Mass celebrated by the SSPX. Maybe it is an answer to prayer!

Fr Michael Brown said...

Jeffrey, thanks for pointing out how fortunate we are!