Buildings (and spaces) in use
I found some relevant and interesting points in the enlightening book called ‘Non-Place’ by Marc Auge. He writes of anthropological spaces of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as “places”. Examples of a non-place would be a motorway, an interchange, an airport or a supermarket.”
This got me thinking about the importance of setting and how human activity may change. With this in mind I set about making images for my first two buildings and spaces.
Preston bus station.
“Four rows of sculptural concrete fins make up the brazenly “Brutalist” facade of Preston Bus Station in Lancashire.” 
Completed in 1969 by architects Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson, the 170 mt long structure became the largest bus station in Europe. The colossal scale of the structure, boasts 40 gates for double-decker buses on both its east and west sides with a 4 storey car park above. Once seen as the building’s greatest feature and, by some, its failing. Years of decline, thought by some to be deliberate neglect, followed.
Taken from a low angle to capture the many lanes for anticipated bus passenger queues. The shabby appearance – peeling paint, highlight the neglect.
Mid afternoon shot taken in the now defunct side of the bus station. The only sign of people presence is the litter.
A classic 1970’s image – nothing has moved on. This is a favourite image of mine, it draws out the atmosphere of the cafeteria and whisks me back in time.
I chose this shot for the dated marketing and signage. The juxtaposition of the figure creates an anachronism, using modern technology, the boy looks to belong to a another time and place.
Saltburn by the Sea is a small Victorian coastal resort where the industrialists of the region flocked at weekends to escape the dirt & grime. The building of Saltburn’s pier was by railway engineer John Anderson (1814-1886) and opened to the public in 1869. The pier, the first iron pier to be built on the North East Coast, is the most northerly surviving British Pier. It is in an exposed position and facing due north into the unforgiving North Sea – yet it still draws in the crowds, winter and summer alike.
Family day out. Interesting how the seats are placed close to the edges of the space (the pier), so one has no choice but to look out over the beach and sea. This image forces the viewer to consider what is happening outside the frame.
Utilising the space. A steady flow of people strolling along. The runner creates tension with movement and colour.
People are drawn to thresholds, in this case the barrier between land and sea. Each in private thought as they gaze into the distance, with regard to what may be further away – in time and location.
Symbolic and poetic. I selected this restrictive framing to give it strength, no other distractions, allowing the viewer to unfold a story of their choice.
“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” (Frank Lloyd Wright 1867-1959).
Having spent more time researching, I would now challenge the design theory of Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) “form ever follows function” . It can, and does, work in reverse too. Particularly now in the current trend of retro, vintage and nostalgia. It seems as though we humans are growing weary of the pace of technology and are clinging on to the past. Many buildings and spaces are defunct or have been abandoned for “state of the art” or “futuristic” designs.
Thankfully, new generations are inheriting and preserving the former glory of deserted and neglected buildings and spaces, therefore adapting the existing form to take on a new function – as my next two buildings show.
Maria’s art studio – Brougham Hall, Cumbria
Brougham Hall in Penrith, Cumbria was built in the 14th century. Rescued from dereliction in 1985, today it is one of the largest country house restoration projects in England and the old stables are home to a wide variety of arts and crafts workshops. It is a space where collaborating artists, share and develop. They display their work, run workshops, host exhibitions, sit and chat to visitors and gain inspiration.
This space is compact but it’s contents show it has been embraced and utilised well by its inhabitant. The open door invites us in and the footprints say that it is okay to cross the threshold.
The artist at work. Taken from a different angle, this image looks out to the courtyard and displays artificial and natural light.
The studio and workshop are bright and cheery, but the heater reminds us that it is cold in here!
Corn Exchange – Leeds
Leeds Corn Exchange, a stunning Grade I listed oval building, has been attracting visitors for more than 150 years. Designed by world-renowned architect from Hull, Cuthbert Brodrick (1821-1905), the Corn Exchange opened in 1863. From the late 19th century until the 1990’s the building was a bustling centre for the exchange and sale of corn, wheat, barley, hops, cake and flour and also hosted a farmers’ market and regular leather fair.
Today Leeds Corn Exchange has come full circle and is once again a thriving retail hub, but this time around it is home to independent specialist retailers and foodie outlets. Particularly popular during the festive season when stalls set up in the now redundant “functions” area on the lower ground floor.
Visually attractive, framed to show the design of the interior and how the layout lends itself to pedestrian traffic.
Interesting observation here of how people tend to sit safely on the periphery of the space. Is it our culture and custom that dictates that we be less visible, less vulnerable?
The lower floor of the Corn Exchange has remnants of what has been a night club and bar and latterly a function room. Now lying empty, the floor cries out for merriment, music and dancing once again.
My final two buildings, although in complete contrast with each other, demonstrate how they are used to experience a common interest.
Rufikopf Restaurant – Lech, Austria
Lech is a beautiful Tyrolean alpine village situated in the Arlberg region of Austria, a high valley, 1450 meters above sea level. The village provides access to a varied and wide-ranging ski area. This panoramic restaurant and sun deck is at the summit station of the cable car Rüfikopfbahn.
Skiers stop here to rest and refresh and gather their strength for the 22 km ski race “Der Weisse Ring” or the “Langer Zug”, a skiing route that presents itself as a 4.7 km long challenge with a gradient of up to 78%! Whilst those on foot can relax and enjoy the breath-taking mountain panorama on the large sun terrace at an altitude of 2,350 mts.
Early morning, the tables are lined up and look out at the magnificent vista ready to receive the day’s guests.
An inviting marketing shot taken from a low angle. Cutlery in a beer Stein – food and drink awaits for hungry skiers!
Lunchtime – a meeting place for common interest and to share experiences on the slopes.
In contrast – late afternoon. A walker alone with his thoughts, enjoys the tranquility, basking in the winter sun. I chose to include the “caution triangle” in the frame for humour. The message is clear “do not disturb”.
Conishead Priory – Buddhist Temple
Set within the grounds of the ancient Conishead Priory, the Buddhist community have built the magnificent Kadampa Temple. Though built according to a traditional design, it is a modern Temple that provides a peaceful respite from our otherwise busy world. Work began in 1995 on the site of the old priory kitchen garden, completed in 1997 it became the first temple for World Peace. Each year, thousands of people visit the Temple to admire its artistic and architectural features and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.
This image portrays order, discipline and peacefulness. The beam of sunlight hints that this is a bright and happy place.
The temple is use during a meditation and Buddhist reading. The viewer is left to consider the facial expressions and thoughts of the audience.
In the pretty temple grounds, even lunch is a relaxing affair – shoes off, mug of tea. Note how she occupies just one side of the bench, leaving an open invitation for a companion.
Finally, a humorous shot. This monk has found his place – a big comfy leather armchair, his laptop and his music.
I wanted to bring variety and originality to my choice of buildings and spaces. I also wish to show how external factors – economic climate, attitudes, lifestyle, influence the function and use of a place.
This assignment called for careful planning, research and thinking about the space that I was going to photograph, rather than going along and taking lucky shots. I need to get more familiar with this kind of thinking, I often look back at images and wish that I had used a different angle or had focused on something more closely. I think that is because in the moment itself I don’t really force myself to consider what the scene in my viewfinder is telling me. The composition is sort of going through my mind, but not specifically on what it is that I want to portray. Hence, this was a good exercise for me!
Following the initial submission to my tutor and the subsequent feedback, I have given considerable thought to this assignment. Having now researched, visited and studied many more buildings and spaces and the people who inhabit them, I decided to ditch some of my buildings and have a re-think. I’m glad that I did. I feel I have taken a risk by including some rather unusual places to represent “buildings in use” for this assignment.
I have enjoyed this project immensely. I am interested in architectural styles and their impact on society, coupled with my fascination of observing people, I now have a greater understanding of how people interact with place and space. I am particularly captivated by how human behaviour is affected depending on location and surroundings. This will lead nicely in to my next module “People interacting with place”.
- www.dezeen.com (12th September 2014). Brutalist Buildings, Preston bus station.
- Sullivan, L H (1924). Autobiography of an Idea. Press of the American institute of Architects. New York. Inc. p. 108.