Shelter once, and perhaps again

Image: Su Leslie 2019

Nothing left but the facade. Heritage buildings in Cuba Street, Wellington, NZ undergoing redevelopment in the wake of the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

Image: Su Leslie 2019

Retail and apartment living; redeveloping heritage buildings in Wellington’s Cuba Street.

One Word Sunday | shelter

Nature’s architects

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Paper wasp’s nest. Image: Su Leslie 2018

When we think of architecture, it is usually in terms of human achievements — skyscrapers, cathedrals, public buildings, that weird house round the corner.

But of course humans aren’t the only species to build individual shelters or indeed entire communities; beavers, birds, termites and paper wasps are just a few species that actively construct their living environment.

Paper wasps get their name from their ability to create a papery substance from collected fibrous material and their saliva. The queen uses this to build a nest into which her eggs are laid. The nest is also used as night shelter by adult wasps. If the queen is successful in attracting worker wasps to help her, the nest will continue to be used, and grow, for the queen’s lifetime.

Ultimately the nests are abandoned, and degrade naturally.

Unlike most human architecture. I read recently (Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth, The Guardian, 25 Feb 2019) that this most common of human building materials is the second most used substance on the planet after water, and probably the most damaging to our increasingly endangered environment.

“By one calculation, we may have already passed the point where concrete outweighs the combined carbon mass of every tree, bush and shrub on the planet. Our built environment is, in these terms, outgrowing the natural one. Unlike the natural world, however, it does not actually grow. Instead, its chief quality is to harden and then degrade, extremely slowly.”

It is an uncomfortable article to read — so I thoroughly recommend that you do.

I guess it’s a sign of how distressed I have become at the state of the world that I have responded to this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge with a post not about the undoubted majesty and beauty of so much human architecture, but by thinking about how other species also create functional, beautiful structures with a much lighter footprint.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
Frank Lloyd Wright

Seven Day Black & White Challenge .. and on the eighth day, colour edits

Close up shot of bee feeding on yellow flower. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Image: Su Leslie, 2017

During the Seven Days of Black & White Challenge there were a few comments about how various shots would look in colour. Well, here they are.

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Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Close up shot of snowflake christmas decorations with bokeh. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Twilight shot of Palais Theatre, St Kilda Melbourne, Australia. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Image: Su Leslie, 2017

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Image: Su Leslie, 2017

colour shot of art deco building in process of being demolished. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Close up shot of cat sitting on couch back. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Both Elsie at Ramblings of a Writer, and Lucile at Sights and Insights invited me to join the Seven Days of Black & White challenge. The rules are simple:

“Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.”

If you haven’t already taken part, please consider it — especially if black & white is not your usual “thing” photographically.

Last days, or new beginning: an old hangar at Hobsonville Point

Shot of broken windows, and damaged masonry, disused hangar, Hobsonville Point, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Caught in the evening light. Disused hangar, Hobsonville Point, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Hobsonville Point is a greenfield “community” being constructed on  a former RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) base near where I live in Auckland. Its growth is rapid, with new roads and houses springing up daily. Within the development are a number of old buildings that formed part of the base — barracks, officer housing, hangars and workshops.

One hangar is currently plastic-wrapped and obviously being refurbished. Another — shown above — is fenced off and has workmen on site. Since February, the roof has been removed, exposing the building’s steel skeleton. I assumed the hangar was being demolished, but the Big T thinks the work is too careful. Perhaps it too will be given a second lease of life.

Either way, the daily change in its profile is fascinating to watch and photograph.

Morning mist. Disused hangar, Hobsonville Point, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Morning mist. Disused hangar, Hobsonville Point, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Steel skeleton of disused hangar, Hobsonville Point, Auckland. Shot at sunset with the sun behind the building. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Skeleton beyond the wire. The sun sets behind a disused hangar, Hobsonville Point, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Skeleton behind the wire at sunset. Disused hangar, Hobsonville Point, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Skeleton beyond the wire. The sun sets behind a disused hangar, Hobsonville Point, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

Travel theme: grey

Memorial to the Women of World War II. Sculpted by John W. Mills. Whitehall, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Memorial to the Women of World War II. Sculpted by John W. Mills. Whitehall, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

As a colour, grey gets pretty bad press; associated with bad weather and gloomy days. But it is also the colour of many sculptures — like the bronze above which commemorates the enormous contribution made by women during war — and Rebecca Rose’s “Inflight Entertainment” below, which is made of stainless steel.

Rebecca Rose, "Inflight Entertainment", 2014. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

Rebecca Rose, “Inflight Entertainment”, 2014. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

The works below, by Trish Clarke and Merle Bishop are also in steel and bronze respectively, although the grey that predominates in the image is that of a stormy evening sky.

Trish Clarke's "Round Up aka Triffid Garden", and Merle Bishop's "Spot the Blind Dog", exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

Trish Clarke’s “Round Up aka Triffid Garden”, and Merle Bishop’s “Spot the Blind Dog”, exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

London skyline on a stormy day. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

London skyline on a stormy day. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

In the two shots above, leaden skies hang over already grey structures. In countries were rain is abundant (like the UK and New Zealand) grey clouds are often spoken of negatively — something I’ve noticed increasingly in our TV weather forecasts. For me, they speak of drama and change — things I view positively.

Grey is this week’s Travel Theme at Where’s My Backpack. You can see Ailsa’s wonderful shots here. And here are some other bloggers’ take on the theme that I liked:

Grey

https://drieskewrites.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/travel-theme-gray/

Travel Theme: Rouen’s Cathedral is a Study in Grey

Grey Days

https://sonyavdg.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/travel-theme-grey/

Travel Theme: Grey

https://decocraftsdigicrafts.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/travel-theme-grey-travels-around-new-zealand/

https://beautyalongtheroad.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/shades-of-gray/

 

 

Architecture of difference

We’ve been in Bavaria for the last couple of days, and yesterday went to the famous Schloss Neuschwanstein. It’s winter here and there has been quite a lot of snow. Coming from a Kiwi summer, this change of weather has accentuated the feeling of difference — best exemplified by the very different architecture of this part of the world.

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Schloss Neuschwanstein: a fairy tale castle built high in the mountains.

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Icicles hang from the roof of this house, in the village below the castle.

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The inn just below the Schloss Neuschwanstein, perfect place to warm up.

This post was written for Sally’s Phoneography and non-SLR Digital Image Challenge, at Lens and Pens by Sally.

The architecture of the subconscious

“This was a townscape raised in the teeth of cold winds from the east; a city of winding cobbled streets and haughty pillars; a city of dark nights and candlelight, and intellect.” ― Alexander McCall Smith, The Sunday Philosophy Club

“This was a townscape raised in the teeth of cold winds from the east; a city of winding cobbled streets and haughty pillars; a city of dark nights and candlelight, and intellect.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, The Sunday Philosophy Club.
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

It feels particularly appropriate to be writing about my hometown on Hogmanay. Edinburgh is – for the world at large – the city most associated with this Scottish celebration of  New Year.

I was born in Edinburgh, though I’ve never really lived there. It’s a town I experience in soft focus; an idealised place of ancient history and learning. I want to belong, but I don’t really. I can feel distain for the endless shops selling novelty kilts and postcards of the castle to tour bus crowds, but I have a visitor’s excitement at every street corner and close, every church and gallery.

"Auld Reekie - wale o ikla town"  -- Robert Fergusson

“Auld Reekie – wale o ikla town”
— Robert Fergusson

It’s a city of instantly recognisable architecture; the castle set high on the remains of a volcano and Scott Monument – the neo-gothic monument to Sir Walter Scott.

I love the way the city is bisected by the railway line and Princes  Street; the crisp, orderly New Town to the north, the medieval old town of haphazard buildings and narrow closes to the south. It takes only minutes to walk from carefully planned and laid-out squares lined with neo-Classical and Georgian buildings, fenced parks and statues of the worthy – to the jumble of centuries’ worth of urban life that is the Old Town.

Riddle's Court, 322 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

“… You peep under an arch, you descend stairs that look as if they would land you in a cellar, you turn to the back-window of a grimy tenement in a lane:—and behold! you are face-to-face with distant and bright prospects. ”
― Robert Louis Stevenson, Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes
Riddle’s Court, 322 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

When I’m there, I imagine a giant game of hide and seek where I could tuck myself away down some cobbled yard and not be found for days – if ever.

Riddle's Court, 322 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. Photo: Su Leslie, 2013

“It seemed to him a very Edinburgh thing. Welcoming, but not very.”
― Ian Rankin, Exit Music
Riddle’s Court, 322 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. Photo: Su Leslie, 2013

If I were ever to set a story in Edinburgh (and I’d be in wonderful company – from Robert Louis Stevenson to Muriel Spark, Kate Atkinson and Irvine Welsh), it would be in the old town. Not because I don’t love the rationality and intellectualism of the New, but because rationality and intellect are my everyday life and if I’m going to commit to fiction it has to allow me to explore the aold structures and narrow doorways of my subconscious.

On Hogmanay I wish you all good fortune and fulfilment for 2014.

Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh.

This post was written as part of the Phoneography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally. My choice this week – architecture.

Here are some other posts I enjoyed:

iPhoneography Monday: 12-30-13

http://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/phoneography-challenge-whoops/

http://firebonnet.com/2013/12/30/phoneography-challenge-selfie-reflected/

http://angelinem.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/phoneography-challenge-tequila-in-tulum/

http://weliveinaflat.com/blog/phoneography-weekly-waterloo-street-%E5%9B%9B%E9%A9%AC%E8%B7%AF/

http://piecesofstarlight.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/phoneography-season-sampler/

Word a week photography: arch

I’m in the UK at the moment – revelling in the architectural gems of many centuries that pop out at me wherever I go.

Sue’s Word a Week photography challenge is arch: perfect for so much of what I’ve seen on my recent travels.

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The parish church at Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire.

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Dunfermline Abbey, Fife, Scotland

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The parish church at Auchtermuchty; Fife. Home of my Leslie forebears in the late 19th century.

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St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

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Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

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The old churchyard at Kirkmichael, Perthshire. The headstone in the foreground is that of my 4x great grandparents, James Wallace and Ann Cunnison.

The architecture of stillness

Central fountain and glasshouse; Wintergarden, Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Central fountain and glasshouse; Wintergardens, Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Having an hour to spare the other day I went to one of my favourite places in Auckland; the Wintergardens of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Two barrel-vaulted glasshouses constructed in the 1920 house colourful displays of exotic and everyday plants. Between the two glasshouses – a formal garden and arcade of classical statues.

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Although the Wintergardens are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Auckland, and are often quite full of people, there is something about the architecture and general design of the buildings and gardens that makes them seem quite peaceful even when busy.

I’ve photographed the Wintergardens many times, but with these shots (from my iPhone) I’ve edited them to try and capture the sense I always have of stepping into a past era of glamour and gentility. They were edited with Photo Editor by Aviary.

Thanks to Sally at Lens and Pens by Sally for her weekly phoneography challenges. You can see her photos here, and some others you might like below:

http://weliveinaflat.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/dog-walking-hungry-ghost-festival/

http://woollymuses.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/wordless-wednesday-phoneography/

http://watchingthephotoreels.com/2013/08/26/phoneography-challenge-challengers-choice/

http://angelinem.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/phoneography-challenge-still-life/

iPhoneography Monday 8-26-13

http://piecesofstarlight.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/phoneography-challenge-street-photography-architecture-stairway-to-heaven/

Streets of Livingstone

http://livingwithmyancestors.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/phoneography-challengers-choice-still-life/

http://photobyholly.wordpress.com/