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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This post was written for Sally’s Phoneography and non-SLR Digital Image Challenge, at Lens and Pens by Sally.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some other posts I enjoyed:
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.