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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Colonial Warehouse Rangoon

I have been saddened by an article by Jason Burke in the Guardian in early December 2012 about the threat to the colonial buildings of Rangoon.

Rangoon Apartments

http://www.smh.com.au/world/boom-threatens-rangoons-colonial-charmers-20121204-2at7a.html?skin=text-only

It reminded me about my trips over the past 25 years to Calcutta, Kolkata, where the city’s colonial architecture always draws me in but ultimately leaves me sad seeing such grand buildings often reaching a state of no return . Winston Churchill once said;

“The further I look back, the further forward I can see.”

No matter how many problems there were in the past, some things are worth preserving. Beautifully crafted and evocative architecture is definitely worth cherishing. Surely the financial gain from building new office blocks in colonial districts of these cities cannot outweigh the long term sense of place and serendipity benefits that result from preserving and giving new life to well thought out and beautifully crafted buildings?

Rangoon Ironwork

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Benidorm Postcard

I have just returned from a conference in Benidorm and am still in a state of shock. I was last in Benidorm in 1977 as a post O level, first foray aboard with my school mates. Even back then it had a reputation for English Pubs selling full English Breakfast and English beer (which as 16 year olds on our first holiday without parents we gorged on!).

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As a kid and then when Gerardine and I were courting, I loved going to Southport for its beach that never seemed to end (its often a mile and half walk out to the sea), for its pier that never seems to end (it’s the second longest pier in the UK), for those views across  to Blackpool Tower and for its shopping street, Lord Street, that again just seems to go on forever.

Like many British seaside resorts, Southport’s fortunes waned during the 80s and 90s. However a few years ago when I started to see pictures of the modern pavilion that had been built on the pier I felt this was the sign of a forward thinking council that understood the role that great design could play in regeneration. So Gerra and I took a detour and went to visit Southport. The new pier pavilion does in fact look cool.

In our Land of Lost Content collection of 20th century British memorabilia we have some great images showing Southport in its heyday .

This picture below shows the old pier pavilion

And this one shows the prom in the 30s

So imagine our horror when at the other end of the pier this carbuncle had been built on the prom …the last buildings before the lovely beach

I have nothing against a cinema, restaurant chains and a bowling alley being on the prom, BUT  having them housed in god-awful industrial boxes, surrounded by crap landscaping and totally turning their back on the prom (the entrances face inland with blank walls facing the sea… it creates an ugly, uninteresting face to the sea)  is just downright stupid and goes against common sense never mind good planning practice.

What were the planners thinking ?

They have just consigned Southport’s sea front to needing substantial regen money needing to be spent on it in the not too distant future and for what it’s worth, this family won’t be going back in a hurry !

I am sick of writing moans about bad planning so I am going to end this on  a good note, enjoy this movie I took on our way back to the car…it cheered me up anyway!

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When Copenhagen won Monocles Worlds Most Liveable City Award in 2008 they rightly made great play of their triumph. Copenhagen’s City Council has clearly had liveability (which to me means happiness) right at the forefront of their minds. With streets full of serendipity where you can find quirky start up businesses next to chain stores, Copenhagen has ensured it hasn’t drifted towards the “Clone Town” status bestowed upon most British towns and cities. Copenhagen has employed urban designers like Jens Gehl to ensure that the city is a joy to walk around and that cars are relegated to fourth place behind walking, cycling (what a great cycling infrastructure they have established) and public transport. Whilst Copenhagen has some fine modern architecture they have correctly realised that iconic buildings aren’t the be all and end all to a city’s attraction. They have realised that projects that add to liveability can be public spaces. Copenhagen now has a fine beach Amager Strand, a 1 ½  km long  beach built from scratch. Amager Strand is a piece of public design unparalleled in the UK where greed over land values seems to have prevailed over the past decades leading to the building of crap “Buy to Let” property developments getting priority of great public infrastructure. Copenhagen has also been brave in dealing with Health and Safety issues. The much loved floating timber lidos at Brygge and Fisketorvet is a piece of placemaking that the city uses pictures of to promote itself to the international development community and uses to attract inward investment.

Amager Strand, Copenhagen

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Google “ the worlds most liveable city” and Vancouver comes up. Reading on about these liveability surveys and Vancouver is also classed as one of the worlds most  sustainable cities. When 4 of the Hemingways are either working in or studying urban design and with yours truly being half Canadian and only ever going there once before for a brief two day stopover in Quebec, then its about time we visited Vancouver.

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I am often asked, 27 years on, could Gerardine and I start our careers today in a similar way to how we started out. In 1981 whist still in our teens, Gerardine and I emptied our wardrobes onto Camden Market on a Saturday morning, the rent was £6 and we took just over a £100. We returned the next morning, coughed up our £6, took a similar amount and realised that people liked our take on fashion. Gerardine, despite having no formal training, then was able to experiment with her dress making skills and open a unit in that hotbed of creativity Kensington Market. For £18 a week Gerardine was able to get direct feedback from the consumer, sit behind her sewing machine and hone her skills and Red or Dead was born. Soon after we opened stalls within Affleck’s Palace, and The Royal  Exchange in Manchester and open little shops in Soho. In the mid 80’s we opened a store on Neal St in Covent Garden with a weekly rent of £60.

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It wasn’t easy to sell Red or Dead the brand we created, Gerardine (wife and co founder) said it was like  selling one of our kids but I was determined to “cash in” on 18 years of bloody hard graft, to have a crack at something new and very importantly to have more time with our 4 kids, who back in 1999 were still pretty young. We had travelled as a family and had realised that travelling (rather than spending time on a crowded beach)  as a family was a wonderful bonding experience and an unparalleled gift that any parent could give to their kids. On extended holidays to Central America, The Middle East and Australia which ate into school terms we would get into trouble with school and even social services who I challenged to prove that school could teach my kids more about life than 3 weeks travelling in a van around Guatemala… they sensibly backed off.

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