The Band Room, North Yorkshire Moors

It's starting to feel a bit springlike here - snowdrops out, buds on the trees etc. And as nature springs to life, so Nothing To See Here cranks up for another season. The latest entry on The Band Room by Jane from Maraid Design is particularly lovely. A small corrugated iron building built in the 1920s for the Farndale Silver Band, it has been rejuvenated as a modern music venue with an impressive list of select international visitors. More on The Band Room website.

Fans of tin buildings may also enjoy Corrugated Iron Buildings, the new publication from Shire Books, as well as the essential Flickr groups Corrugated Iron Buildings, Tin Tabernacles and the sharply-focused Corrugated Iron Barns of North Herefordshire and the Whole World.

There's a new show by George Shaw at the Baltic in Gateshead opening on Friday. He's a British painter who only paints the Coventry estate where he grew up, and he paints it with Humbrol paints.


There's an excellent interview with him in the Guardian where he talks about his art and his upbringing. Very refreshing in a number of ways.


One of the perks of working at Newspaper Club is seeing the lovely papers that people print each week. This one, entitled Preston Bus Station is a delight. Put together by the superb Preston is my Paris, it's a homage to Preston Bus Station, transport hub and all round fading architectural icon.

The story behind it is on the Newspaper Club blog and copies are available from Preston Is My Paris Publishing.


Those of a sympathetic bent may also enjoy dustysevens photos above and other Preston Bus Station photos on Flickr.

The Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney

We've been to Orkney, a fantastic trip. One of the many highlights was The Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, made by Italian prisoners of war while they built the Churchill Barriers (causeways that link some of Orkney's small islands) nearby. It's an ordinary Nissen hut, intricately painted and decorated with the most basic materials to become an immaculate little church.

The Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney

More Italian Chapel photos on Flickr.

Cultybraggan Camp

While in Comrie, we also visited Cultybraggan Camp, the most complete remaining POW camp in the UK (according to this source). It was built in 1939 and covers 8 acres in a remote spot of Perthshire countryside, containing over 100 Nissen huts in varying states of repair.

Cultybraggan Camp

The whole site has been bought by Comrie Development Trust, who are in the process of turning it into a community resource. It's a large site and the area towards the back is now hired out to businesses and used for allotments. The enormous firing range that sits behind them is kind of incongruous, but it's great to see the land being put to good use.

Cultybraggan Camp

Quite a few of the huts have been renewed and repaired ready for tenants.

Cultybraggan Camp

Other are left exactly as they were when the MoD left - mattresses on the floor, forgotten furniture, tattered posters and remnants of military life.

Cultybraggan Camp

They do scrub up nicely. This hut (close to a ginormous nuclear bunker, just in case) is now someone's office.

The site is open from morning until dusk so anyone can go in and have a look around. I'm still reading up on it all hence the lack of background in this post, but there's some good info on Secret Scotland. More photos on Flickr.

Tinyment by Finch and Fouracre

Tinyments are tiny, perfect models of Glasgow tenements, made by Finch and Fouracre. Made from nickel silver, they're supplied flat, ready to be clicked into place.

Tenement model kits by Finch and Fouracre

They also make red and blonde sandstone tenements kits which require a bit more assembly. You can get them from the Finch and Fouracre shop or from their Etsy store. My only complaint is that there's only one variety. It would be great to see them in different shapes and sizes, just like the real ones, so you could build a wee Glasgow street.

Scotland: Building the future

The architecturally-inclined amongst you might appreciate Scotland: Building the Future: Essays on the architecture of the post-war era published by Historic Scotland.

The bad news is it's a 108-page PDF, but the good news is it's very good, with lots of fantastic photos and sketches of the toppermost modern architecture in Scotland. This is one of a series of great publications - Raising the Bar: An Introduction to Scotland's Historic Pubs and Spotlight on Scotland's Cinemas (also hefty PDFs) are very useful for anyone studying modern architecture, whether it be officially or unofficially.

Fittie shack, Aberdeen

Off Kilter, Jonathan Meades' new series on BBC Four is a three-parter about Scottish architecture. Joy of joys. The first programme tonight was all about Aberdeen. I don't think I've seen an hour-long programme about Aberdeen before, never mind a good one. It sometimes feel like the further north everything gets, the quicker it's glossed over, and generally there's a lack of focus. Much as I love Coast, I wish they would slow down a bit.

So it was great to see a programme that really captured the feel of a place and went slowly enough for Meades to fit in a few trademark rambles. It was a pleasure to see Aberdeen in all its glory too. The shack above, from Footdee featured heavily, quite rightly. I can't wait to see where else he ends up.

Jug of tea van, Morecambe

Regular readers will know that Morecambe's Jug of Tea stand has long turned to dust, but still it lives on in the nation's heart. So well done to Trevira for looking in detail at this busy postcard of Morecambe's Marineland and spotting a little tiny Jug of Tea van. From this a seaside icon was born. The Jug of Tea - R.I.P. Flickr pool catalogued the kiosk in its final resting place near the Arena Funfair before it was demolished in the name of progress. When we were in Morecambe in February it wasn't any clearer what would take its place. Any word on what's going to replace it?

Notre Dame College of Education, Bearsden

The Rubble Club is a support group for bereaved architects. From the website:

The Rubble Club is an organisation to remember buildings demolished in their architect’s lifetime. The Club has three key ground rules:
  • Firstly the building’s architect must be alive and not party to its destruction
  • secondly the building must be built with the intention of permanence (exhibitions, shops and interiors are not eligible)
  • thirdly it must be deliberately destroyed or radically altered, it can’t simply burn down.

It was suggested by Isi Metzstein of Gillespie Kidd and Coia who has seen a few of his buildings disappear, including the partially demolished Notre Dame College of Education in Bearden. There's already a lively debate on most articles, from supporters who feel that more could be done to save the building in question, and detractors who point out the fatal flaw in the architect's plan. For Notre Dame it's the flat roofs, based on Moroccan architecture, transplanted to the soggy west of Scotland.


We're just back from a very special weekend at The Midland Hotel in Morecambe (for 10 years of happily non-married bliss). It was smashing, The restoration by Urban Splash with help from Friends of the Midland has come up lovely.

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe

The building, designed by Oliver Hill, is just extraordinary. It looks great from every angle, inside and out. The way it's designed to curve along the bay gives everything a beautiful line. The artwork, by Eric Gill and Marion Dorn adds a bit of colour and the rest is mostly left to breathe.

A room in The Midland Hotel

The rooms, which had been gutted years ago, are modern and really comfortable. It's nice that they have some references to the original, like the seahorse motif in the shower.

Seahorse drain

Being Midland superfans, we bought the book (The Midland Hotel: Morecambe's White Hope) and sat comparing old and new. After befriending the manager, she gave us a tour of the Eric Gill room which has a huge hand-carved map of the north west of England on one wall. This used to be on the other wall of this room and was moved lock, stock and barrel. Yikes.

Eric Gill's map of the north-west of England

The building was closed for 12 years, went through a series of different owners and frankly it's a miracle that any of this has survived. It's a complete triumph. More photos in this Flickr set and in The Midland Hotel Flickr pool. They've got an offer on at the moment, two nights for the price of one so get yourself down (or up) there for a seaside treat.

More from Morecambe later in the week.

Fire engine, Portmeirion

I was going to say something about Patrick McGoohan's passing, but all I can think about is Portmeirion. We went there in 2006 on our first Great British Holiday and it's stayed with me ever since. It looks great on screen, but is so much better in real life. I think, because The Prisoner is quite cool (I mean, cool in tone, sort of chilly) it hides some of the charm of Portmeirion. That's what hit me, all these wonderful little funny details. The door marked Fire Engine (above) is only about 3 feet high.

For the summer of 1959, in honour of its splendour

I loved it all, but my favourite thing was the inscription on the statue of Hercules, which features quite heavily in the series. The beautifully turned out plaque says "To the summer of 1959, in honour of its splendour". Then underneath, in the same ornate script "1971 Highly commended" and underneath that, "1975, excelled even 1959". Wonderful.

Anyway, there is a nice Patrick McGoohan tribute from Robin Llywelyn, managing director of Portmeirion and Clough Williams-Ellis's grandson:

There is no doubt that the Prisoner as we know it would not have been possible without the location. Clough admired and respected McGoohan for the way his series portrayed Portmeirion, especially from the air. However Clough was never quite sure what it was all supposed to mean. Typically of Clough, he never asked McGoohan for a location fee, and was very surprised to find it was an international sensation as soon as it came out.

Related: a new CBeebies programme called Captain Adorable was filmed there recently. I can't find any trace of this online, perhaps because the one episode I saw looked bloody awful, despite featuring master toddler-whisperer Justin Fletcher as a caped (but rubbish) superhero. It was shot in the style of Lazytown, really bright and dynamic, and Portmeirion looked amazing. Secondly: Philip at English Buildings posted an interesting thing yesterday, about some Williams-Ellis buildings in Cornwell, Oxfordshire. Must add that to the list.

Be seeing you.

St Saviours Church, Westerhouses

Tin tabernacles is a lovely photo gallery of corrugated iron buildings. Mostly churches with some other odds and ends. In the late 1800s these structures were mass-produced and easily shipped to rapidly expanding settlements. Despite the hostile British climate quite a few survive, usually brightly-painted and lovingly cared for. If "wriggly tin" is your bag there's more at another Tin tabernacles site and the daddy of them all, the Corrugated Iron Club.

Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare

I was very sad to see Weston-super-Mare's Grand Pier going up in flames this morning. We were there in April and it was lovely. Just goes to show you how fragile these things are, they disappear so easily and never seem to get the protection they deserve.

On our seaside jaunts I've come to love the first glimpse of a new pier. Long, short, sparkly, tatty, classy, tacky. They all serve the same function but are so different. Southport and Great Yarmouth are bold and brassy.

Funland, Southport

Llandudno and Cromer are more genteel.

Cromer Pier

Southwold, with Tim Hunkin's Under The Pier Show is good enough for the Prime Minister, but too middle class for me. Cleethorpes' is stubby and Burnham-on-Sea's, the shortest in the UK, is barely there at all.

The shortest pier in the UK at Burnham-on-Sea

Fans of the nation's pierage can join like-minded souls in the National Piers Society, founded in 1979 by John Betjeman and the Piers of Britain Flickr group.

This is where England most truly excels: in all the characterful shabbiness of its drizzled parks, soiled launderettes, frayed tailors, abject chemists, sparse barbers, bare foyers, dun pubs, weary Legion halls... and cowed solitary cafes. - Classic Cafes

It's a pleasure to flick through Derelict London by Paul Talling, the book of the website. I thought it might be a bit depressing but it turns out to be the opposite. These forlorn spaces, so easily overlooked in real life often have unexpected stories behind them. For all the ones overcome by the wrecker's ball there are other like Soho's Marshall Street Baths (above) being reused and regenerated. Recommended reading.

Eddie, the oldest resident of the Excalibur Estate, Catford

There's a rather sad entry about the Excalibur Estate in Catford by Doctor Boogie on Nothing To See Here. The 187 prefabs there (the largest estate of its kind left in Europe) have survived for 60 years but are now under serious threat as they don't meet Decent Homes Standard and would cost £8.4 million to refurbish. Clearly the numbers don't add up, but sometimes it's not just about money.

Cumbernauld - the vision

Good and bad news for Cumbernauld this week. The bad first - it's up for its third Carbuncle. These are the raspberries given out by Architecture Scotland for the worst buildings, with a special "Plook on a Plinth" category for worst town. The idea is to "provoke debate about the poor quality of development in many of Scotland’s towns and cities" but it still seems a bit mean.

On the other hand this view of Cumbernauld how it was meant to be is one of the top 10 Treasured Places in Scotland. This competition run by the RCAHMS (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland) asked people to nominate their favourite picture from the RCAHMS archives. The 100 nominees are an interesting cross-section of the ordinary and extraordinary: The Dollan Baths in East Kilbride, The Italian Chapel in Orkney, Edinburgh prefabs and the Aluminium works in Kinlochleven all got a mention. I spent a while trawling through the site, reading why people love certain places. There are some great buildings in the top 10 - voting is open until 10 December.

Space House

I'm pleased to have contributed some photos of Centre Point and Space House to a feature on Colonel Richard Seifert at Archinect. They approached me directly to use the photos not mentioning that Owen Hatherley who writes one of my very favourite blogs - Sit Down Man, You're a Bloody Tragedy wrote the piece. There's a six degrees of separation thing going on here. Also, while the photos might look planned and well executed I had no idea that "Space House" was a Richard Seifert building. I wandered past it after interesting2007 and thought "Ooh, that looks a bit like Centre Point", took some photos, Bob's your uncle. I imagine all great architectural photographers work this way.

United Nations foyer

It's United Nations fever round these parts with lots of links coming into my Flickr set following Michael Bierut's piece at Design Observer on Donal McLoughlin's creation of the UN logo and Ben's creation of a transatlantic blogging loop. DO also links to International Territory: the United Nations 1945-95 by Adam Bartos and I'll raise that with The U.N. Building by Ben Murphy, another staggeringly beautiful collection of UNHQ photos.


I spent Sunday morning admiring Antony Gormley's handiwork in and around the Hayward Gallery. Event Horizon puts lots of little Gormleys (as opposed to one big one) across the London skyline. Walking over Waterloo Bridge you catch sight of the first rooftop figure and as soon as you see one you can't help looking around to find them all. I like the way it's proper art, but it's beautiful and playful at the same time. Not for anyone traumatised by Dr Who's Blink although they look pretty placid by comparison.

Inside the gallery there's a variety of other works in case you think he just spends all his time making effigies of himself. Blind Light, a walk-in foggy box is completely disorienting but in a very pleasant way. Like standing in a cloud. Back outside I enjoyed all the Brutalism. Lovely, lovely concrete. Following the debates in this week's BBC Magazine about Britain's most unpopular buildings, I wondered if people still hate the ones on the South Bank or is it okay if they've got art in them? The Hayward Gallery is particularly lovely - proper brutal with all its jutting angles and hard edges. For the rest it's a hard one to call. Of the 4 buildings up for debate I've only seen one - Owen Luder's Get Carter car park in Gateshead. I think it's fab and having parked in it, can attest it does exactly what it's supposed to. It always seems like the same half-arsed debate though - some outraged local who wants to knock it down vs someone from the Twentieth Century Society who doesn't have to look at it every day but reckons it's very important. Having sought out a few carbuncles lately the reality is more complicated, with every building having different pros and cons depending on what and where it is. It would be good to get beyond the mudslinging and talk about it properly 'cause I can't help feeling this isn't helping architecture any. I'm wondering if tomorrow's building will be King of the Carbuncles, Cumbernauld town centre. We went there last week and can see why it provokes strong opinions. Visit report coming soon.

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe

Quick plug for the new, appropriately streamlined website for The Midland Hotel in Morecambe, as seen on last night's Coast (although I missed it being in that London). Kate who introduced the Knitted Village to Nothing To See Here designed the website for the Friends of the Midland Hotel - they've done a tremendous amount to make sure that the restoration gets the place back to its wonderful Art Deco glory. It only costs £5 per year to support this very good cause. I'm joining up now.

The General Assembly

As predicted I had a ball in New York. What a great place. The icing on the cake was spending 3 days at a conference in the United Nations Headquarters. I got the impression most of the delegates took the surroundings for granted, while I was obsessing over the typography, the chairs and the general ephemera of international relations, 1950s-style.


In the conference room there were two rows of chairs in different colours - one row for delegates, the second for alternates. The desks had little microphones, an earpiece and a space for a nameplate if I'd been a country there on diplomatic business. The nameplates were sitting out at the back in a huge pile, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe with the Holy See sitting out on top.

Phone booths

Outside the conference room there were these phone boxes, and the best thing was they usually had two or three people in national dress in them, making an urgent call. It was like an old film. And everything else in the building was beautiful. The assembly rooms are spectacular, in a Cold War, Dr Strangelove kind of way. It's a combination of modernist aesthetics with the most beautiful colours and fantastic detail - classic typography, muted lighting and great seating.


It was hard to do it all justice without a better camera but here's the United Nations Flickr set. There are much better picures in The UN Building by Ben Murphy, some of which are also on his website. The book also has the background on how it was built - the committee of international architects, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer among them must have tested diplomatic protocol to its limits before the place was even built.

Alain de Botton has a new series on architecture starting tonight - The Perfect Home (More 4 Mon-Wed, Channel 4 Thu-Sat). There is a book that goes with it The Architecture of Happiness, which I've bought but not read yet. I have however just read his book On Seeing and Noticing, a slim Penguin 70 which covers boring places, sadness and Little Chefs ("ugly places full of bad food that are nevertheless resonant with poetry"). And his book The Art of Travel is one of my favourite books ever. One of these books where I savoured every single word. But back to houses: 1. Does anyone know how I can get hold of The Dilapidated Dwelling, Patrick Keiller's film about housing? 2. My new house: a Flickr set.

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