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A view of Rievaulx, North Yorkshire

March 24, 2014

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By Tom Salmon:

“Here hills with vales, here woods with water vie;
Here art with nature strives to feast the eye;
Here Espec’s tow’ring fabric, clad with green
and monkish grandeur, decorates the scene;
Here architects engrave th’ Ionic scroll,
and fam’d Burnice’s pencil crowns the whole.”

- An anonymous contemporary description of Rievaulx Terrace and its Ionic temple.

It felt like spring had finally arrived as we drove through the North York Moors National Park. The low sun, flickering through the bare trees, gave the woods an almost stroboscopic quality. Daffodils lined the lanes and snowdrops nodded in the March breeze. We were heading to Rievaulx Terrace, a landmark created by a wealthy landowner in 1758 to stroll, entertain and impress his friends. Every landscape tells a story, especially when they cost as much as this must have done to create.

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Vietnam in Berlin: The Dong Xuan Center

March 20, 2014

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The district of Lichtenberg in the east of Berlin is certainly an interesting place. It has something of a troubled reputation, mainly due to the social and economic problems that the neighbourhood has had to deal with the in the two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is also home to a cemetery where the heroes of the socialist revolution, such as Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg are honoured each January with the waving of red flags and a pile of red carnations. And it is home to, in an old industrial complex, to an ever growing corner of Vietnam in the German capital.

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Two Art Deco gems of the English seaside

March 17, 2014

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Chris Hughes explores two of his favourite Art Deco buildings to be found on the English seaside, and reflects on both their history and their future. It would be great to hear in the comments of any readers’ favourite buildings, wherever they might be, and especially those which have been adapted to new and different purposes…

The De La Warr Pavillion built in 1935 and the Midland Hotel built in 1933 stand on the seafronts of Bexhill-on-Sea and Morecambe, the first in the South-east and the second the North-west of England.

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The De La Warr Pavilion is an International Stylebuilding and considered by many to be in an Art Deco style. Some claim it to be the first major Modernist public building in Britain (the other option being Hornsey Town Hall). The building was the result of an architectural competition initiated by Herbrand Sackville, 9th Earl De La Warr, who was a committed socialist and Mayor of Bexhill, and who persuaded Bexhill council to develop the site as a public building

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And the river rushes through it… the Strid, Yorkshire

March 13, 2014

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We had entered the grounds of Bolton Abbey just beyond the ruined walls of the old Priory, and parked the car down by the River Wharfe close to the Cavendish tea room. It was one of those mixed days, windy and overcast with the odd spot of rain, but the trees alongside the path above the river gave us good cover as we walked upstream in the direction of the narrows of the river known as the Strid. Our first view of the famous stretch of the came from above, the path a little way up the hillside, and it was hard to make out quite the force of the water as it rushed through. In fact, it even looked a little tame, which is apparently half of the problem.

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After the trains have departed: The Schöneberger Südgelände Nature Park, Berlin

March 10, 2014

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From the S-Bahn platform at Priesterweg we drop down to ground level and follow the signs for the Naturpark. Even before we have left the station building we come across a gate and a friendly chap leaning against a golf cart and wearing a bright red hat. He charges me the one euro admittance fee to the park and hands Lotte a map of the grounds. An hour or so later he will still be there, to wave us on our way with a pleasant “safe journey home…” That’s a nice job, I think, as we walk into the park towards the rusting water tower that stands at its heart as a reminder of what once occupied this strip of land between the S-Bahn tracks and the intercity railway lines.

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Down by the canal

March 6, 2014

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I spent most of my childhood in a small town called Burscough in West Lancashire, where the Preston-Ormskirk railway crosses the Southport-Wigan line. Once upon a time the lines were linked, but the Burscough Curves were long closed by the time we moved there – having been victims of the railway cuts at the end of the 1960s – leaving us with a couple of “dead railways” that were the perfect, hidden, spot for den-building and, later, the first tentative sips from cans of warm beer.

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The subversive urbanism of Venice

March 3, 2014

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Subversive Urbanism is a blog by Phil Wood that takes us on an exploration through the urban environment “ready to question the ‘common sense’ or ‘expert’ ideas about the way our cities are and have to be.” According to his bio, Phil has been described as “cultural planner, urban therapist, intercultural innovator, insurgent anthropologist, psychogeographer…” and I have very much enjoyed reading back through his archive of work. Phil has kindly given us permission to re-publish the following piece on Venice – a city that is more subversive than you might think…

Venice… subversive? When I made a short visit to Venice I wasn’t expecting to be inspired to write anything in this blog about subversive urbanism… but I was wrong.

After all, isn’t Venice the ultimate clichéd example of a city that has lost all point and purpose other than to offer itself up as an open air museum, hawking its illustrious past along with an over-priced cappuchino and a souvenir tea towel?  Well that’s certainly one way of looking at Venice and there’s plenty of evidence for the prosecution, even on an off-season Tuesday in March. There’s something dispiriting about those hordes of visitors trekking dutifully across the Rialto and into Piazza San Marco. Judging from many of their faces it seems hardly more pleasurable than the job, in the office or call centre, they’ve had to endure in order to raise the money to pay for the trip to La Serenissima in the first place. Somehow it’s a reciprocal obligation both they and the city must perform but which no-one really enjoys.

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