A Harvard Colloquium


The last time Eamonn Canniffe (of CiA) was at Harvard, Peter Eisenman was a spring chicken. You can hear Eamonn speak about his current book at the De Bosis Colloquium in Italian Studies at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures on 1st April. Details:

Manchester School of Architecture
The Politics of the Piazza. The History and Meaning of the Italian Square (Ashgate, 2008)

Wednesday, APRIL 1, 2009 from 4:00 to 6:00 PM Sever Hall, Room 203

Drinking in architecture

St Walburge

It is St Walburge’s Beer Festival time again. This is your opportunity to sample the ales of Britain alongside one of the country’s great buildings: Joseph Hansom’s St Walburge’s RC Church, Preston. We’ll be there Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Beer Festival: 26-27-28 March 2009. Details/Location


Eamonn Canniffe of Manchester School of Architecture and Neil Stevenson of Sheffield Hallam School of Architecture, drinking under hammerbeams…

It’s naff up north?


The provincial insecurities which plague issues of urban design in Manchester surface again with these two proposals for familiar landmarks. The austere sublimity which might be thought to characterise the best of Manchester’s civic and industrial architecture had no need to soften its impact. It was robust, not to say blunt and thought the citizens could respect that self confidence, indeed have a sneeking regard for it and react accordingly.

Perhaps it’s the imminent arrival of attention-deficient media-types at MediaCity which has suggested that the deliberately unsettling air shard on Daniel Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum – North needs a shower of cherry blossom in the foreground, or the stunning and unique Library Walk between Vincent Harris’s Central Library and Town Hall Extension requires a glass canopy? We might assume that the economic downturn will dispose of these naff proposals but perhaps it is time for the Vincent Harris Vigilantes to engage in an ‘historic compromise’ with the Daniel Libeskind Vigilantes?


More on Vincent Harris’s masterpiece

Vincent Harris Vigilantes Awake!

Some vandalism

“The Architect’s Task”


Two drawings of the Woodside Ventilation Station for the Queensway tunnel beneath the River Mersey. The drawings are from a battered copy of The Story of the Mersey Tunnel Officially Named Queensway published by Charles Birchall and Sons (1934).


Excerpt: The Architect’s Task. In its essentials the task was this: he had to continue the ventilation-ducts which he found completed to the point at which they emerged from the ground, to a safe height into the air, and he had to house the huge fans and machinery which served them with air, in buildings that would stand worthily in the somewhat sophisticated architectural environment of a great commercial centre.

Architect: Herbert J Rowse FRIBA

North Lancashire contains Architecture

Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes

Clare Hartwell’s major revision of Nikolaus Pevsner’s The Buildings of England: North Lancashire has just been published. The book describes all the significant buildings of the region from early history to the present day. It is an engrossing work and provides us locals with the chance to find ourselves in the Index of Architects, Artists and Patrons alongside, amongst others, Pugin, Hansom and Velarde.

The pictures here show Francis Xavier Velarde’s Our Lady of Lourdes Thanksgiving Shrine in Blackpool. According to the book the building was built in thanksgiving after the Lancaster R.C. Diocese was spared serious damage during the Second World War; now in the care of the Historic Chapels Trust. A singular building which combines familiar forms with exotic motifs…

Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes

Book details on Amazon: Lancashire: North: The Buildings of England (Pevsner Architectural Guides)

Our Lady of Lourdes Thanksgiving Shrine: Photoset

C20 Society: Building of the Month

F.X. Velarde in Liverpool

Mobile World Congress versus Mies

Melanie Miller (of Schiffli fame) forwards the following pictures from Barcelona where the Mobile World Congress was in full swing on Montjuic.


Choice quote from a participant (via Reuters): Richard Windsor, industry specialist at Nomura, estimated after day one that attendance was down as much as 25 percent.

“Taxi, lavatory and sandwich queues are all down substantially on last year meaning that MWC is an accurate reflection of life in the mobile phone industry,” he wrote.

Mies’s rather more refined temporary pavilion was not spared ill-treatment.


From Acoustics to Zoomorphic

…via Fabio Novembre.


CiA staffer Sally Stone has, along with her perennial collaborator Graeme Brooker and newbie Michael Coates, produced The Visual Dictionary of Interior Architecture and Design. It’s a cutely packaged book that is intended to inform and inspire. And, of course, the pictures are more prominent than the words. Except, strangely, on the cover.

More CiA books

Philadelphia, Kahn & Moyamensing


I found Philadelphia: The Unexpected City* in between copies of Stalin on Lenin and A Drug-Taker’s Notes at Oxfam’s charity bookshop in Preston.

From the cover blurb: Philadelphia…is full of paradox. It appears to the casual visitor recalcitrantly philistine. But it was the site of a prodigious series of cultural innovations. Its conservatism is even more recalcitrant. Yet in its urban experiments it is uniquely daring. In its long history of obstinate devotion to small-town habits, single family dwellings, galaxies of obscure little shops, the worst restaurants in the nation, it has spasmodically surrendered, on a grandiose scale, to imitation Champs Elysees, skyscrapers, apartment houses and neon lighting.

The book contains the oddest representation I have seen of Louis Kahn’s Richards Medical Research Building:


Louis Kahn, the most eminent of contemporary Philadelphia architects, designed the Richards Medical Research Buildings of the University of Pennsylvania…They consist of a cluster of towers, reminiscent of San Gimignano. Both the grouping and the details are superb. Against the lantern of a gateway to the Jacobean quadrangles, the laboratories take on a quality both ethereal and romantic.

The picture at the top is of the West Gate of Moyamensing Prison, now demolished. The architect, Thomas Walter (he designed the building in 1832) was apparently inspired by the Lion Gate at Mycenae:

For the moment the massive souvenir of Agamemnon’s city still stands and easily survives comparison with the most characteristic product of twentieth century design, the automobile.

The prison was built in a mixture of historical styles. For a fascinating post on Moyamensing and possible reasons for the employment of Egyptian Revival architecture go to The Necessity for Ruins.

Also, for more Kahn and more American cars parked next to monumental buildings see this earlier post…

Louis Kahn: Richards Medical Building on Flickr

*Philadelphia: The Unexpected City. Lafore, Laurence & Lippincott, Sarah Lee. Doubleday, 1965. This book on Abebooks

An Architectural Gesture?


If the commentators on this early photograph (1850s) of the Roman architect Luigi Canina (1795-1856) ascribe his discreet ‘horn’ gesture to superstition regarding the Evil Eye, what might be the meaning of Andrea Palladio’s right hand in his portrait by El Greco (1570s) currently on display at the Royal Academy in London?