15 December 2018

Putting on a Pedal-Stool

YMGW's partner's sister says "pedal-stool" in place of "pedestal," as in The IT Crowd. Yellow moulded breakfast bar stool salvaged from derelict building. Footrest cut off, leaving central section to enable attachment of pedals. Metalwork rubbed down, primed and sprayed with purple enamel. Pedals and connecting bar salvaged from redundant exerciser. Plastic 'bearing' ground down to interference fit within stub of footrest, and assembly held in place by rubber bungs and circlips. No parts or materials bought for project.

08 October 2018

Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight

Billy Butlin, a funfair entrepreneur - he introduced dodgems from the USA to the UK in 1923 - founded his eponymous holiday camp company in 1936, the first camp opening outside Skegness, the second at Clacton-on-Sea (1938). Over three decades nine camps were opened in the British Isles, including one in Mosney, Eire. During World War II the camps were taken over by the military, Skegness as HMS Royal Arthur. Indeed, Butlin completed the camp at Filey for Admiralty use, and built HMS Glendower at Pwllheli and HMS Scotia at Ayr specifically for military use, but to a pattern that enabled post-war use as holiday camps.

By 1948 Butlin's had six camps, which provided the destination for one in twenty of British holidaymakers. 1950 saw an unsuccessful foray abroad, with Butlin's building a resort on Grand Bahama, which soon folded. From 1953 the company expanded into hotels, in Blackpool, Brighton, and Margate. The company's heyday was the 1960s, with the opening of three more camps, at Bognor Regis, Minehead, and Barry Island. From 1966 it even operated the revolving Top of the Tower restaurant in London's Post Office Tower. Butlin had always been a man of firsts. Britain's first mono-rail was opened at the Skegness camp in 1965.

In the late 1960s Butlin's suffered from the growth in self-catering holidays. Billy Butlin retired in 1968 and Butlin's was sold to the Rank Organisation in 1972. In the 1980s decline was driven by cheap overseas holidays. Filey, Clacton, Mosney and Barry closed, and even the name disappeared - the camps became Holiday Worlds. Three of the original Butlin's camps, now called resorts, remain - Bognor Regis, Minehead, and Skegness. They returned to the Butlins name (now without an apostrophe) in 1996, and still retain redcoats, during the summer season, as hosts and entertainers. The holiday division of Rank was bought by Bourne Leisure in 2000.

11 July 2018

Kingsand, Rame Peninsula, Cornwall

The Maker with Rame Institute provides the iconic image of Kingsand, on the Rame peninsula. It is the third building on the site, at the head of Girt beach. The first was a pair of cottages, one of which was swept away in a storm in 1817, along with its wooden-legged occupant.

The replacement tenements were, in 1877, purchased to found an institute to provide a teetotal meeting, reading and educational facility for young men. This was later again used as a house and run as a tea shop. The last inhabitants moved out in 1910, and the building was demolished in 1912.

The drawings for the current building were prepared in July 1913, by architect Harold Hosking. The foundation stone was laid in November the same year. Although an integral part of the building, the clock tower was separately financed - £80 for the tower and £42 for the clock - to retrospectively commemorate the coronation of King George V (22 June 1911). The tower was completed in 1914, but WWI caused final completion of the building to be delayed until 1921.

The construction is of sandstone rubble, with limestone dressings. The Institute was Grade II-listed in 1987. The tower was seriously undermined by the storms of February 2014, but squeaked past demolition. The £600,000 restoration included the construction of protecting sea defences beneath the tower.

03 July 2018

I, Ekco Robot

At 21" high, the AC97 is Ekco's tallest Bakelite-cased radio. It is also the company's most strikingly Art Deco cabinet design, which lies behind one of its colloquial names - the Robot. The set provided for MW and LW reception, tuning assisted by the central Mullard TV4 'magic eye' valve, which indicates signal strength - and provides the set's other nickname, the Cyclops.

The cabinet was designed in 1936 by Jesse Collins, elected a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists in 1945. In the same year Collins founded Britain's first true course in graphic design, at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London. The set was available in two colours of Bakelite: the pictured walnut, and black (with ivory-coloured urea formaldehyde trim and knobs).

28 June 2018


A cross between a shed and a day-bed, the shed-bed is part of a wider fire-pit and decking project, dryly stands in a rain shadow. It was constructed from four eight-foot fence posts, each pair joined by lower and upper stretchers, the resultant side frames joined in the same fashion.

Battens along the inside of the long lower stretchers support thick slats. Trusses were formed at each end and the roof was planked-out, using reclaimed wood. The weatherboarding used to form the gables and the headboard was also reclaimed. Roofed with mineral felt and galvanised corrugated sheet, capped with ridging formed from scored and folded scrap aluminium sheet.

Mattress from Freegle; cheap bedding from pound shops. Candle holders made from scrap aluminium; string of LED 'bulbs,' powered by a hidden solar panel, from a pound shop. Integral 'bedside tables;' storage beneath the shed-bed for firewood for the adjoining fire-pit.

12 May 2018

Green Citadel, Magdeburg

The pink Green Citadel, so-named for the wildflower meadows and trees on its roofs, was the final architectural work of Viennese artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It is home to 55 individually-designed apartments, an hotel, offices, shops, cafés, a 200-seat theatre, medical practices, and a kindergarten.

Its striking Gaudí-meets-Williams-Ellis style marks it out very distinctly from the Baroque buildings that surround it, and from the Communist-era rational architecture that dominates residential Magdeburg.

The Housing Association of the City of Magdeburg commissioned Hundertwasser in 1998 to refurbish the prefabricated concrete high-rise that used to occupy the site. The scheme was abandoned in favour of a new build, and ground was broken in December 2003, three years after the architect's death. The plans, sketches and scale models had, however, all been completed, and the complex opened to the public in October 2005, at a build cost of circa €27million.

Hundertwasser developed a manifesto in which he stated: "Architecture [must be] true to nature and humans." The residential leases grant a 'window right': "A resident must have the right to lean out of his window and to refinish everything within arm’s reach on the outer wall, so that people can see from afar, 'A free man lives there'; [and] may refinish the outer wall of his apartment around the window in a creative and original way ..."

11 May 2018

Dessau - Kornhaus

The Kornhaus was commissioned jointly by the City of Dessau and Schultheiss-Patzenhofer, a brewery. Built on the banks of the River Elbe, the name was taken from a granary that once stood on the site. The competition was won by Hannes Meyer (second director of the Bauhaus), but the commission was ultimately granted to Carl Fieger, for cost reasons.

Construction, in 1930, utilised a reinforced concrete frame, with rendered brick walls. Downstairs, in the basement, was a bar. Upstairs was a dance hall and restaurant. The semi-circular section was originally to be an open balcony, but was glassed-in mid-construction. There are echoes of the design in Ove Arup's Labworth Café, on Canvey Island, built 1933. The Kornhaus was renovated in 1996.