Sunday, June 26, 2022


Last week I started building a Revit model of Barnsley, the town that I grew up in. Step one was Locke Park Tower, reincarnated as a Generic Model family. For context I downloaded a free square kilometre of Topography and Street outlines, added some sloping pads for roads and some more GM families to represent groups of terraced houses.

This morning I downloaded another 14 "CADmapper" files and used them to create toposurfaces. At some point I will merge these into a single surface but for now I'm taking a break to compile a couple of images and write this blog post.

The water body at the bottom is the dam at Worsbrough Bridge which was a significant landmark on the bus ride from Barnsley to Sheffield which featured heavily in my teenage years.

My two grandmas were important presences in my childhood.  They were both widows. I never knew my grandpas. I have very clear memories of the little house in Wombwell where my Nan Milburn lived. Outside toilet at the back in a block at the end of the row. Hard toilet paper, or even torn up newspaper at times.  Things that lodge in a young boy's memory.

My dad was an art teacher by then. He left school out of necessity. Worked as a pit head clerk, then joined the police force at the beginning of the war. After the war his army service in India entitled him to further education and he trained as a teacher. I have marked the school where he was Head of the art department in my teenage years, now demolished although it seemed very modern to me at the time.

I walked to school throughout. Agnes Road primary is long gone but the Grammar School survived up to about 10 years ago.  I'm afraid that Barnsley has a rather sad record of demolishing its history under the urge to "modernise".  But to some extent the notion of "Heritage" falls under the category of "Luxury Beliefs" which is to say that a 1960s coal miner might feel less fondly about the old buildings that  glow so brightly in the memory of a globalised architect like myself.

Growing up in Barnsley I longed to spread my wings and discover the world “out there.”  Four years in London, university, manhood, head full of radical ideas. I tried to return to my roots, South Yorkshire and the “working class.” Stupid right? Yes and no. Embarrassingly naïve, but aren’t we all in our youth?  By mistakes we learn.

So now I belong to lots of places: Barnsley, Sheffield, London, Zimbabwe, Dubai, the BIMosphere. And I’m using my BIM pencil to peer back into those first 18 years growing up on the South Yorkshire Coalfield in an era when coal mining was still a thing.  More to come.


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