Saturday, March 11, 2023



Me and Alan singing harmonies into a single microphone. That would be 1976 probably. One of our first gigs, some youth club in Sheffield.

We had very different musical influences, but somehow a conviction that we could blend them into a music that was distinctively ours.

The blues guys were my contribution to the mix. Don't get too fancy. Get the tone right and play from the heart. Can't tell you how much those memories mean to me.


Another page from my old history of architecture notebook. Continuing my analysis of the Fagus Factory by Walter Gropius. I really must find time for a little #bimpencil study of this.

Gropius actually took over from another architect on this project and inherited the basic plan layout. His job, in the first instance was to make the elevations look better, which is kind of ironic given the usual modernist mantra about "form follows function"

Maybe we should just accept that practical problems and the pursuit of beauty are intertwined in our work. Maybe we (architects) should be less grandiose in our rhetoric. But I can't really see that happening.

This diagram from over 30 years ago describes the origin of the previous architect's confusion. Wrapping the corner when the grid is 7 by 5. You can get boxed into making an awkward transition and breaking the rhythm of the facade. One approach is to make a grand gesture on the corner but this is a factory so he just fudged it.


Third sketch in this series. Fagus Factory by Walter Gropius. My analysis from 1990 of the original architect's solution to wrapping the corner on a 7 x 5 grid.

He fits three arched window bays into a 7m bay two into a 5m bay. All very "honest" and pragmatic but resulting in an awkward change of rhythm at the corner.

Gropius comes up with a clever sleight of hand that requires glazing the corner. This is often portrayed as a statement of principle, the birth of the "machine aesthetic" and the first curtain wall.

My suggestion, based on reading I did at the time... it was more of a geometry puzzle. Probably a lot of sketches before the way to achieve regularity popped up. And it required a glazed corner, which suggested the kind of continuous glazing he had experienced in Behrens office at the AEG Turbine Hall.

I may be wrong, but it suggests a particular solution to a particular problem. When that becomes a trademark style to roll out repeatedly, the game changes again. To me, his later work is patchy and less convincing.



From lock-downs to student debt relief, the so-called left has abandoned the working class to help out young college-educated radicals. (such as I was 50 years ago) Politicians are subsidising their former selves, paying off the activist bullies that back them up.

Why not spend a few billions on apprenticeship schemes for those who are more practically inclined instead of helping out the laptop class and encouraging ever more young people to "study race and gender"

Don't get mad. I'm just exploring another way of framing this "news story" having read the BBC version.

Where do I stand? Still figuring it out, but promoting apprenticeships and encouraging people to work with their hands makes a lot of sense. That's what helped me to get my head out of the clouds and find a positive direction in life.


Two images from 1981 when I was 30 years old. Two sides of a coin that flipped almost overnight yet both aspects of me lived on.

They are both adventurers but in different ways. The adventures of the mind came naturally to a boy who loved to draw. The challenges of physical work on building sites and of moving to Africa as a volunteer teacher were efforts of will, offshoots of belated teenage rebellion.

I slept on those thin mattresses on a cement floor as the only "non-black" member of an experimental school in newly independent Zimbabwe. I was naive and idealistic but open to the school of hard knocks.

The drawing is from a few months earlier, living in Sheffield, seven years of building work behind me after dropping out of an architecture career in disillusion. I had weathered the storm of manual labour, skills acquisition, blending into working class culture. Where next?

Perhaps I had a future in the imaginative world of conceptual graphics, linking together disparate ideas of time, scale, spheres, the history of everything. I wonder where that might have taken me, but instead I flew to Africa and never looked back.




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