Friday, August 18, 2023


Wiggly roofs in Cross Street, Basingstoke. Picturesque collection of chimneys, long extinct.

This town is a glorious hodge-podge of quaint old town and bold modern interventions. A parade of late twentieth century styles, each one more ridiculous than the last.

It sounds awful, but I love it: social history laid bare for all to read. And it's alive. Forget the architectural purists. There's something for everyone here.

Heritage to Kitsch to Brutalism. Cycle paths, green links & ring-road. Tacky social housing, Edwardian terraces, slick yuppie flats.

"Warts and all" works for me. Why not?



Hampshire seems to have an endless supply of country pubs, often timber framed and sometimes thatched. We had a celebratory meal in this one, which doesn't look so old from the outside.

Inside the rough hewn oak beams and studs hint at pre-industrial times. The way the walls have been opened up is modern in spirit. The old country inns would have had separate rooms like any other house. Perhaps a barrel, set on a table, or the beer could have been kept in the scullery.

The use of a bar-counter to speed up the dispensing process comes with industrialisation like so many other ideas. And now in the digital era we have gastro-pubs with sizeable car parks, like this one.

Look them up on Google maps, check out the pics, make your choice and navigate to meet up with scattered friends. A far cry from walking down the road to the same place every time.



Basingstoke Station in the rain. The heavens just opened and the canopies over the platforms simply couldn't cope. What a contrast with the world I left behind the previous day.

So begins chapter three of my hybrid semi-retirement.

1. A month in Singapore
2. 4 months back at home base, Dubai
3. Six weeks in UK

It's not just the change in weather of course. Sharing the life-rhythms of my children and grandchildren contrasts sharply with the hermit-like routines of my Dubai apartment.

So many cultural references in the railway platform images. Rain-mist evokes the steam age. Glowing lights, slatted fascia, wrought iron cantilevers on cast iron columns with leafy capitals. Agatha Christie meets Harry Potter.

Far cry from the six lane highways of Dubai.



Something about this little terrace of three houses caught my eye. The colours for one but then the detailing of the entrance on the corner unit. The proportions of the keystone, executed in tile creasing I think, very nicely judged.

The bands of grey brick on red walls in Flemish bond are very common in this area, Waterhouse used this combination in his Reading work. They go well with the blue-grey Welsh slate and red clay ridge tiles.

Someone has chosen paint colours that really set this all off. You wouldn't call it great architecture by any means, but a positive contribution to the streetscape and far better, in my view than many of the more recent contributions.

Old age bias?



Terraced housing, Basingstoke. This little area was built to a common theme, but with variation in the details. One such detail is the bay window. The original design still exists (top left) but many have "upgraded" over the years.

In terms of proportions the old design wins hands down, and I'm a big fan of sliding sash technology. But having defended hodge-podge reality in my last post, can I bemoan it here?

A little bit perhaps, but it would be difficult to regulate. Maybe I would consider some guidelines / preferred designs, just for the street facades. It's very subtle. The brown version seems less objectionable, I'm not sure why.

All in all, it's a tribute to the robustness of this typology that it can absorb such a variety of alterations over the years and still retain a sense of unity and cohesion.



Edwardian terrace in the middle. Recent infill projects attempting to capture the same spirit, or at least to fit into the neighbourhood in a respectful way.

It's not an easy ask and I'm not saying I could do better. Probably I would give this a 7 out of 10. Definitely I prefer the original in terms of proportions, detailing, massing. But it is the 21st century, and you can't just replicate what went before.

I definitely prefer windows to be set back from the face of the wall, and if you are going to break the glazing up anyway, why not give them vertical proportions?

Still, I've seen a lot worse. 🤔



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