Saturday, 27 July 2013

Concrete, Cocktails and Citizens: The Hub, Milton Keynes

The Hub in Milton Keynes is a postmodern – well everything is modern/postmodern in MK – piazza surrounded by tall buildings, hotels, apartments, restaurants and bars. It is about a 5 minute walk from the railway station and is managed by Broadoak Management Ltd, a Bedfordshire based firm who do residential and mixed-use property management. The square even has its own website which includes an events page and a directory of outlets. The strapline is “Vibrant restaurant, hotel, café, hotel, business and retail quarter in the heart of the city. A lifestyle choice…”

Outside of all the commercial bullshit on the website, and the slightly jaded look of some of the surrounding buildings, I think the Hub works pretty well, certainly on a summer’s day. I was there for a couple of days in July, actually staying in the Hub itself in the Ramada Encore. When I was there, little kiddywinkies were playing in the water fountains and whooping with delight as the summer sun was baking the concrete all around us. There were plenty of outside places to sit, even seating that seemed to be an integral part of the square itself. It was also a lively place at night: you could move from one bar to another making the most of happy hour and have a bit of nosh later.

Glenn Howells was the architectural firm who designed the apartments in the Hub. They were completed in 2004 but look much older. My brother said he thought it was the lack of reflective glass that makes the buildings look old, and I think he’s right. Also, the open windows tend to create a textured look and detract from a smooth seamless façade. I zoomed in as much as I could with my camera from the bar in my hotel to the apartments opposite and this is the shot I got of the windows facing me. It looks like a scene from Koyaanisqatsi. But this is no failed modernist housing project circa 1950/60s, it’s a postmodern building that isn’t even 10 years old yet.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to criticise the Hub too much, as I really enjoyed it. It was great on a summer's day and definitely met the aims of the Italian renaissance piazza or plaza, where local people are supposed to commune with each other in a lovely (lively) continental-cosmopolitan atmosphere. So I’ll finish with this quote from Italy Magazine:
When I enter a piazza for the first time, I feel a delicious frisson as if being both the spectator and the one being observed, like a teenager at a dance. For me a town is not judged by its museums and masterpieces, but by its piazza. At its best it is an island of tranquillity, a convenient place to meet, a market place, concert venue and playground…

For the whole article, which is worth reading, click here: An Italian Institution – The Piazza

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Great Walk – A Film, a Mystery, a Cult…

The Great Walk (2013) Directed by Clive Austin.

I watched this film the other day, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in walking, psychogeography, or those who just like a good old mystery.

This is what the director, Clive Austin, says about the film:
Anton Vagus is a legend, of this we are not in doubt. A product of the sixties walking revival he has inspired a generation to take to their feet in search of the world and of themselves. This is the story of nine of them. Unconventional walkers who, through circumstance and design, became his walking companions. From their discovery of a hidden city beneath Venice to the tragic incident at Berry Head that finally tore them apart, The Great Walk treads a curious path exploring the world that they crafted out of their remarkable experiences. As the layers peel steadily away the mystery that lies at the heart of the group is bought closer into the light, until it becomes clear that, as the last person to see him alive, it is Anton Vagus to whom we must look for our answers. The only question is, how does one find one of the most elusive people on the planet?

This is not just a psychogeographical film, it’s also about group dynamics, the dangers of cliff edges, flirting on aeroplanes, and Don’t Look Now-esque appearances and disappearances. Here are some extracts from the online reviews:

“I never knew walking could be so exciting. I’m setting up a Ramblers splinter group right away!” Alfred in Affpuddle, Dorchester

“I’m sure I saw Anton Vagus in the chip shop with Elvis the other day.” Charlie from Crapstone, nr. Plymouth

“I’m joining a walking group tomorrow if it means I can get off with handsome men on planes.” Melanie in Melbury Bubb, Yeovil

The Great Walk on IMBD
The Great Walk on Facebook

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Turkey, Tea and Towers

I’m just back from a long weekend in Istanbul which, even though it was a holiday, I did manage to sneak a few psychogeography-related photos in as well. We particularly liked this giraffe graffiti, without understanding the significance of it. There was actually a fair bit of graffiti in this area, between the Galata Bridge and Tower.

Below is a postmodern building that I particularly liked. I’ve been unable to find out anything about the building. When I’ve searched it on google images I get a Canadian building, 1000 de La Gauchetière, which, weirdly, isn’t totally unlike this one in the business district of Istanbul. If anyone knows what it’s called, please let me know:

Below is a dilapidated roof which I shot from the terrace bar at our hotel. There were quite a few ruined buildings around. I don’t mean historical buildings, just old houses that had been left to fall down, sometimes in quite wealthy areas.

This last image was taken after just crossing the Galata Bridge on the North side. It’s a typical Istanbul urban space photo, with buildings behind a small market area.

To conclude the blog I did a search on google for ‘Istanbul psychogeography’ and interestingly, Will Self’s book Psychogeography came up, which I own, but I confess I hadn’t remembered he’d written about Turkey. The column discusses a tea pedlar. Here Self is referring to his friend, the artist of the illustrations in his book, Ralph Steadman:
Which takes us back to Turkey – Istanbul, to be precise – where Ralph was pursued by this tea pedlar with a samavor [tea urn] strapped to his back. Either that’s what it is, or it’s a prototype, steam-powered jet pack. I too have taken to going about the place with tea-making equipment to hand: a camping gas stove, a small kettle, bag, cups and milk.” (page 193)