Not really a Grizedale project but relevant to the world of the rural and contemporary culture within it.
This weekend Karen and I took part in Architecture Week, opening the site of our ongoing attempt to build a contemporary house in the Lake District. The idea was to engage in a public debate on contemporary architecture in the rural, called ‘Building in the Rural’ strangely enough. Before I get onto the event/discussions themselves it is interesting to consider how the audience found out about the event.
Not a single person attended as a result of seeing it on the Architecture week website and few knew what architecture week was or had ever heard of it.
The biggest audience attractor was a small poster in the local supermarket (both branches of Booths).
Putting leaflets through peoples doors accounted for the second largest group and the mention in the local paper listings brought up the rear.
In total approximately 40 people attended – pretty remarkable for a non building (we are still after 4 years trying to get planning permission) in an area where there is apparently no interest in contemporary architecture.
The message re audiences is - as we have always found in Cumbria - that national advertising does not work at all, word of mouth and ‘folk’ marketing works by far the best (ie hand-made posters in unlikely spots). What this says about rural perspective and cultural isolation is interesting!
The audience was made up of architects, eco build enthusiasts and neighbours. There was a universally positive response to the proposed design and a great deal of discussion about the issues raised by our long battle with the planners and indeed the common experience shared by many of the attendees.
I wont go into the detail on our planning battles as it is too boring and petty for words, suffice to say the concensus of opinion at the event was that the planning authority were a dishonest and corrupt government department that worked through punative measures to achieve their personal objectives – principally to stop any contemporary design. Many people thought that the government at a strategic level was trying to move forward and that many people at ground level were keen to engage with contemporary ideas both architectural and environmental but that the government officers were incredibly and subjectively resistant to any change.
Generally it was felt that the planners chief weapon was money, if they could delay applications through fair means or foul the applicants would eventually give up – on average the planners seemed to be able to delay planning applications for 5 years (we are currently in our 4th year). This issue of money was further discussed in light of the contemporary obsession with property ownership and money making. People felt that no one wanted to take a risk with a contemporary build for fear of salability, that no one built houses that worked for themselves to live in but rather built with a priority to sell on.
The architects all complained that there was no opportunity for them to design as clients that wanted to build in a contemporary style in the Lake District did not exist.
There was also talk regarding historical precedent, if there had ever been a time when radical buildings had been built (there are a few examples of modernism, like 3 (see list of Lake District architectural highlights below)
In our gentle attempt to make an almost invisible contemporary building we have suffered a great deal of abuse from the locals, both neighbours and Parish Council, local tradesmen have refused to do work for us for fear of local opinion and outrageous stories have been circulated. Ironically the 2 biggest complainers in the village/hamlet are from holiday home owners concerned that we would live in the building! (80% of the village houses are holiday homes). We will hear the result of our current planning application in a couple of weeks time – watch this space for news!
Architecture in the Lakes – additions welcomed
Lodore Falls – John Gill 1968 The sole example of great design, now utterly ruined by the appalling conversion, however original plans exist if it ever finds a champion to restore it. Currently used as a lodge for the Lodore Hotel so you can stay in this tragedy of abused design – what a missed opportunity by the hotel – how special this could be on an international level if the original interiors had been maintained.
Motor Boat Club, Broadleas – CAF Voysey
Kendal House – Little Holme - CAF Voysey
Blackwell – Baille-Scott
Troutbeck Youth Hostel – an amateur enthusiasts home built stab at modernism circa 1920 and the first concrete shuttering build in the north of England complete with Arts and Crafts interior and battlements (A personal favorite fusion building).
Wordsworth Trust – Benson Forsyth – slate clad at the insistence of the planners who fought the scheme for 5 years and then attended the funeral of the man they had thwarted for so long (he died a year after the building opened)
Ambleside - Hutchinson Lymath Architects, a contemporary build in progress
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