Archive for October, 2007

Sustrans samphire-tower jony westerby and pippa taylor Chalk Channel way brass telescope1

The Samphire Tower

Did you ever wonder what they did with all the spoil they dug out to create the Channel Tunnel? The answer is they used the 4.9millions cubic metres of chalk marl to create Samphire Hoe, in Kent, England’s newest landmass. The land is dominated by a new tower, Samphire Tower, a 33ft high oak and larch clad structure reflecting nautical architecture around the UK.

Inside a brass telescope is used to trigger sounds and compositions which evoke the history of the English Channel. (I’m never too sure about these sorts of sound effects, personally – I will report back again when I have visited the site).

The tower was designed by Jony Easterby and Pippa Taylor. You can read Jony’s account of his inspiration for the tower here:


Like the Lincolnshire towers (see October feature in the Folly Fancier)- this was commissioned by Sustrans, the National Cycle Network charity and forms a marker point on the Chalk and Channel Way

The Chalk and Channel Way is a walking and cycling route along the White Cliffs between Dover and Folkestone. It lies within the Dover-Folkestone Heritage Coast which in turn forms part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is an online leaflet about it at http://www.sustrans.org.uk/webfiles/leaflets/chalk%20and%20channel%20way_Kent_leaflet.pdf

For more information tel 01304 241806. The White Cliffs Countryside Project is always on the look out for volunteers.

Samphire Hoe: Careful landscaping and a brave ecological approach have created a place suitable for both people and wildlife.

Samphire Hoe is bound by a new mile-long sea wall, the landscape is based on the nearby natural undercliff called called the Folkestone Warren. Once landscaped the Hoe was sown with wild flower seeds collected from the nearby cliffs and chalk grasslands. From a starting point of 32 species there are now 164 different types of wild flowers and grasses growing at Samphire Hoe. Several of the colonisers are rarities, including the Early spider orchid. The Hoe has also proved to be attractive to butterflies and moths, dragonflies and birds.

Throughout the year the colours of the site change as Kidney vetch, then Restharrow or Rock sea lavender dominate. Even in winter the dramatic position and varied light conditions create an intricate endlessly changing scene.

Samphire Hoe is owned by Eurotunnel and managed in partnership with the White Cliffs Countryside Project. http://www.samphirehoe.com

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susstrans - fens300 - the boston pendulum

The Boston Pendulum

Two themes have converged of late in these pages – bikes and the flat Lincolnshire coast of England’s eastern seaboard.

Back in September I blogged about the Nonument – a bike shed in the seaside resort of Schrevenige, in Holland (this is the spelling on the architects’ website but a Dutch friend tells me it is wrong as it should be spelt Schreveningen)  that also acts as a piece of public art. (The shed is in fact a warden guarded bike park which is part monument, part eccentric fortification and part folly, referencing seaside architecture, fortifications, lighthouses and earthworks. On top is a small house that periodically catches fire.)

October’s beach huts were part of a public art project in Lincolnshire.

Now comes news of a pair of observation towers, the Boston Pendulum and the Lincoln Stump, in the grand tradition of follies, built again in Lincolnshire, this time to mark each end of a riverside cycling route. The towers have been built in Boston and Lincoln for Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, as part of the National Cycle Network.

Both buildings, constructed from steel faced in timber, are by Belgian architect Paul Robbrecht of Robbrecht and Daem but they look quite different at first sight.

The Boston Pendulum consists of two flights of stairs, off set against each other by a turn in the stairs, with the second flight cantilevered into space. From the top the viewer can see for miles across the flat Lincolnshire fens.

The Lincoln Stump is also two off set structures with a second storey shunted out into space to project beyond the first. The Stump faces Lincoln’s hilltop cathedral and unlike the Pendulum it is boarded up at the sides with painted cladding, to reflect the colours of local birds. Only upon reaching the top is the view available.

Paul Robbrecht who works with “a special respect for a site’s landscape and history” has placed some of the drawings he created for the project on line, you can find them at http://www.hi-views.org.uk/architect/index.html. You can find out more about Robbrecht and Daem and their other work at their website http:// www.robbrechtendaem.com

Note on Boston, Lincolnshire: Historically Boston was an important port for trade around northern Europe and in the 13th century became the leading port in England.

In 1545 it was granted a charter and became a borough. By the 17th century it became infamous as a centre of religious non-conformity.Boston later developed from being a trading centre to a production centre for crops. The fenlands surrounding Boston were drained and sea banks were built to enable crops to be cultivated.

Modern day Boston is a busy college town which also has markets on a Wednesday and Saturday. It also takes pride in its Party in the Park Festival, which takes place in July, and the Mayfair event which is the original street fair chartered from King Henry VIII days.

The most visible piece of architecture in Boston is St Botolph’s Church, the largest parish church in England. Better known as ‘Boston Stump’ the tower can be seen up to 20 miles away.

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Hurlstone large

Hurlestone Tower, Lilburn, Northumberland  

Several new folly towers were put up to commemorate the new Millennium in 2000. This tower, at Lilburn in Northumberland is again, not really a folly as it is designed as an observation point and a venue for conferences and meetings. (There are even, whisper it, kitchen units inside.)

Nevertheless it is very handsome and built in the style of a folly tower. It won a building industry Oscar from the Federation of Master builders when it was erected in 2000 for its owners Lilburn Estates (the owners) by builders David Appleby Builders from Rothbury in Northumberland .

Judges were impressed by the high quality of stonework around the arched windows and in the conference room.

“The attention to detail by the builder is clearly demonstrated by skirting boards and kitchen units which were cut to suit the curvature of the wall. The builder’s joinery skill is shown by the quality of the arched main front door. ”

Hurlstone andn folly of same name

The tower is aligned with the Hurlestone standing stone nearby after which it takes its name: the Hurlestone Tower.

Just in case you fancy one too, it cost £100,000 in 2000.


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Halcyon Hut by Atelier NU Montreal (Quebec)

Well I couldn’t resist, the beach huts in the competition at Mablethorpe last month are so scrummy that I have put up some more pictures (and to hell with the storage implications).

Eyes-Wide-sHut-press by Feix&Merlin London                       Jabba-Press by i-am associates london   

Left: Eyes Wide sHut                        Right: Jabba the Hut

by Feix&Merlin London                         by i-am associates London 


May- zee

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Article from Building Design – the Architects website

Building Design – the Architects website

by Mike Oades 5 October 2007

What looks like a stripey, tactile pear nestles gently in the sand dunes at Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire. Nearby, an ornate hut-sized mirror offers reflections of the sea. On the promenade is a giant glass of gin and tonic. What’s going on?

This was the lively scene at the Bathing Beauties Festival, an annual event that this year showcased a series of permanent new beach huts designed by artists, architects and designers. These are the pick of 240 entries to a competition, organised earlier this year by artist Michael Trainor, to challenge the traditional form of the popular seaside structure.

They certainly did that. Three are on show, with two more planned for next year’s event. Hutspotters needed to look hard to find them: they are scattered around various coastal locations near Mablethorpe, a small town between Cleethorpes and Skegness.

One of the most intriguing pieces was Eyes Wide sHut — they all had rather special names — by Feix & Merlin, which snuggles up against a row of rather oriental-looking, asbestos-roofed beach huts in the Trusthorpe area of Mablethorpe.  This hut addressed and literally mirrored both the coast and the rural hinterland within a large ornate black picture frame. The frame slides to one side revealing a sylvan-scened interior and gold chandelier. Meanwhile, Trainor’s own hut, Come Up and See Me — a giant-sized gin and tonic glass — brings a touch of class to the promenade adjacent to the fun fair and cafés.

Proceedings could be observed from a mock-up of Mablethorpe Camera Obscura, the beach hut designed by Willett & Patteson which will be built permanently next year. Jabba, a beautifully made and tactile, pear-shaped vessel by I-am Associates, occupies arguably the most daring location — alone among the dunes north of the town.

As well as the new beach huts, there were performances and exhibitions in and around the promenade, notably Ladies of the Waves — synchronised swimming on land — and the Elbow Orchestra.

This all went down very well with the public during the festival weekend as crowds of holidaymakers, locals and hut tourists mingled on the prom on what would have been an otherwise quiet Saturday at the end of September. In a rare display of public attention to architecture, people were eager to know more about the concepts behind the designs.

Sadly, festivalgoers were deprived of A Hut for Gazing and Canoodling by We Made That, which was withdrawn in spite of council support due to local hysteria about the proposal. Its mildly risqué nature was obviously too much for the neighbouring village of Chapel St Leonards.

One other hut failed to make it on time, but Trainor should be applauded for a competition that actually resulted in the winning schemes being built without compromise to the original designs.

Bathing Beauties is part of a broader urban regeneration strategy for the Lincolnshire coast, with more beach huts planned for the coming year. But while art and architecture have an important role to play in this, any regeneration must rely on a larger, cohesive strategy to improve the infrastructure and help coastal towns to become less reliant on a short, seasonal influx of income and achieve more sustained growth.

The drive along the coast near Mablethorpe shows little evidence of this. But once you are there, you are reminded of the biggest attraction to the area of all, 30 miles of beautiful sandy beaches and dunes from Gibraltar Point to Cleethorpes. The added bonus now is the ability to view it all from a splendid new beach hut — all the new creations are available for hire.

Map image

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The Upper Room,  Manhattan Island, New York

 The Upper Room, Esplanade/Albany Street, Manhattan, New York

For the past few years a major reclamation and restoration effort has been going along around the south western edge of Manhattan Island in New York. A series of public parks have been built along the waterfront of the Hudson river, starting from the Battery park by the Staten Island Ferry terminal.  The parks  contain monuments to the victims of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and public works of art.

The Upper Room is situated next to the Esplanade facing the waterfront at the end of Albany street.  The work is the creation of Ned Smyth.

The art of Ned Smyth is based on what he calls ”the idea of a power spot.” He speaks of cathedrals, ancient ruins and desert oases as influences, and now he has created a power spot of his own in Manhattan -a kind of secular temple near the financial district, on the Hudson River.

Part sculpture and part architecture, ”The Upper Room,” is based on Egyptian, Greek, Roman and sundry other ancient architectures. The work resembles a raised courtyard or plaza, and overlooks a breathtaking stretch of the Hudson River. The 70-foot-long courtyard is surrounded by concrete columns, richly decorated with colorful inlaid stones. A long concrete table, with stools, stands near its middle, with a row of smooth chess boards inlaid into the tabletop.

The east end of the plaza also contains a curious structure that holds a key to the work – the courtyard’s own ”power spot.”

The structure is a small, temple-like building whose four columns support a pyramidal roof, which in turn covers a roughly eight-foot-high column whose top bursts, in a most un-columnlike fashion, into a form suggesting a spray of palm leaves.

”It’s not a cross or a five-pointed star or a Buddha,” Mr. Smyth said. ”It’s simply life – the tree of life. Here we are in this neighborhood of huge buildings, and this environment invites us to walk into its space and be touched. To come into a place where we can be at peace, rather than grab a sandwich and run back to our desks.”

A magnet for Wall Street brown-baggers, it is also a favorite resting place for strollers along the esplanade, one of the choicest waterfront walks in the city.

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Alster Tower Boldt Castle September 2007

Alster Tower, Boldt Castle, St Lawrence River, September 2007 

 OK so it isn’t strictly a modern folly but it is a nineteenth century one which, after over 70 years of dereliction, started to undergo a major restoration in 1977. And the transformation has been remarkable.

At the turn-of-the-century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full size rhineland castle in Alexandria Bay, on picturesque Heart Island in the St Lawrence river in upstate New York near the Canadian border.  The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.

Beginning in 1900, Boldt’s family shared four glorious summers on the island in the Alster Tower while 300 workers including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six story, 120 room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, and a dove cote. Not a single detail or expense was spared. Alster Tower has a shell shaped ceiling on the first floor.

In 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.” Louise had died suddenly at the age of 45. A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love.

For 73 years, the castle and various stone structures were left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow and vandals. When the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977, it was decided that through the use of all net revenues from the castle operation it would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

Since 1977, several million dollars have been applied to rehabilitating, restoring and improving the Heart Island structures. It can be reached and visited by boat from Alexandria Bay. In the summer the blue water sparkles and the castle and follies are enchanting to visit.

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