I’m an architectural photographer and writer.
On my van-life travels through the British Isles I’m building up a word and photo-hoard of material culture that celebrates the value and distinctiveness of our built heritage and contributes to a sense of place.
My van is my time-machine, it gives me fresh perspectives on our remarkable places, shared here on a weekly basis. 📸🚐🏛
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It's all about the detail.
The Counting House in Wirksworth, Derbyshire is articulated by its delightfully asymmetrical roof: a lead covered ogee Gothik style dormer on a lean to roof covered in hand made plain tiles. The abutments are waterproofed in stepped lead flashing and soakers.
All of Japan once a year will get up on their rooftops, because that's the night that the shepherd boy from one side of the Milky Way gets to meet the weaver girl on the other side of the Milky Way. They all get upon n their roofs and watch that night. So they long for 365 days and then on the 365th night, they see the result of that longing.
More Roofs of Delight
I know that I've posted out on roofs before in this digest but I have an inkling that the most vibrant places also have the largest variety of roofs.
In the 1960's Alec Clifton-Taylor talked of the colour of roofs changing as you fly from London northwards. This is because the materials used for covering roofs were tugged up from the locality reflecting the colours and patina of the surrounding area. A kind of harmony develops in the roof pattern and texture which contributes to a spirit of place.
This time I haven't included place names with the photos - I just wanted to provide a visual parade of roofs, coverings quirks and types for your pleasure.
How healthy is your local roofscape?
Ways of Seeing and Mental Health
The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera - Dorothea Lange
It was my camera that nudged me and said: 'how about up there?'
My camera has acted like a divining rod - taking me to details, concoctions of place and line that have intrigued me. It has taken me away from a ruminating mind and shifted my focus on the wealth of the microcosm around me.
Even in the most mundane places - there's alway something remarkable to see.
My roof addiction was corroborated in Micklegate, York - a roof spotters delight:
Back in Micklegate, as well as the doorscape, my lens is zip-wiring along a dense concoction of cornices at the eaves - a bumpy ride, but rewarding: dentil, saw-toothed or modillion - with a profusion of perforated patterns. The fanfare is stoppered by gables and lead rainwater heads that show the arms and amulets of previous occupants. (Draft from my book "A Singular Point of Light:)
Curiosity, Observation and Participation.
For some reason, that I'm not able to explain - this kind of detailed exploration of my environment seems to contribute to my mental health and wellbeing. It's underpinned by a curiosity that has been influenced by my vocation which involves the act of looking. There's also something about the unalloyed delight of making discoveries in the most unexpected places, combined with a feeling of adding relevancy to my own perspective - worthy of this world, participating.
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All photos shot on iPhone
It's the height of the season and I'm back and forwards across the country photographing contemporary exteriors, country interiors and everything in-between.
I get respite from the road travel at the campsite: the place where I hunker down in the van. I find happiness in the van life process - the turn around from vehicle to portable home - overlooked by my roof bosses.
Before I leave for a shoot I always consult my maps and reference books for those places in-between - buildings, objects, locations that might expand my horizons.
This time, on my map, I notice a giant in the world of roofs - the little village of Collyweston.
This is a place for the roof connoisseur.
Like a fine wine it has percolated into a place that is fashioned by its stone. This small village has big roots - the stone slate that has taken on its name (Collyweston stone slate) has been used on iconic buildings such as the Round Church in Cambridge and as far and wide as Old Westbury Gardens, New York in the USA.
This ochre and umber limestone that thrives alongside moss and lichen was traditionally freeze thawed over three winters to split the slabs into manageable sizes.
My grandad told me that he ate 'everything on the pig but the grunt.' It might be said that everything of the Collyweston is used but the dust, for they are laid (by the most skilful artisans) in random sizes, up the roof slope, in diminishing courses - using the smallest bits of stone at the top.
Apparently this appeals to our inherent biophilia - the nested, diminishing pattern mimicking natural forms.
These great vernacular water-shedding constructs might actually be contributing to our wellbeing.
The Village Vernacular
I need provisions and go to the shop that doesn't look like a shop - it blends in with the surroundings. I think the Greggs in Lincoln does that particularly well too.
St. Andrew, Collyweston
Grade II* listed C11th - C15th with a restoration in the 1850's this church has a fine Regency view from the lane (full of fruits of the season).
I'll leave it to the listing for the description of the door inside the south porch, below:
"Outer doorway has double-chamfered 4-centred arch-head and semi-circular responds. Inner doorway has ogee-head with crochets and flanking pinnacles and continuous hollow moulding enriched with paterae. Above are the arms of William Porter."
There's a comforting repetitive rhythm to my travels to churches across the country - it's syncopated by symbols such as the green man, the vine, and the pelican.
The pelican is a symbol of self-sacrifice - it was thought to, in times of need, pierce its own breast and feed its young its own blood.
I put the ingredients from the community shop at Collyweston to good use, and make a stir fry - comfortingly warm and wholesome. I have soy sauce as a staple in the van.
After dinner, I lie down and take in the day and try and get some perspective on what I've seen and experienced. I have a map on the ceiling that helps me relate to where I am at all times. The black patch to the right holds my camera strap - so I can grab it at a moments notice. The little black strips are there to hold pens and glasses and minutiae. The netted pockets contain masks and receipts from my expenses.
On My Coffee Table
Few families still inhabit the Kome Caves, a site first occupied 200 years ago by tribes seeking shelter from conflict.
Wilkinson Eyre’s restrained conversion of the London landmark embraces the bravura of the original design, while the new flats aren’t so successful
Film and Sound
Archaeologist Martin Carver had devoted his career to re-animating the lives of individuals silenced in their graves. As he puts it: "lives which we can glimpse in a string of beeds, feel in the undulating surface of a metal sword handle". Famous for his excavations of the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, Martin is also particularly fascinated by what archaeology can reveal about the lives of women: "some say history has not been kind to women, but archaeology reports both sexes equally; and in their graves the Anglo-Saxons celebrated their women as much as their men - or more so". Describing in loving detail the graves of what he calls three "Anglo-Saxon Alpha Females", he re-animates the lives of a privileged pagan girl from the earliest period; a "cunning woman" with her bag of tools and healing herbs; and a princess buried in her bed. Through them, he recreates the lives of other women in the early era "before Christian government succeeded in clamping down on diversity and rewriting the rules."
From the Twittersphere
Member and Patron Posts This Week
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Treasure Hoard Gazetteer
Andy Marshall’s Treasure Hoard Gazetteer Map
My Treasure Hoard Map is open to all. It is an evolving enterprise and I’ll be adding more entries as time passes.
And with my exploration of the roofs of Micklegate, York, I also discovered (after a sojourn in the Falcon Tap) another giddy height - this time a bonce to photograph.