(james benedict brown) on the road

The Liberties

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 13 October, 2010

I was in Dublin last week for the first events of the annual Open House weekend. I met a friend in town to see the opening debate (a snooze fest from which we escaped early) before he kindly gave me a lift part of the way back to Belfast. I asked him, based on his knowledge of Dublin and of me, which neighbourhood in the city he could see me living in. I don’t know whether this reflects more on me or more on Dublin, but he suggested the Liberties.

I generally wait ages for a trip to Dublin, and then two come along at once. So I’m back again this week, doing some research in Dublin (today and Friday) and Waterford (Thursday). With an hour or two spare, I took a tram towards Heuston and the Museum of Modern Art. Heading back to town, I diverted through the inner city Liberties to have a look around.

It’s only looking back at this photograph an hour or two later that I realise just how green the grass would seem to be on this side of the border.

However, just to re-assure everyone who might be surprised at the thought (including my family, my girlfriend, my supervisor) – I’m not moving to Dublin. It’s just a handy way to ask someone who knows you and a city that’s unfamiliar to you where your characters might overlap. It was on that visit last week I realised that I’ve been to Paris more times than Dublin. Being so close to this city, that’s something of an embarrassment. So I’ve made some allowances in my schedule to rediscover my flâneur-ish behaviour in a city that’s shamefully quite unknown to me. I’ll be uploading some more photographs from my trip in the coming days on Flickr.

Edit: More pics from my walk around the Liberties here.


It’s still your fault

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 30 July, 2010

Earlier this week I caught a flight from Stansted Airport back to Northern Ireland. I first visited Stansted shortly after it opened in the early nineteen-nineties, when the vast £100,000,000 terminal was home to just a handful of airlines. Back then it was a delightful experience; a crystal clear navigational experience, with clean signage and spacious circulation spaces.

The plan was for Stansted to become London’s premier gateway, a true alternative to Heathrow and Gatwick, which could tempt the long haul airlines and passengers out into the Essex countryside. Then the ground beneath the aviation industry shifted, and it became instead a low-cost hub for budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet. Designed with the intention of making your passage through the airport as smooth as possible, Stansted was rapidly reconfigured to make your passage through the airport as expensive as possible. The airside lounge is a grotty and crowded retail hellhole, designed around the meandering line principle that if you expose passengers to the maximum possible surface area of shop frontages, they will eventually succomb and buy something.

Despite having three satellites (and a fourth under construction) departing passengers are bottle necked inside this cramped area in the main terminal until the hour or half hour before their departure. This is again to maximise their exposure to retail enlightenment rather than the relative tranquility of the satellite buildings.

Of particular amusement to me, spotted while waiting for my gate to be called, was this notice, applied in vinyl beneath the departure screens:

Stansted Airport does not verify the accuracy or completeness of this flight information which is supplied direct from your airline. The airport accepts no liability for any loss or damages suffered as a result of the reliance on such information which may later prove to be inaccurate or incomplete.

Departure information? Nah, this is just the departure information screen. Not our responsibility, mate…


Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 28 February, 2009

My first built project is emerging from the mud of the Queen’s Park allotments. It could well also be my first application to the Macallan Club, but its significance is no less important to me.

There’s an apartment complex in Northern Ireland to which I made some modest design contributions as a part one architect some years ago. It’s going to be completed later this year, and I caught an unexpected glimpse of it from a moving train a couple of months ago. That was probably the first time that I – as a young semi-legal architect – had come face to face with something I had had my hand in, albeit from a distance and not actually showing much of my work.

This is different, however, and building it has been an education. There have been some arguments (with nails, luckily, not my long suffering co-constructor) and there are some notable problems (notably that it is six inches too close to the adjacent path). We’re a couple more days away from finishing it; at the moment only three sides are approaching what you might call a state of functional enclosure. With the exception of the nuts, bolts, screws and nails, all of the material is reclaimed, some from Glasgow Wood Recycling, other bits and pieces from Freecycle and the heavily littered streets of Glasgow. The material cost has, in fact, been minimal; the small budget has mostly been spent on those small pieces of ironmongery and transportation.

My dream car used to be a modest second hand Saab or Capri; something unreliable and extravagant. Now I have a hankering for a Vivaro or Transit panel van. Much more useful.

As Britain continues its apparently unstoppable plunge into a recession, my advice to unemployed graduates like myself has been to keep busy and to keep physically active. In other words, get an allotment. The hours up there just fly by. For unemployed architects (especially young ‘uns like myself with no built credits to there name) consider an allotment without a shed. It’s been an unexpected opportunity to call upon the plentiful resources of free material in this city, and has produced something that I’m already beginning to identify as having direct (if not conscious) influences from buildings and design I’ve seen and absorbed over the last few years.

Now we just have to finish the damned thing…

Snapshot: Snow is forecast

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 1 February, 2009

Snapshot: Polmadie Sunday Market

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 18 January, 2009

Well, not strictly the market itself; it was particularly unphotogenic today. In the adjacent warehouse parking is provided beneath one of the largest indoor cranes in Glasgow.