Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category


April 10, 2014

by R J Dent


Dungeness is a headland on the coast of Kent, England, formed largely of a shingle beach in the form of a cuspate foreland. It shelters a large area of low-lying land, Romney Marsh. Dungeness is also the name of the power station and a few buildings near the beach, and of an important ecological site at the same location. The name Dungeness derives from Old Norse nes: ‘headland’, with the first part connected with the nearby Denge Marsh.




Dungeness is one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe, and is classified as Britain‘s only desert by the Met Office. It is of international conservation importance for its geomorphology, plant and invertebrate communities and birdlife. This is recognised and protected mostly through its conservation designations as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), a Special Protection Area (SPA), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) of Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay.




There is a remarkable variety of wildlife living at Dungeness, with over 600 different types of plant: a third of all those found in Britain. It is one of the best places in Britain to find insects such as moths, bees and beetles, and spiders; many of these are very rare, some found nowhere else in Britain.


One of the most remarkable features of the site is an area known as ‘the patch’ or, by anglers, as ‘the boil’. The waste hot water and sewage from the Dungeness nuclear power stations are pumped into the sea through two outfall pipes, enriching the biological productivity of the sea bed and attracting seabirds from miles around.






There have been five lighthouses at Dungeness. From the mid-19th century, the lighthouse was painted black with a white band to make it more visible in daylight; similar colours have featured on the subsequent lighthouses. This lighthouse was demolished in 1904, but the lighthouse keepers’ accommodation, built in a circle around the base of the tower, still exists.






The building of the fourth lighthouse, the High Light Tower, started in 1901. It was first lit on 31 March 1904 and still stands today. It is no longer in use as a lighthouse but is open as a visitor attraction. It is a circular brick structure, 41 m (135 feet) high and 11 m (36 feet) in diameter at ground level. It has 169 steps, and gives visitors a good view of the shingle beach.






As the sea receded further, and after building the nuclear power station which obscured the light of the 1904 lighthouse, a fifth lighthouse, Dungeness Lighthouse was built.






There are two nuclear power stations at Dungeness, the first built in 1965 and the second in 1983. They are within a wildlife sanctuary deemed a Site of Special Scientific Interest and despite high safety risks posed by the station, birds do flourish in the warmer water created by the station’s outflow.The older power station closed on 31 December 2006, while the newer station has had its licence extended to 2018.






In addition to the power station and lighthouse, there is a scattered collection of dwellings. Some of the homes, small wooden houses in the main, many built around old railway coaches, are owned and occupied by fishermen, whose boats lie on the beach; some are occupied by people trying to escape the pressured outside world.






The shack-like properties have a high value on the property market. Perhaps the most famous house is Prospect Cottage, formerly owned by the late artist and film director Derek Jarman.






Prospect Cottage is painted black, with yellow window and door frames. There is a poem, part of John Donne’s ‘The Sunne Rising’, written on one outside wall in black lettering.


But the garden is the main attraction: reflecting the bleak, windswept landscape of the peninsula, Derek Jarman’s garden is made of pebbles, driftwood, scrap metal and a few hardy plants.



A Dungeness house known as Garden Cottage is featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s album A Collection of Great Dance Songs.






Dungeness now appears quite often in music videos, album covers and adverts. The shingle beach and fishermen’s shacks feature extensively in the Lighthouse Family promotional video for their 1998 song ‘High’. The acoustic mirror at Dungeness is featured on the cover of the album Ether Song by the British indie band Turin Brakes.


Dungeness appears on the covers of albums as diverse as So Much for the City by The Thrills and Aled by Aled Jones. The Prodigy’s single ‘Invaders Must Die’ video was filmed in Dungeness, and shows both the acoustic mirrors and the lighthouse. The BBC filmed episodes of Doctor Who in Dungeness during the 1970s.


The 1981 fantasy film Time Bandits shot its ‘Time of Legends’ sequence on the beach, and Dungeness was used to film a scene in Danny Boyle’s Trance. Much of the Michael Winterbottom’s 1998 film I Want You was set in and around Dungeness: the lead character’s home was one of the wooden beach dwellings.






Copyright © R J Dent (2014)


All photos by R J Dent

Photos Copyright © R J Dent (2014)


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Herculaneum Art

August 3, 2013


Herculaneum (in modern Italian Ercolano) was an ancient Roman town destroyed (along with Pompeii) in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, which buried it in superheated pyroclastic material.


It is also famous as one of the few ancient cities that can now be seen in almost its original splendour, because unlike Pompeii, its burial was deep enough to ensure the upper storeys of buildings remained intact, and the hotter ash preserved wooden household objects such as beds and doors and even food.


Moreover Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii with an extraordinary density of fine houses, and far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding.


Consequently, Herculaneum is full of art treasures – murals, frescoes, statues, bas reliefs, busts, wall paintings, moldings and so on.


The art at Herculaneum has been preserved for over 2000 years.


It is incredible that it has survived for so long.





Herculaneum Art

(c) R J Dent 2013


August 3, 2013

The city of Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei.


Pompeii along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, were mostly destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 metres (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.


The eruption was cataclysmic for the town. Evidence for the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance and described the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet, who tried to rescue citizens. The site was lost for about 1500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599.


The objects that lay beneath the city have been well preserved for thousands of years because of the lack of air and moisture. These artifacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana.


Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years. Today it has UNESCO World Heritage Site status and is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.


In 1971, the rock band Pink Floyd recorded the live concert film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, performing six songs in the ancient Roman amphitheatre in the city. The audience consisted only of the film’s production crew and some local children.




(c) R J Dent 2013

San-Zhi – The Pod Village – Taiwan

March 7, 2011

One of the strangest examples of architecture gone awry is the San-Zhi Pod Village.











The San-Zhi pod village is an abandoned pod hotel/ housing development/ apartment complex in the small town of San-Zhi (三芝) on the north coast of Taiwan.

It is unclear as to whether San-Zhi was meant to be a hotel or a housing development.

It was constructed in the 1960s.

It included a dam to protect it against the sea.

Its floors and stairs were made of marble.

It had its own small amusement park.

The site was commissioned by the government and local firms.

Unsurprisingly, there is no named architect.

Inexplicably, the project was abandoned and the complex was left in its unfinished state.

It was demolished in 2009.

About fifty photos and a few videos are all that remains of the pod village of San-Zhi.


Photographer Craig Ferguson has an online archive of his photographs of San-Zhi:


 And here is the wikipedia entry for the San-Zhi pod village:




























































































































































The San-Zhi Pod Village, Taiwan

(c) R J Dent (2011)







June 25, 2009




The Pruitt-Igoe housing complex consisted of 33 buildings of 11 stories each on the Near North Side of St. Louis, Missouri. In 1950 the city commissioned the firm of Leinweber, Yamasaki & Hellmuth to design Pruitt-Igoe, a new complex named for St. Louisans Wendell O. Pruitt, an African-American fighter pilot in World War II, and William L. Igoe, a former U.S. Congressman. Originally, the city planned two partitions: Captain W. O. Pruitt Homes for the black residents, and William L. Igoe Apartments for whites. The site was bounded by Cass Avenue on the north, North Jefferson Avenue on the west, Carr Street on the south, and North 20th Street on the east. Prior to the project’s construction, the land was known as the De Soto-Carr neighbourhood, an extremely poor section of St. Louis, a black ghetto.

The project was authored by architect Minoru Yamasaki who would later design New York’s World Trade Center. It was Yamasaki’s first large independent job, performed under supervision and constraints imposed by the federal Public Housing Authority. Architectural Forum praised the layout as “vertical neighbourhoods for poor people”. Each row of buildings was supposed to be flanked by a “river of trees”, developing a Harland Bartholomew concept. However, parking and recreation facilities were inadequate; playgrounds were added only after tenants petitioned for their installation.




Seen here are the 33 rectangular buildings that made up Pruitt-Igoe. The four large branching structures in the foreground was the Vaughn Public Housing Complex (also demolished). Also pictured is the Pruitt School (the four-story building near the centre of the photo) and the St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Church, both of which still stand.


As completed in 1955, Pruitt-Igoe consisted of 33 11-story apartment buildings on a 57 acre (23 hectare) site on St. Louis’s lower north side, The complex totaled 2,870 apartments, being one of the largest in the United States. The apartments were deliberately small, with undersized kitchen appliances. “Skip-stop” elevators stopped only at the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth floors, forcing residents to use stairs in an attempt to lessen congestion. The same “anchor floors” were equipped with large communal corridors, laundry rooms, communal rooms and garbage chutes. In real life the stairwells and corridors attracted muggers. Ventilation was poor, centralized air conditioning nonexistent.




Nevertheless, initially Pruitt-Igoe garnered net positive publicity as a breakthrough in urban renewal. Despite poor build quality, material suppliers referenced Pruitt-Igoe in their advertisements, capitalizing on the national exposure of the project.


A 1956 Missouri court decision desegregated public housing in the state, and the newly built complex became predominantly populated by black tenants. Whites evidently chose not to take up residence in the new integrated towers.


The buildings remained largely vacant for years. By the end of the 1960s Pruitt-Igoe was nearly abandoned and had deteriorated into a decaying, dangerous, crime-infested neighbourhood; its architect lamented: “I never thought people were that destructive”. In 1971, Pruitt-Igoe housed only six hundred people in seventeen buildings; the other sixteen were boarded up.


In 1968 the federal Department of Housing began encouraging remaining residents to leave Pruitt-Igoe.




In December 1971 state and federal authorities agreed to demolish two of Pruitt-Igoe buildings. After months of preparation, the first building was demolished with an implosion at 3 p.m., March 16, 1972. The second one went down April 22, 1972. After more implosions on July 15, the first stage of demolition was over. As the government scrapped rehabilitation plans, Pruitt-Igoe was agonized over for three more years; the site was finally cleared in 1976.


Planted with trees, here’s what Pruitt-Igoe looks like today:

pruitt igoe today


And here’s another view of it today:


pruitt-igoe today

There is a Pruitt-Igoe demolition sequence in the film Koyaanisqatsi, with music by Philip Glass. Here it is:



This text is a modified version of the information found on wikipedia:

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