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To Bin Or Not To Bin, That Is The Question

One of the many legacies of the Industrial Revolution is the system of canals and waterways that runs through our towns and cities. Once they were home to warehouses and wharves with fleets of barges carrying colossal amounts of goods to and from ports and between destinations primarily in The North and Midlands.

In Holland today, 45% of the freight received into the port of Rotterdam is still transported onwards by canal. It’s the same for the port of Antwerp and from Amsterdam, over 45 million tons of cargo moves along its canals every year. In America, the New York State Canals have demonstrated that shipping freight by canal is more than 30% cheaper than moving it by truck and in addition there are huge environmental benefits: far less air and noise pollution and far less road congestion. Continue reading →

The Secret’s In The Holes

It’s wonderful to discover that it takes a Yorkshireman to invent a new way of making a great tasting cup of coffee. George Sowden was born in Leeds in 1942 and studied engineering before architecture. He was more likely to drink a strong brew of tea or a pint of bitter than a cappuccino but after living in Italy for more than forty years, he turned his attention to making a perfect full flavoured cup of coffee.

He had admired the English teapot which has been pretty much unchanged since the days of Josiah Wedgwood in the mid eighteenth century. The teapot is a wonderfully flexible piece of equipment that doesn’t need instructions on how to use it and makes a cup of tea just as you want it. As much as you like, as strong or as weak as you want and at the temperature that suits you. To George, it was bewildering that there wasn’t a comparable easy coffee maker. Continue reading →

Festival of Britain

Sixty-six years ago, you may well have been planning your visit to the Festival of Britain. If you fancied making the journey to London, you would have joined the 8.5 million visitors to the South Bank of the River Thames who encountered thirty pavilions showcasing various aspects of Britain’s life that had been constructed around the new Festival Hall.

The Festival of Britain was a celebration of Britain’s dominant position in the arts, science, technology and industry and provided visitors with the opportunity to be educated, bask in Britain’s culture and history and see the very best in modern industrial and decorative design. The government had allocated £14 million as a budget and the Deputy Prime Minister, Herbert Morrison, had appointed Gerald Barry to spearhead the project. He turned to Hugh Casson Continue reading →

Living Over The Shop

Twenty odd years ago, the government sponsored a scheme to convert the empty space on the floors above shops in town centres into homes. At that time, it was estimated that at least 250,000 homes could be created from these vacant areas. This would be a simple way to utilise the existing infrastructure of retail premises and, at the same time, repopulate urban areas that had become places only to go to work or to shop  and during evenings and at weekends, they were often empty and desolate.

The scheme known as “Living Over The Shop” coincided with a time when old warehouse and industrial properties were being snapped up by developers and converted into loft style residential accommodation. These properties, however, tended to be around the edges of the town centres whilst the vacant upper floors of shops were often right in the centre. Both types of developments proved popular with young occupiers who were keen to buy into the new wave of urban living but neither attracted the variety of demographic groups that are needed to build areas into vibrant and sustainable communities. Continue reading →