Friday, 24 June 2011

Norwegian Stave Churches

My new architectural love...

I believe in the dark churches,
the ones that still stand like tarred pyres in the woods
and like deep red roses carry a fragrance
from times that perhaps had more love.
Those jet-black towers I believe in: the ones that smell of
the sun's heat
and old incense burnt in by the centuries.
Laudate pueri Dominum, laudate nomen Domini.

Axes shaped them and silver bells rang in them.
Someone carved dreams in and gave them wings so they'd wander
out across ages and mountains - which surge up around them
like breakers.
Now they are ships, with crow's nests turned toward East India...

(extract from Stave Churches by Rolf Jacobsen, translation Roger Greenwald.)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Supernova Poetry is online!

The website for the Supernova Poetry project I was lucky to be involved with in Belgrade is now online. You can read poems from the anthology and there's a live recording of me reading with the wonderful Manja Ristic and co playing music. Go to - to reach my stuff click on English UK (the anthology included poets from an amazing array of languages all translated in Serbian too), then click on my name - you can turn the pages like a book, so flick on one page from my profile to reach the audio stuff (or you can reach it straight from the homepage). I would recommend reading and listening to the whole website though!

Friday, 10 June 2011

St Nicholas of Bari Rebuking the Storm

I found a post card of this in the depths of my somewhat overcrowded room and remembered how excited I was when I first saw this painting when I was little and noticed the mermaid had legs. This was painted by Bacci di Lorenzo in the days when mermaids were very much involved in the causing of storms. It's in the Ashmolean in Oxford which is a truly fabulous museum (if memory serves me they also have a beautiful Samuel Palmer landscape). I also like how it sheds some light on St Nicholas's posthumous activities before he became Father Christmas. And how he arrives in a wake of stars (I think you can buy rather lovely Christmas cards of this moment)...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Rail pod regeneration

I always get frustrated with city regeneration projects in the UK - when will town planners realise that shopping centres are not the only way to revitalise a town, and actually don't really regenerate them at all? And don't even start me on the Olympics and how that money could be better spent for East London... However on a more cheerful note here is a fantastic idea that recently won third prize in a competition to regenerate the Norwegian (gotta love that country) town of Andalsnes. It was proposed by the Swedish architects Jagnafalt Milton (who these images are courtesy of). Andalsnes is a city with a lot of disused rail infrastructure and the proposal utilised these rails to make portable modules that could be moved around as was convenient.

I love the idea of having a miniature pod house that you can move to a better location depending on season etc. They remind me of the sort of places you would imagine living in as a child when playing survival games of where you would build if all the adults disappeared. I would hide in my greenhouse at the bottom of the garden in storms and imagine that this was my home from now on. There's something about this design that reminds me of that childhood magic of the aftermath of a gentle apocalypse. They also remind me of the tradition of making houses out of railway carriages - something that was definitely common in the past down here in Cornwall. When doing research for a community project recently I was thrilled to find out about this way of life where the carriage homes were seen as the step between homelessness and a 'normal' house. They were really beautiful and I desperately want one as a study... I would like a Norwegian railway pod house too, though sadly the design did not win so they will not for now be built. At least they'll be in the great company of all the utopian housing schemes that nearly were, and thanks to modern technology, these days we have photos so in some kind of dimension they do exist...