Assignment Three: Buildings in Use

Choose five or six buildings and for each produce between two and four images that describe effectively and attractively the way these spaces are used.

You can choose to include people in the images, or not, but three out of five images used to illustrate this section will have no people in them, but the use of space by people must be evident.

For each building, it is important that you conduct some research beforehand, either archival or personal (or both), so that you have :

  • a good understanding of how and why it was designed the way it is.
  • an opinion on its effectiveness as a usable space.

Try to encompass variety in your choice of buildings, including size and purpose.

Once again I’ve chosen to deviate from the brief set above to enable me to continue with my module theme concentrating on the people where I live, and in this assignment also the building which houses all of us.  Whilst this may appear to remove the variety element, I believe that the building offers a wide variety of choices to make images that prove the points I’m trying to make about the circumstances that affect our lives, form our attitudes and possibly reflect our mood and affect our wellbeing.  To ignore the building, having spent two earlier assignments concentrating on the inhabitants, would not provide a rounded portrayal of the community and as the building is so large it requires a larger number of images to visually describe it.

Gilbert Court was first built in 1975, by West Berkshire Council, to provide bedsit accommodation for single people, it was later passed to Sovereign Housing Association when the then government legislated to hand all council owned properties to housing associations.

In 1998/9, the building had reached the end of its useful life as it was and the landlord decided to redevelop the interior as a cost-effective way of providing extra-care accommodation, for married couples as well as single people, over the age of fifty-five.

The bedsits were removed and twenty-seven one bedroom and six two bedroom flats were created.  A resident warden had one of the two bedroom flats until such time as it was found more cost-effective to have them attend here, and other schemes, on a mobile basis.  At the same time the central kitchen facilities, which had been used to feed the bedsit tenants, was gutted and left empty, and is now used as a dumping area for unwanted mobility equipment, each flat is now self-contained except for laundry facilities which remain communal.  The associated dining room and communal lounge were left in place and a small kitchen added onto the lounge for the residents of the flats to make teas and coffees.

In 2012 the accommodation was downgraded to general purpose accommodation, still for residents over the age of fifty-five, as West Berkshire Council could no longer afford to fund the provision of care managers for all the residents also having to provide this service to private homeowners as well.

The latest structural development to the building is to take place in the near future when the landlord is to remodel the unused central kitchen into a disability vehicle parking space.  Those residents with these vehicles will then be expected to leave them there when not being used for journeys outside, even though most of them require the vehicles to move around the building!  The expected outcome is that the landlord will spend in the region of £15,000.00 to convert the room which will then remain unused because most of the affected residents are already refusing to use it.

This building was purpose designed to provide bedsit accommodation in the 1970’s and was bastardised to fit a new requirement in the 1990’s at lowest cost.  This has led to a poor design for the tenants, although the design meets the landlords needs for accommodation units.  The resultant flats are inconsistent in size and layout and even the largest have an insufficiency of storage space, hence the cluttered look of every nook and cranny around the building, even under the fire escape stairs.  It will be seen from the images that there is a general air of ‘institutionalism’ about the building.  All the walls and paintwork are the same colours throughout, the lighting is generally insufficient to provide a cheerful atmosphere, lights have to be left on 24/7 otherwise it would be too dark, and the corridors are long, bleak and barely wide enough for wheelchair access, with lots of doors engendering a feeling of imprisonment and captivity.

Although the pictures may seem to depict the building as deserted, these views would be considered normal as 90% of the time the residents remain inside their own flats and the place is deadly quiet as a result.  It can also be seen in various places that whilst the landlord has a multi-million pound surplus in its bank account, repairs and replacements are not carried out with any alacrity and sometimes even basic safety needs are left for many months before repair.

The building has a further useful life of about thirteen years when it will be torn down and a new unit will be put up making use of the extensive grounds around the building to massively increase its size.  The current community will then be split up around existing schemes within the area (anywhere up to forty miles away) and may, or may not, be allowed to return here when the new building is completed.

Despite all these apparent disadvantages the community is generally happy and get along well together although, despite the best efforts of the residents committee, participation in the entertainment programme is limited to a faithful few.

The images on the following pages are laid out in such a way as to describe the building from the main entrance, through the ground-floor and then the differences on the second floor.

The following series has a main title of ‘Adversity Welcomes You’.



4 Responses to Assignment Three: Buildings in Use

  1. Catherine says:

    Impressive wok again Eddy. I was going to comment about the wide angle in terms of how it must make the spaces look larger than they actually are but the slight distortion also seems to ‘squash down’ the spaces so it all adds to that sense of perceived confinement.

    You are building such a story of the building and people here so I’m definitely expecting a book at the end of all this.

    You’re certainly going at a cracking pace and I’m expecting that you’re going to be finished well before me – not that it’s a competition!

    • Eddy Lerp says:

      Glad you think they’re a strong set, I had my doubts about this assignment as the subject matter is so static.

      I’m really pleased you get a sense of confinement, it was something I was really working at to act as a continuing thread through the ‘story’ so far.

      The pace seems to stutter, this part 3 was easy and quick to do because it’s so short and I didn’t have to hunt for the scenes I needed to shoot.

      I suppose we all work at different paces and I often wish that I could be as reflective as you after taking so much time to do your research, I try to do that but I’m too impatient for it to work.

  2. jsumb says:

    I think this the makings of another strong set addition to the ongoing narrative you’ve started. I wondered though about the levels of distortion, and about whether that was an intent as some rooms have it and others don’t which might suggest a different attitude towards each subject?
    I do also wonder about the difference in the images outside your home and those inside. The outside, clearly has an ‘insider’ view as you are a resident, but they do seem to be more objective, less intimate than the one’s inside your own place where their is so many personal references. On the ‘outside’ images I do think there are some strong resonances with the direct references to physical impairment – all those wheels facing into the wall, the motorised scooters parked in the corridor, the clear aesthetic of a communal space, and with one exception, devoid of the physical presence of people. This absence of people in a communal space is where the series becomes stronger for me and I feel it is entirely separate from the ones inside your place which is another space altogether, and worth investigating on another set.
    Hope that’s clear?

    • Eddy Lerp says:

      It’s interesting that both you and Catherine have brought up the ‘distortion’, but I wonder if the distortion you both see is not the same as I was mentioning. Mine was to do with the fact I couldn’t quite get the uprights and horizontals right, wheras I think both of you may be seeing the very low ceilings throughout the building which give the images a squashed appearance?

      I’ll need to ponder your other comments John for as usual they’re very inciteful and too deep to answer off the cuff.

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