Tuesday, 27 October 2009

'Haymarket Horror Dead'

As our friends in the Canongate so nicely put it. So, one in the eye from the 'conservation mafia' for Richard Murphy and Tiger developers. Also, of course, for City of Edinburgh planners, and the councillors who passed the damned thing, and Historic Scotland, who thought it fine. UNESCO didn't.





More news when I have it.

UNESCO mission, draft report (which was adopted in the summer by the World Heritage Committee)


UPDATE 29th October

AJ report: and pictures


Scottish ministers have rejected plans to build a luxury hotel designed by Richard Murphy Architects as part of a £250m project in Edinburgh

The 17-storey building had been approved by councillors but the Scottish Government said the site would affect views of the city’s world-famous castle.

The hotel was planned as the centrepiece of a £250 million overhaul of a four-acre site next to Haymarket railway station in Edinburgh that has been derelict for 40 years. The scheme had faced repeated criticism from Architecture and Design Scotland during its troubled history.

A report said: ‘In urban design terms, the landmark five-star hotel would fail to respect the grain and scale of the surrounding townscape, dominating the Haymarket space to the detriment of its neighbours.’

It added: ‘The impact on the city skyline would not preserve the setting of the world heritage site or prominent listed buildings which are landmark features within it.’

More via the link.


Planning report, setting out the case and reasons for refusal



Tuesday, 20 October 2009

GAZPROM, RMJM Okhta Tower, St Petersburg World Heritage Site: more sad news

The bulldozers have been at work in St Petersburg  doing, it seems, some 'archaeological investigation' :


This is no longer a metaphor. What which was awaited for, feared but not believed finally happened - the bulldozers of Gazprom assaulted the ruins of Nyenskans (XVII century) and Landskrona (1300) fortresses. They broke into one of the bastions, leaving a 50 square meters pit where an 1.6 meter ancient earthen wall stood. A hole large enough for an armored regiment to break in. A part of Landskrona moat was destroyed as well.

This is our first unrecoverable loss.


For now, the bulldozers are stopped. The only assistance we need is spreading of information. But we need it a lot - this can repeat at any time.

Please, please look at this, please, please let the world know what is being destroyed


For past posts please do a site search via the search link in the right column 'Gazprom'.

Also please read this, sent to me by the Editor. It's a very full account of what is happening, and why it shouldn't be.





Another blog on the subject http://meganinpiter.blogspot.com/ Urban activism in St Petersburg

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Merchant's House, Shepton Mallet - good for Wood!

Picture: Jon Maine

A very rapid blog to congratulate Jon Maine, who has won the Conservation/Restoration category re the Wood Awards.

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/jonmaine  is a web album of shots.

Jon's updated blog


Jon's website


with next date of his house 'open day'.

SAVE website:



My previous witterings on this include:



Brilliant, Jon. Now try to relax and enjoy it.


PS the new, updated Blogger editing facilities are an improvement,  Recommended download.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

A poem for National Poetry Day 2009

By Leaves We Live - Patrick Geddes 1854 -1932

Today is National Poetry Day, and I share with you the blog today from the Independent Republic of the Canongate (see blogs list), a campaigning group begun by concerned local people who love their city, the World Heritage Site of Edinburgh.


The blogging members of SOOT have decided to repeat the piece by Patrick Geddes, Scottish genius, a line from which is in the entrance to the Scottish Poetry Library:

This is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent on the leaves. By leaves we live. Some people have strange ideas that they live by money. They think energy is generated by the circulation of coins. Whereas the world is mainly a vast leaf colony, growing on and forming a leafy soil, not a mere mineral mass: and we live not by the jingling of our coins, but by the fullness of our harvests - Patrick Geddes

More on Geddes:


His biography:


Geddes' ideas on good civic planning, and especially 'conservative surgery' rather than wholesale destruction, are ones which are still relevant today.

The website of Save Our Old Town is at http://www.eh8.org.uk/ and details the long campaign to try to stop the Mountgrange 'Caltongate' development, which would have seen the demolition of listed buildings and a vast new 'mixed use' development of dubious architectural and social merit.

Such was the furore, first local, then national, and finally international, the campaigners created that UNESCO eventually called and said it didn't like what was planned either, and Mountgrange went bust. The two things may or may not be related. Let's hope what is now a major gap site (with several empty handsome historic buildings going to waste on the perimeter) finds a new buyer with more on their minds than simply maximum profit; someone who will help the World Heritage Site remain a wonderful place for those who keep it alive and authentic by choosing to live in it, not simply for those who wish to profit from it.

Two previous blogs which include a great deal more on this



The war is far from over, although at least a few battles have been won. It shows, however, what can be done if you have enough determination and the cause is just.

Each social formation, through each of its material activities, exerts its influence upon the civic whole; and each of its ideas and ideals wins also its place and power - Patrick Geddes

But a city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time -Patrick Geddes

Geddes and his ideas and ideals need to be more widely known and read.

To all those campaigners fighting to save something precious to them, whatever it may be, that will bring greater good, I say - don't give in or give up. A world without ideals and idealists would be an impoverished place.


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Endangered species? The World Monuments Fund Watchlist 2010

Stone in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh (click to enlarge pics)

The World Monuments Fund Watchlist of the world's most endangered buildings and sites has been published.

An interesting mix!

The full list is here:


UK photos (and the one in the Irish Republic, Russborough) here:


The UK sites are:

Belfast, Northern Island, United Kingdom


Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom


Sheerness, United Kingdom


Leominster, United Kingdom


Dudley, United Kingdom


The Tecton buildings at Dudley Zoo have been on the Twentieth Century Society's radar for a considerable time. Here's the 'Risky Buildings' entry, which gives a great deal of further information about them:


In 2004, the group of buildings featured as Building of the Month; here's the entry, with more information and photographs:


The nominations procedure for the Watchlist and reasons the buildings are selected can be read here:


And what, you say, is the point of yet another list of things in danger? Does it help to highlight these?

Well, this one does at times bring help. As it says on the WMF website:

Launched in 1996 and issued every two years, the World Monuments Watch calls international attention to cultural heritage around the world that is threatened by neglect, vandalism, conflict, or disaster. The 2010 Watch continues this tradition of identifying endangered sites, while also encompassing sites with compelling issues or progressive approaches that could inform the field at large.

Watch listing provides an opportunity for sites and their nominators to raise public awareness, foster local participation, advance innovation and collaboration, and demonstrate effective solutions. The Watch nomination process also serves as a vehicle for requesting WMF assistance for select projects. Since the program’s inception, 544 sites have been included on the seven Watches. Nearly half the listed sites, representing 79 countries, have received WMF grants totaling $50 million. These WMF monies have leveraged an additional $150 million in assistance from other sources.

So a listing for these buildings and monuments and sites will hopefully focus minds and make these a priority re applications for other funding.



Now that so much lottery cash has been diverted to the bluddy Olympics, every little helps

Ars longa, vita brevis? Greyfriars Kirkyard again. More on that here:



and Edinburgh graveyards in general:


World Monuments Fund:


More pictures worldwide



UPDATE Sunday 11th October 2009: a splendid piece by Kevin McKenna in the Observer


...The Canongate kirkyard is a jewel in the firmament of Edinburgh's many enchanted spaces and I had cause to be grateful for its ability to restore a flagging spirit when I worked for the Scotsman newspaper, whose HQ was a two-minute walk away.

Is there anything better in the world for a troubled soul than to set himself down on a bench contemplating a row of quiet headstones with a packet of cigarettes and fortified by a few lunchtime Bacardis?

...Robert Burns acknowledged the sanctity of the grave and was heartbroken when he saw how poorly Robert Fergusson had been buried in Canongate Kirkyard. In 1787, three years after his friend's death, he paid for the lovely tombstone that marks the final resting place of the great poet and penned this tribute:

O why should truest Worth and Genius pine
Beneath the iron grasp of Want and Woe
While titled knaves and idiot-greatness shine
In all the splendour Fortune can bestow.

If I am granted the privilege of a decent burial, I'd be happy to leave with the words of the great Birmingham rock-poets Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler whose oeuvre inspired the music of Black Sabbath, echoing in the breeze. Perhaps they were inspired by Burns the great egalitarian when they wrote in 1980:

The world is full of Kings and Queens
Who blind your eyes and steal your dreams
It's Heaven and Hell.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

More McTrump!

Menie, Aberdeenshire copyright http://www.danphillipsphotographer.co.uk

Sorry peeps, I've not had much time for blogging, although I have been Twittering (it's addictive...)

So for today here's a link to a fabby blog which I follow, and another wry chucklet (see previous post below http://nemesisrepublic.blogspot.com/2009/09/trump-wants-it-all.html ) at the Trump saga unfolding in Aberdeenshire.


Well, if you don't laugh you'll cry. Buckets.

And indeed in spades, now I come to think of it. Trump's fond of sand. Wants to build his golf course on it.

The picture at the top is where he wants to build it (and a whole vast 'luxury development' as well.)

I stole it from here


The Edinburgh Evening News photographer. I hope he doesn't mind. I know it's copyright but it's all in a good cause, Dan,


and it looks a great deal better looming large on your site with the writing under. There's still time to sign that petition, too.

As he says on his Twitter page:

Name dan phillips
Location Edinburgh
Bio Edinburgh Evening News Photographer. Drop me a line with your picture opportunities

I hope to be back soon with some catching up!