061023.Budapest, Fiftieth Anniversary of Hungarian Revolution

October 23, 2006 at 11:59 AM | Posted in Architecture, Berlin, Budapest, Conservation, Crowns, cumulus clouds, Gardens & Parks, Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Preservation, Restoration | 19 Comments

‘Tis the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution today. Although this does not relate to Bath, the Hungarian DPs Budapest and Szentes created interesting posts, and so I thought I could post some photos of Budapest taken last year.

As a tourist, I thought Budapest was one of the most beautiful and polite cities in Europe. As a conservationist, I always thought Hungary, above all other places I’ve visited, had the most interesting and honest conservation program in place in regards to their Soviet Era history.

Not being Hungarian, I reflect more on the Hungarians’ modern conservation and memorializing efforts than on their historical sacrifices. When minor damage (such as shrapnel or bullet holes) occurs to stone-clad buildings, the cost of restoration can be too great to re-clad the façade with new stone. Also, merely covering over the holes with cement or plaster only works on similar material structures (plaster to plaster restorations in St. Petersburg). Besides, the damage is historic and often equally or more valuable than the original building. Restoration against the damage is dishonest to the structure and indicates a willingness to forget the history that caused it.

The two options that remain are preservation and conservation. For the most part, the surviving bullet-riddled structures in Berlin chose to preserve their damaged history and leave the holes to weather as a reminder of the events there. (Below, left)

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However, right in back of the Hungarian Parliament building, I found this interesting conservation of bullet holes memorial to the 1956 revolution. (Photo above, right: I may have the wrong building but I believe it was at the base of the old Supreme Court Building, now the Museum of Ethnography). This arresting conservation of (what I take to be) a damaged stone façade with inverted bullet holes and a small 1956 memorial plaque tucked away neatly to the side really is more moving than the honest preservation of decaying Berliner bullet holes. Perhaps I’m wrong, though, I don’t know. (I cannot read Hungarian so I do not know if this is simply an invented memorial, but I’d like to think they were emphasizing the bullet holes.)

Admittedly, some Soviet Era structures, which were a blight to the Hungarian cityscapes, have been removed or altered and treated much the same way as those buildings treated their plot predecessors. However, unlike most former Communist bloc nations, many Hungarian Soviet Era monuments were conserved, such as the one in Independence Square. If memory serves me, this monument commemorated those who died liberating Hungary from the Nazis. It is prominently in the center of the city in a main square, opposite the MTV building and several other embassies. The only altercation, I believe, was the removal of Russian name plaques at the base.

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Monuments in Hungary are very interesting because they do not always denote triumph and thread a thin line between monument and memorial. Below is a Hungarian WWI “monument,” which although set up as a conventional monument is somewhat striking in its subject depiction, since as an American, I’m used to seeing a bronzed “doughboy” march happily home or see a mournful but proud roster of English names killed in action.

050423.167.Pest.VamhazGellert Sziklakapolona, (?)

Two other interesting Hungarian preservation and conservation observations were a bullet-hole in back of the central speaker’s box in the the Parliament building’s main room resulting from an assassination attempt, and also the bent cross atop a crown, which became Hungary’s most identifiable symbol.

Hungarian Coat of Arms

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Budapest also bears the distinction of one of the finest Gothic-Revival structures in Europe for their Parliament building, but as it was a design competition, Budapest also built the second and third place winners (at a smaller scale and for different functions) in back of the first place Parliament design. It’s a great place to visit, and a heck of a lot bigger than Bath.

061022.Bradford, Lansdown Hill, Beckford’s Tower and Cemetery

October 22, 2006 at 8:46 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bradford, cemeteries - churchyards - and tombstones, countryside, Gardens & Parks, Museums, Ruins, Sculpture, somerset, Towers | 3 Comments

061021.163.Somset.Bath.Bradford.Landsdown Hill.Beckford’s Tower

 

061021.163.Somset.Bath.Bradford.Landsdown Hill.Beckford’s Tower

 

061021.Bradford, Lansdown Hill, Cemetery at Beckford’s Tower

October 21, 2006 at 10:36 PM | Posted in Bath, cemeteries - churchyards - and tombstones, countryside, Gardens & Parks, Ruins, somerset, Trees | 4 Comments

061021.162.Somset.Bath.Bradford.Landsdown Hill.Beckford’s Tower
Somerset Heritage Open Week started last night with fireworks from five different locations. I didn’t exactly catch any of them since they lasted only two minutes but I heard they were grand.

Beckford’s Tower was amazing. I’m first showing off some photos of the beautifully picturesque and ill-maintained cemetery on its grounds. I’m trying out a new format of having the small picture on top and the full size one clickable below .

Does anyone remember what completes “the worm’s crawl in, the worm’s crawl out…”? 061021.162.Somset.Bath.Bradford.Landsdown Hill.Beckford’s Tower

 

 

061020.Claverton Down, Fresher’s Week: A Little Campus Diversion

October 20, 2006 at 11:34 PM | Posted in Bath, Bathwick, Claverton Down, Museums, somerset | 4 Comments

Now that a few weeks have passed I can say that “Fresher’s Week” was interesting. It happened one Saturday night when this security guard and I were taking cover during a storm in the library when we started seeing all these people walking around in togas.

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There’s no frat life in British universities but certain traditions remain. Fresher’s Week not only had this classic(al) party but it was the extreme version: a “Wet British Toga Party.” Sure, toga parties must be great, but this was a soaking-wet British one.

The partygoers were running in the rain from one campus pub to the next (the drinking age is 18 here so the on campus pubs are not only the local bars but also the student dining facilities). Every time the rain direction changed or it really started to downpour, the girls would start screaming and some people just stopped running and did their toga-ing in the puddles.

Intrigued, I asked the guard where to sign up for this drowning merriment, but then to my surprise she asked me if I was a student?
Indignantly I replied, “I’m not only a student, I’m a post-grad!” (Whoops.)

“Oh, well then you’re too old to be joining them. It’s just for undergraduates.”

But here’s the thing. First off, the Brits graduate in three years so I could be 20-21, how can I not join them?

Deprived of the bedsheets and with the storm continuing, my outrage generated into other discussions and before I knew it, the guard was pregnant—though several months along, I should add.

It was in the stage where I could listen to and feel it kick. I didn’t hear or feel anything but it required me to kneel down and put my ear up against her exposed stomach just as two toga-clad students escorting/supporting a sickened third in a pungently stained toga rushed the library to find its bathroom. Then it happened, each of these drunk soaking-wet British toga-wearing undergrads stared at us like we were the freaks—even the girl in the middle, who was practically choking on her own vomit!

Sadly, the photo didn’t come out so well of the rain, linens, and purging undergraduates so I include one from the first day of Conservation class. We rented out the Holborne Museum and got drunk there—lots of free champagne. The other Conservation classes don’t do that, so Bath is pretty cool.

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061019.Bath, Queen’s Square Colors

October 18, 2006 at 11:51 PM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Gardens & Parks, Mansion, somerset | 5 Comments

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I have plenty more photos from Woodchester but I figure I might lose the DP family connection if I don’t revisit Bath for some nice autumn colors. This is the south wing of John Wood the Elder’s Queen’s Square west townhouse development. It’s importance comes largely in its immitation of a large palacial residence. This palace-like townhouse subdivision housing development spread throughout Britain and was highly influential in Edinburough’s Newtown plan.

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061018.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion Original Plans!

October 17, 2006 at 9:49 PM | Posted in Architecture, Conservation, Gloucestershire, Mansion, Nymsfield, Vaults | 3 Comments

 061013.097.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.DrawingRm.Conservationists drooling over original plans

 

One of the greatest aspects of Woodchester, apart from its incomplete state and exposed vaulting is the existence of not only the architects’ original plans, sections, presentation drawings, and correspondence letters but also working diagrams that were sent to the masons to carve details! Here, our Conservation class is drooling over these as everyone makes a mad dash to grab and photograph their section of interest. Each piece of paper is protected in a plastic sheet and is typically signed and dated.

The architect in charge explained to us that the house was being constructed as the design changed. The best example is the multiple changes in the chapel, which went from two bays on plan to five bays (possibly for papal purposes) and then once the purse-strings were tightened, the chapel was reduced to three bays. The masons had been building a chapel of five bays before the budget cuts set in because they abandoned two additional huge bosses for the additional bays. These were never cleared from the site because Woodchester was never finished, and thus the eveidence survives.

Below is an early plan and section for the chapel from the late 1850s. I dotted in red the vault containing the private organ, where a line drawn by the architect leads to a note questioning whether or not it was proportionally large enough. But honestly, when is a private organ large enough?

061013.099.Glos.Nympsfield.WoodchesterMansion.DrawingRm.Original Drawings

 

 

061017.Nympsfield, Woodchester Mansion Ground Floor Billiard Room, Entrance Hall

October 17, 2006 at 9:24 PM | Posted in Architecture, Blogroll, Chisel Marks, Conservation, Gloucestershire, Mansion, Nymsfield, Ruins, Uncategorized, Vaults | 9 Comments

Woodchester Mansion Website

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As explained in earlier posts, this house was never compeleted. Abandoned in the 1870s, it is a remarkable surviving Victorian construction site. It remained standing because of the strength of its masonry walls. For the most part, floors were never put in and the walls rely on heavy buttresses. Here in the South Wing’s Billiard Room, one can gaze up at three sets of fireplaces and the springing stones where the ceiling vaults would have attached themselves to the walls.

The Woodstock Mansion estate had a brick manufacturer on site, as well as stone a few feet under the ground, but there was very little timber on the estate. The foundations are all stacked on solid bedrock, and the mansion was built almost entirely of materials found on the property making the mansion somewhat afordable for your average business baron.

Try as I might, I could not get all three complete fireplaces in the picture, but you can see the mantel of the ground floor and the next two floors quite well. There is a large stone arch supporting the roof timbers, and several holes in the oak and slate roof.

Apart from the brick arches taking the load off the delicately carved fireplaces, another aspect to note are the holes in the masonry for the scaffoldings (no longer there). They would normally have been sealed up with brick and then plastered over. The most interesting construction remainders are the cheap wooden boards over the top mantels (barely visible). These boards were placed over all delicate stonework during construction, so nothing was chipped before the house was turned over to the owner.

Don’t go there when it’s raining, which is pretty much every single day. But if you ignore the freezing dampness, it is well worth the trip. And I’m told they throw an incredible Halloween party for 15 pounds. They’ve added spooky doors to complete the “haunted” look of the house and each scaffolding hole is filled with a small candle, which must look amazing in the dark!

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