Monday, 11 November 2013

Leeds, a city with its character ripped out

The Victorian heart of Leeds was left largely unscathed by Luftwaffe bombs, but in the 1960s, property developers and venal local politicians saw to it that magnificent architecture was torn down and replaced by shoddiness and ugliness. In particular, this is the city of John Poulson, the architect and developer who bribed officials in local government and nationalised industries to win contracts across the north of England.

Leeds is Britain's third-largest city and fourth-largest metropolitan area; the largest city of Yorkshire. Bricktorian Britain still makes its presence felt. Below: delapidation on the A64. Note the tree growing out of the brickwork, the moss on the stone parapet, the wiring pinned haphazardly to the wall.

Below: the view from my hotel room, overlooking Leeds station, and standing above it in darkness, City House, designed by Poulson in 1962. It is a drab insipid development entirely lacking in merit.

All is not lost, however. The Queens Hotel, in which I'm staying, was built in 1936 and has been restored to its former Art Deco glory. Very filmic - it reminds me of the Hotel Earle from Barton Fink  'Look on me! I'll show you the life of the mind!' or indeed the Overlook Hotel from The Shining... "Redrum... Redrum... REDRUM!" The Queens is full of Art Deco touches that delight the eye; the lifts are numbered Car 1 and Car 2; the room doors, the light fixtures; if you are into Art Deco, the interior of The Queens will let you forget about the drabness outside.

Yesterday Newcastle, today Leeds, tomorrow Nottingham - my progress through the North continues. Outside, the sky remains cloudless.

This time last year:
Węzeł Lotnisko (now Węzeł W-wa Południe) - works continue
[amazing to think they completed it within 10 months]

This time five years ago:
To Lepiarzówka, on the Polish-Czech border

This time six years ago:
Its Independence Day

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