Thursday, 11 November 2010

Quality of Light II

As mentioned in my previous post, I planned a visit to the modernist marvel that is St Brides in East Kilbride. First off, and slightly off topic, this was my first experience of a New Town. East Kilbride was Scotland's first post-war New Town which adopted a very modernist approach to town planning. I came in direct conflict with this planning when trying to navigate my way to St Brides. The New Town layout (which can be seen in more extreme examples like Cumbernauld) separates (to a degree) the car from the pedestrian. A lovely idea, except when you're trying to get anywhere. The endless roundabouts circle what I can best describe as "islands" of inhabitation. Trying to infiltrate these Islands of Man can be a difficult task when using an alien mechanical moving device (i.e. my Fiat Punto). In St Brides case, I could see it for quite some time, but had trouble locating what appeared to be one access point. It's also difficult to stop, and re-evaluate your strategy when trapped between roundabouts on the dual-carriageways. An efficient endless flow of traffic which becomes difficult to navigate when you're lost. Eventually, however, I found St Brides and took sanctuary for the best part of the day before tackling EK's road labyrinth to get home.

I digress, so on to the main event, St Brides, East Kilbride. As the title suggests, my visit was to bathe in the glory of Gillespie Kidd & Coia's architectural genius in their manipulation of the structure to produce a high quality of light. My modernist ideologies were shattered when I found such a dark expansive space (even with artificial light). The windowless indented brickwork (shown right) barely captured enough light to emit even a glow. Now to be fair to GK&C it was a very overcast day, so the exterior lighting was not ideal, but it still struck me how dim the space was (a fact, regardless of weather conditions confirmed by one parishioner).

Now my opinion of St Brides may seem of doom and gloom (no pun intended), but in actual fact I took a lot of positives from experiencing the space. For one, the poor quality of light resulted in a very sobering experience. I was left to my own devices for well over an hour, and the main hall, with it's dim artificial lighting was extremely calming (although at one point I thought I saw a ghost). The the soft warm tones of the brickwork also added to this mantra.

Perhaps my perceptions are slightly bias due to being brought up a Catholic (not currently practicing) and familiarity of churches - until my early teens attending weekly. I therefore associate a church as a place of quiet and sombre reflection - the closest comparison I can make of this feeling is being in a library. This paragraph may seem a little off topic, but ultimately feeds in to my choice of subject matter. Whether I like it or not, something in my subconscious is drawn to the church through years of conditioned worship - old habits die hard. I'm not sure to be honest, but I do know for me that churches + modernism = interesting subject matter.

I'm currently in the process of Photoshoping my way through the 160 plus images taken on my visit to St Brides. I plan on uploading the worthy to Flickr (link below), with some already up at the time of this post. More to come as I explore and develop ideas in relation to St Brides, modernism, the church, et al.


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