söndagen den 13:e april 2014

Forgotten cost of Scottish independence

One of the hidden costs of Scottish independence has never even been mentioned yet - haggis-proof fencing along the border. The vicious little beasts are both excellent climbers and burrowers. They can dig down a metre deep, which means that hundreds of miles of expensive fencing will have to be erected along the border. All vehicles will have to be carefully checked at crossing points to make sure that none of them escape, or are smuggled into England.

onsdagen den 9:e april 2014

Scottish independence peril

Following a "yes" vote, the Loch Ness monster will awake from his slumber, opening a fiery fissure from Fort William to Inverness. A vast subterranean magma chamber will spew forth its contents and create a molten lava field which will eventually bury the whole of Great Britain in a layer six metres thick. Clouds of poison gas will spread all round the globe. A decade of summerless years will cause mass starvation and will be followed by an ice age which will go on for 100,000 years.

tisdagen den 18:e mars 2014

Save Carlander Park

Google maps
Carlanda Hospital plans to build 7,000 square metres of additional space, to enable it to expand its services, and also to provide accommodation suitable for modern medical technology. Unfortunately, it is not a good scheme and will practically destroy a valuable local amenity. A better solution is needed.

Existing building and park
The present hospital is a building of distinction and historic interest in an attractive landscape setting with mature trees. The park and building are important both for the immediate neighbourhood and in the wider context of the city. The hospital building itself, with its distinctive outline, is a conspicuous landmark visible from a distance, for example when travelling northwards from Mölndal. The park and hospital provides a fitting climax to the formal classical red-brick buildings on the two sides of Eklandagatan, with the group of trees at the north end of the park being visible from Korsvägen.

The park is both an important local amenity and part of the linked series of green spaces that extend all the way across the city centre, which make it possible to walk long distances in an environment dominated by trees. These green spaces also have an important function in helping to keep the oxygen balance and the air cleaner, in an area with high pollution and particle load. It is important to note also that areas immediately adjacent have been reserved for construction shafts for Västlänken which will bring thousands of lorries to the area, further adding to the area’s pollution levels.

What is wrong with the proposal?
The proposed building will destroy the open ambience of the park and at the same time largely hide the existing 1927 building, in the National Romantic style. Apart from the use of brick cladding, the bulk, form and elevational treatment of the building appear to bear little relationship to the site and the neighbouring buildings, including the original hospital and the residential buildings surrounding the park. The new building could, in fact, have been designed to be free-standing on a green-field site anywhere. The design is not a response to the specific character of the site and its neighbours. It is uninspiring in the extreme.

The visual impact cannot be reliably judged in the absence of walk-through videos which should have been provided at this stage. However, from drawing so far released, it can be seen that the building so close to the path through the park and it will dominate the view as seen by pedestrians walking in both directions. The perspectives are misleading, in that they show the building half-hidden behind trees which are in poor condition and likely not to survive for much longer, if indeed, they outlast the the building process. The same applies to some of the other trees, in particular the magnificent mature copper beech towards the south end of site.

Other options
The best solution for the park would be for no further construction to take place on it. Taken together with proposed university developments in Näckrosdamm park, the cumulative effect is to damage two of the links in the network of green spaces that cross the city centre. Possible solutions involving no further development include
  • Construction of the hospital extension on another site eg brown field land to the east side of Mölndalväg.
  • Relocation of the hospital to a new building on another site. The existing building might then be re-used as a hotel or for university purposes.
  • Use as a hotel, in a scheme similar to the Clarion group’s Posthuset development, which would mean that members of the public would continue to have access.
It appears that new building elsewhere on the site is precluded as the land is reserved for construction of Västlänken tunnels. If this were not the case, other options would have included building on the Södra Vägen frontage or extending the main building northwards. Given this restriction, there remain further possibilities.

One option would be to complete the original proposed scheme for the hospital, ie with the same plan and mass, but in a contemporary idiom which was a paraphrase of the original architectural style. A precedent here is the scheme for the extension of Covent Garden by Jeremy Dixon of Building Design Partnership.

Finally, there is the option for amending the design of the current proposal. Alternatives to the flat roof-line should be offered, either a pitched form or curved forms. A curved plan, similar to Pedagogen might fit the site better. The use of matching materials has not resulted in a building that matches or even fits the context. The converse seems to be case. A clear or mirror class facade would almost certainly have less of an obtrusive visual impact that the brick facade shown in the drawings. Alternative elevational treatments should be presented.

The proposal is for a dull and uninspiring building which would damage both a historical environment and a space which forms part of the city’s network of green walk-ways. Other options should be considered, including
  • relocation of the hospital to a new site, with reuse of the existing building
  • construction of the extension on a separate site
  • an alternative scheme which completed the original proposal for the hospital, but in a modern idiom which as a paraphrase of the 1927 design
  • amendments to the current proposal to lighten its visual impact
Alternative proposals should be prepared and presented for public consultation. Presentations should include walk-through videos so that people not familiar with reading architectural drawings can appreciate what the proposals will look like when built.

Refurbishment of the park should also be an integral part of any scheme.
  • Some of the existing trees are in poor condition and plans need to be made for their replacement to allow for a succession of healthy trees in the future.
  • The parking and waste recyling area at the north end of the park is unsightly and needs to be redesigned.
  • The car parking area at the south end needs to be redesigned.
  • Walkways need to be constructed in accordance with the routes that people actually take, including the path to the bus stop in Eklandagatan and through the south-end car park.
  • The wire mesh boundary fence should be replaced by a fence of better quality.

lördagen den 15:e mars 2014

Matthew Locke 1621-1677

I had always been under the impression that Matthew Locke was one of the minor seventeenth century composers. Locke was part of the unlucky generation to be caught up in the Civil War and then the Commonwealth. He lived in the Netherlands for a while and became a Roman Catholic. During the Protectorate, there was no place for church musicians, but he wrote a number of pieces for the theatre and was appointed to a position in court at the Restoration.

Locke has been eclipsed by the better known Henry Purcell, but listening to this set for The Tempest, the verdict seems unjust. I am not suggesting that Purcell was a plagiarist, but there are pieces here which turn up almost unchanged in some of the Purcell settings such as the Faerie Queen. The practice of re-using earlier music was widespread in the Baroque period. Handel was a master of the art, but it must be a good thing to acknowledge the source.

lördagen den 25:e januari 2014

Strange Lenovo X200 memory problems

I recently obtained a used Lenovo X200 Thinkpad. It came with 2GB of memory, which I wanted to increase to 4GB ie 2 x 2GB modules which is what the manufacturer states is the maximum. Unfortunately these are difficult to obtain, and according to some commentators the X200 will run 8GB. I purchased 2 x 4GB Corsair and found that one module would function in slot 0, whilst the other module would not function at all. I updated the BIOS to the latest firmware and was then able to run 5GB, which meant that the 4GB limit no longer applied.

I took the memory back to the supplier, Inet on Ringö, together with the computer. We tried another pair with the same result,. Then we tried single 8GB modules which did not work. Finally we tried a pair of AData 4GB modules which worked without a problem, so I have used those. First class service from the Inet technician. But it seems as if there is a significant different between memories from different manufacturers, though nominally of the same specification, as well as different degrees of consistency.

söndagen den 5:e januari 2014

San Pancrazio

I was helping in the annual stocktaking at the local Catholic bookshop at the weekend. There is a roomful of devotional statues such as would give a Muslim or Calvinist an attack of apoplexy or uncontrollable rage. Some of the statues are rather difficult to identify and distinguish. Our Lady comes in many different varieties: Guadeloupe, Help of Christians, Lourdes, Fatima and the Immaculate Conception, to name just a few. There was an assortment of angels, and a few saints, including San Pancrazio. He was a fourteen year old boy who was beheaded by the Emperor Diocletian in the year 303, the same year as Saint Alban. He is depicted as a young soldier holding an open book. However, as this saint's name is better known as a London railway station, one can fancy the text in the open book reading

"Platform 1: Luton, Bedford, Kettering, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Chesterfield, Sheffield."

torsdagen den 2:e januari 2014

49th anniversary of El Fatah

An 85 year old man was killed by Israeli tear gas during disturbances yesterday at celebrations of the 49th anniversary of the foundation of El Fatah, the Palestinian liberation movement. So this conflict claims yet other victim.

The date is interesting, because this was 1965, ie two years before the 1967 war. The West Bank had been annexed by Jordan and the Gaza strip by Egypt. So what exactly was the aim and purpose of El Fatah? The annihilation of Israel, of course. What else?

The majority of Palestinians have supported this organisation ever since, thereby bringing on themselves all the miseries they have subsequently suffered. Had more wisdom prevailed in the Palestinian community, it would have kicked out Arafat & Co. In the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, the Israeli leadership at that time would have been happy to come to an accommodation which would have been to the benefit of everyone who lives in the region. Unfortunately, Fatah, then headed by Yasser Arafat, chose terrorism instead of negotiation, with consequences that are all too familiar. Amongst the evils conjured up by Fatah must be reckoned a breed of tougher and more intransigent Israeli politicians, very different from those who ran the country for the first three decades of its existence.