Beijing city walls

There are tantalising glimpses of the remains of the Ming Dynasty city walls around the modern centre of Beijing. Some parts have been adapted and built up against, whilst some like this section are backdrops to tiny pocket parks, which provide much needed green space in a frenetic city. Often you have to take a moment to work out what you are looking at, as not all sections have interpretation panels (though many do, like this one). The sections provide intimate glimpses into the long history of settlement and the ever-present role of history and a deeply valued cultural story. They are used heavily as spaces for rest for workers from nearby offices and recreation space for flat dwellers in the vicinity who have little green space access otherwise.

Lincoln: Newport Arch and lorries

CA_Lincoln_arch
1971

The Newport Arch forms the northern gateway of the Roman colonia of Lincoln. It is one of the most important pieces of extant Roman architecture in Britain. However it does seem to be vulnerable to lorries. A feature on the excavations at Lincoln appeared in a special number of Current Archaeology (May 1971; Christina Colyer, ‘Lincoln, pp. 67=71), and the cover showed the damage in 1964. The gate has been struck again today.

Local authorities need to restrict access to these important parts of our heritage.

Walking the walk

The best way to explore heritage close up is, of course, on foot.  Heritage explorers typically spend more time looking up at the buildings, sites and features around them than looking down at the ground, but a new site recently launched in the US, and featured on the architectural design newsletter Curbed, is encouraging us to consider the history which our feet are padding across.

 

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“Plan of the City of Toronto,” 1909, using color and hatching to show different types of pavement.  (Toronto Reference Library)

Historic Pavement, developed by Robin B. Williams, Ph.D., Chairman, Architectural History department, Savannah College of Art and Design is setting out to document the remarkable diversity of historic street and sidewalk pavement design in America. It’s quirky and great – and in the About section, I am particularly thrilled that a fellow heritage fanatic was inspired by oddities when young. (I should admit that I spent hours, aged 6 or 7, creating a primary school project on the varied design of lamp-posts in my home town).

Here in the UK, Historic England (then English Heritage) ran a campaign over a decade ago, entitled Streets for All, which looked on a regional level at the management of streets holistically to make the most of the historic features and design which ‘modern’ highway management often made a mess of.  Pavement design and materials were considered in this work, along with wider street furniture (benches, signs, barriers) – and it is interesting or depressing (depending on your point of view) to see which bits of advice and guidance have been followed or ignored in the period since.

 

street-furnitureThe formalities of street design and management is all well and good (see the English Government’s current Department for Transport guidance), but aesthetics of the places we spend time wandering along are important – this is reflected in the more recent guidance produced to support Listing criteria, on Street Furniture.

 

I am reminded again, therefore, to spend time looking up and down.