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Tripod SUMMER 2017

In this issue: Harris Distillery Cinema and the High Street Seriality in Architecture The Western - An Epic in Art and Film The Moulton Barns


Tripod

SUMMER 2017

CONTENTS • Harris Distillery • Cinema and the High Street, by Robert Livingston • Seriality in Architecture, by Graeme Hutton • Exhibition Review: “The Western - An Epic in Art and Film” • The Moulton Barns

Front cover: Frederic C Hamilton Building at Denver Art Museum I am grateful to my guest writers for their articles and their suggestions for photographs, and to my wife for her editing. All errors are mine. All images © Colin McLean Photography except where otherwise indicated Printed copies by Elmbank Print, Peebles

Harris Distillery The new Harris Distillery, designed by architect John Coleman, collected a special award in the 2017 Scottish Civic Trust My Place Awards.

the island’s character.

The vision was to create something on the island that would provide a lasting legacy, enriching the lives of the people of the island and countering its acute economic problems of depopulation and unemployment. In addition it should not upset the delicate balance of the island’s natural resources and environment.

The aroma of the whisky that is currently distilling pervades the air when you walk around the building, but we will have to wait for it to mature in its oak casks for three years before The Hearach is ready. Whisky, like time, cannot be rushed. Meanwhile, like all new distilleries, it is producing gin, and sales of the now famous Harris Gin have exceeded the wildest expectations. This produces an early cash flow to help the business.

It is not a visitor attraction but a working distillery which welcomes guests. Housed in a fine new piece of architecture, it sits in a very prominent location which welcomes you when you arrive on the ferry in East Loch Tarbert. Its simple clean lines are a tribute to the architect and the client. The interiors are of the highest quality, using textures and beautiful materials that reflect

The distillery has created 18 high quality, permanent well-paid jobs. The works canteen is now well used by local people looking for a place to meet and blether. A local hotel owner told me: ”This is the best thing that has happened in Harris for years.” It has created a renewed sense of sprit on the island. It is truly “The Social Distillery”.


Cinema and the High Street Robert Livingston

Birks Cinema, Aberfeldy

Cinema is flourishing. That may seem an odd statement to make in this time of HDTVs, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, but there seems to be something special about seeing films as part of a social gathering, that never loses its appeal. UK-wide, annual attendances have not dropped below 150 million in the last 15 years. In the Screen Machine mobile cinema, annual attendances remain at the same level as when the service was first launched in 1998, so the novelty has never worn off! Of course, historically it was a very different picture. UK cinema audiences peaked at an astonishing 1.4 billion in 1946, the highest attendance/population ratio ever recorded anywhere in the world, apparently. The Scottish Cinemas and Theatres Project’s database records the existence of over 1100 cinemas in Scotland since 1902. The vast majority of those have of course been demolished, or turned to other purposes (usually large pubs called, with sad irony, something like ‘The Picturehouse’). Things are gradually getting better. Across the UK, some 144 cinemas are planned to open in the next five years, and only 17% of those will be in the kind of outof-town locations favoured by the big multiplex chains in the 80s and 90s. This pattern of growth can be seen, at a more modest level, in the Highlands and Islands,

where, in the last 20 years, 10 different cinemas have been opened, re-opened, restored or enlarged, from Campbeltown to Lerwick, and by contrast only one cinema, in Fort William, has closed and not reopened (yet). Significant success stories of recent years have been about the restoration and reopening of three historic cinemas: the oldest surviving cinema in Scotland, the Hippodrome in Bo’ness, from 1912; the oldest continuously operating cinema in Scotland, the Campbeltown Picture House from 1913 (reopening this autumn), and the Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy, from 1939. What these cinemas have in common is their central, highly visible, location in the townscape, in small urban communities with significant issues of deprivation, and in all three cases the cinema restoration has become a project around which the community has rallied, and wider regeneration benefits have come into play. Other, similar, projects are in the pipeline. In Edinburgh, the G1 Leisure Group have plans to reopen the sumptuous Art Deco Odeon in South Clerk Street, while in Portobello local residents are struggling to prevent the similarly styled George Cinema from being turned into flats. And some historically significant cinemas still remain in fully commercial operation, from the lavishly


Bo’ness Hippodrome (interior opposite)

comfortable, family-run Pavilion in Galashiels to the B-listed, seven-screen Perth Playhouse. But there is another aspect to the links between cinema and the built heritage. As cinema-going changes, the scope increases for smaller ‘boutique’ cinemas to be inserted into town-centre buildings which formerly had very different uses. An extreme example might be the six-screen Peckhamplex slotted into a 1970s multi-storey car park, but there are many cases of new cinema developments being seen as ‘anchor’ developments in the refurbishment of now-tired shopping centres. Even if new cinema developments are not in buildings of historic significance, nonetheless, by bringing life, footfall, and local spend back into town centres, they can help boost the survival prospects of other historic buildings. There is, however, a serious caveat to this otherwise heartening picture. The vast bulk of the cinemas planned to open in the next five years are in England. The few Scottish examples are all in towns and cities that already have at least some form of cinema provision. But there are five Scottish Local Authorities, home to 8% of the Scottish population, which have no cinema provision of any kind. Many other Local Authorities have large towns whose only cinema access is at an expensive, often hard to reach, edge-of-town multiplex. The really disturbing factor is that so many of these communities which are deprived of the cinema experience, also score against multiple deprivation indi-

ces as defined by the Scottish Government. That is, for a large part of the population, the poorer you are, the less likely you are to be able to enjoy a film at a local, affordable, venue. This is not an issue which can be left entirely to the market. The normal pattern for the establishment of a new commercial cinema is that it forms part of a network of developments that includes a range of branded food outlets, such as those owned by Casual Dining (Bella Italia, La Tasca, Café Rouge, etc). That kind of development is not only unlikely to be commercially viable in most of Scotland’s Central Belt towns, but, in some cases, may result in an unwelcome uniformity that undermines the distinctive character of a community. On a small scale, the way in which the Birks in Aberfeldy has indirectly led to the opening of other, locally generated businesses is an example of a more desirable pattern. Commercially, the key role of cinema is now widely accepted by developers. At a community level, cinemas continue to head almost any wish list of ‘things our community needs’. Increasingly, the evidence is there, and many agencies now accept, that cinema development can deliver significant economic and social benefits, whether it’s creating jobs, retaining spend, overcoming isolation, or offering quality entertainment for families. But, crucial to all of this is the role of Local Authorities. Many of those 144 cinemas in prospect in


the UK will have been made possible by Local Authority initiatives and partnerships. But, in Scotland, I believe we have a particular challenge to overcome, to address areas of market failure, where a purely commercial model simply will not function. Perhaps, instead of linking new cinemas to related retail developments, in some of Scotland’s communities the link could instead be with other cultural or social facilities that are at risk, whether those be libraries, museums, community centres, or even post offices or service points.

cultural imperialism, cinema and screen provision has the potential to bring real and lasting benefit to many communities across Scotland. But only if the political will exists to make it happen. Robert Livingston is Director of Regional Screen Scotland, which works to enable more people, in more places, to share more great screen experiences, and which operates the Screen Machine, the UK’s only fulltime mobile cinema. www.regionalscreenscotland.org

For too long dismissed as simply Hollywood-based photograph of Campbeltown Picture House Š Ron Inglis


Seriality in Architecture Graeme Hutton

The idea of serial production might seem, at first, at odds with much of today’s architecture, which makes virtue of inventiveness and originality over continuity and perfection of ‘type’. Mies, the foremost serialist, notably refused to ‘…invent a new architecture every Monday morning.’1 Such comparable contemporary reductivists reinforce this, such as Valerio Olgiati, who suggests continuity and inventiveness are not dialectically opposed. Olgiati believes it should be possible to invent architecture and that there is architecture that is made out of itself. He refers to examples of a barn, a church, a temple - buildings derived from a certain typology, that follow their own rules, buildings that are non-contextual. That kind of architecture has invention at its core.’ 2 Of course, the desire to be continually original does, in itself, represent a kind of serial action, or at least a serial measure of creative success or failure. It is as interesting to speculate what governs the current preference for the singular and unique, as it is to understand what motivates the more obviously ‘serial’ work. Serial works can be considered in two ways: first, where the work is a series of individually recognized pieces; and secondly, where a series of singular works constitute a recognisable whole.

Rembrandt’s 90 self-portraits are an early example of the first and the photographer Sugimoto’s ‘Seascapes’ a later example of the second. Whilst Sugimoto is clearly striving for a unified perception of the individual works, Rembrandt’s motivations are less clear. Scholars have speculated that his repeated representations of the self were a kind of personal inquisition, whilst others note that the idea of ‘self-discovery’ is too romantic a notion for the era and that simpler and more direct concerns of a fiscal nature came to bear. Rembrandt was giving his patrons what they wanted for a sure and regular income. What is probable is a position oscillating between income and introspection, and that demand and production led by default to a more enquiring portraiture, not least one suspects to keep it interesting for himself. Relating more closely to architecture, the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher developed a serial visual narrative - in extremis - by recording such everyday ‘invented’ building types (the barns, water towers, grain silos etc so beloved of Le Corbusier) with a detached objective eye. By photographing the ordinary forensically and artlessly, but always to the same rules, they draw pleasure from the most subtle variations in outwardly identical buildings. It is no accident that the common reference points here between Le Corbusier to Olgiati

Edinburgh’s New Town: Scotland Street


Repeatibng elements in the New Town

via the Bechers, centre on agrarian ‘building’. Whether or not these constitute architecture is moot; it is their repeatable singularity and immunity to the stylistic persuasion of the epoch that gives pleasure. It is easy to see why these became a locus of thought for architects emerging from the accepted patterns of the previous centuries. Whether Tudor, Georgian or Victorian, there were accepted norms - Continuity writ large with variation a subtle and secondary concern. Invention was unnecessary. This of course bestows its own pleasures. The repeated majesty of Edinburgh’s New Town, for example, is a model of sustainable urban design where the city is more important than the architecture - and rightly so. One has to look carefully

to note variation within the overall order. A Becher-like exercise is welcome - an objective visual taxonomy of the New Town. What constitutes ‘seriality’ in contemporary architectural practice is more complex as it embraces both design actions and their outcomes as designs and buildings. It is also not a singular pursuit: clients are part of the process and must be mediated in line with a desired creative direction and coherent narrative. Serial architectural practice today, by its very nature, infers a temporal dimension, inviting a course of flux and mutability to shape and reshape conceptions. It is by recognizing this meta-pattern of action-reflection-reaction that individual designs give way to more deeply

Edinburgh’s New Town: Saxe-Coburg Place


RMA: Housing in Old Fishmarket Close, Edinburgh

RMA: Housing in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh RMA: Housing in Dublin Street Lane, Edinburgh

set and continuous themes in the work of our most distinguished practitioners. Richard Murphy Architects (RMA), for example, display the autobiographical tropes of the Rembrandts where repeated themes are serially deployed in individual works whether house, gallery, library and so on. Vibrant frissons occur when these individual works situate themselves within the serial anonymity of the city and the Murphy House (opposite) is an illustrative case in point. In conclusion T S Eliot provides an interesting critical lens through which to consider such juxtapositions: “Existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is con-

formity between the old and the new. The past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.” 3 Footnotes: 1 Werner Blaser, Mies van der Rohe, Less is More, (Berlin: Brikhauser, 1986) p.128. 2 Renata Arpagaus On the work of Valerio Olgiati (Blueprint magazine, November 26 2009) 3 T S Eliot “Tradition and the Individual Talent” 1919 Graeme Hutton RSA(Elect) FRIAS RIBA is Professor of Architecture and Associate Dean, Learning & Teaching, at the University of Dundee


A vibrant frisson: the Murphy House in the Georgian New Town


Exhibition Review: The Western - An Epic in Art and Film Colin McLean

The Western - An Epic in Art and Film is a temporary exhibition at Denver Art Museum (DAM) in Colorado and is presented jointly by DAM and by Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It is housed in the Museum’s 2006 Frederic C Hamilton building, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. The titanium-clad inverted pyramids of the building reflect the peaks of the nearby Rocky Mountains and its angular form has created a precedent followed elsewhere. Libeskind has designed other museums and galleries, such as the Jewish Museum in Berlin (opened 2001) and the Imperial War Museum North, in Salford (opened 2002).

film genres of our youth and early adulthood. The Great Train Robbery of 1903 is generally credited as the first of its type, but it was John Ford’s Stagecoach of 1939 which catapulted him and his hero John Wayne into popular fame. Wayne starred in no less than 142 movies - not all westerns - and he typified the tough, grizzly and honourable cowboy of the genre’s early period. Romanticism featured in many westerns, perhaps exemplified by the clip of Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson singing “My Rifle, My Pony and Me” while a smiling John Wayne looks on, in Rio Bravo of 1959.

The exhibition is emphatically not a history, social or otherwise, of cowboys and indians, but nor does it shy away from some of the issues that art and cinema dealt with, particularly after the Second World War. The influence of one art form on the other is an interesting feature that the exhibition does bring out, for example in the way that the action of the movies appeared in paintings, such as those of Frederic Remington (18611909).

The Western’s boom period was the 1950s and ‘60s, when the classics of High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), The Searchers (1956) and The Wild Bunch (1969) were produced. Though the cowboy movies always contained bad guys, it was the arrival of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns in the 1960s that introduced a less reputable - but none the less lovable - hero in the form of Clint Eastwood and his solo characters - in contrast to Eastwood’s earlier portrayal of the cheeky but innocent Rowdy Yates in the TV series Rawhide (1959-65).

For many of us, the Western was one of the dominant

The exhibition contains an impressive showing of paint-

Denver Art Museum


The Last of His Race Frederic Remington, 1908


Breaking Through The Line, Charles Schreyvogel (nd)

Piegans (1918), Charles Markon Russell


In the period following the Second World War, the cowboy movie adopted a different direction and examined the more complex and subtle make up of its heroes and villains, perhaps culminating in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain of 2005. Along the way, the western broadened to include the modern cowboys such as Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider (1969), and Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (also 1969). Andy Warhol too used the Western in his repertoire, with his 1976 portrait of the first Director of the American Indian Movement, Russel Means, included in the exhibition.

Buffalo Bill Cody and Sitting Bull

There are many paintings in the exhibition of American Indians, the early ones showing a romantic notion of a fallen hero whose lifestyle and traditions were disappearing under the onslaught of the cattle ranchers and gold miners. But it looks too at the ongoing importance of mysticism and spiritualism in today’s first nation peoples.

As you cross the plains of Montana and Wyoming, as we did on this trip, you still see the occasional cowboy on his horse, tending his cattle, and local rodeos are as popular as gala days are here. It is also possible - though

Madonna of the Prairie William H D Koerner, 1921

ings, from the DAM’s own collection, from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and from private collectors. These show the shift in portrayal of not just the cowboy but also of the native indian that he fought with and displaced as he sought - and took - land for cattle ranching and in the various gold rushes. I was struck by the parallel with the Highland Clearances, where people were displaced by sheep, and of course some of those cleared from the Scottish glens ended up in the American West. The exhibition shows, in art and film, images of the early pioneers arriving at their promised land, having suffered all sorts of privations on their long trek across the American continent to the plains east of the Rockies. It was the Homestead Act of 1862 that legitimised their land claims, allowing individuals to claim proper title to a 160 acre plot if they lived on it, farmed it and improved it for five years. The Act was only repealed as recently as 1976 (1986 in Alaska).

There are artworks, film clips and photographs, including an early shot of Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917), the first person to make real commercial success from his Wild West Shows, which toured widely, including to Europe, and in some of which he was joined by Lakota Chief Sitting Bull. There are interesting objects on display too, including early American Indian artefacts, though for some of us of a certain age, pride of place must surely go to Peter Fonda’s California-style chopper from Easy Rider (1969) the ultimate hippy western.


Hostile Tribes W Herbert Dunton (nd)


less likely - to see someone toting his real revolver in his holster. It is however more likely that you will see today’s cowboy in his giant Ford pickup, slurping cheap fuel at a rate that would terrify us Europeans but, in our experience, displaying a genuine courtesy to pedestrians that would put us to shame.

I am grateful to Denver Art Museum for permitting me to reproduce artworks and photographs from the exhibition, which runs till September 10th 2017. http://denverartmuseum.org/exhibitions/western-epic-artand-film

Night Time in Wyoming Frank Tenney Johnson (nd)

The appeal of The Western - an Epic in Art and Film is a clever mix of real American history and the astonishing popularity of the movies (though we mustn’t forget the many cowboy novels). The sound throughout the exhibition has been carefully engineered to minimise spill into other displays, and the cases of objects bring a three-dimensional reality to this fantasy world of the Western. A fascinating and hugely enjoyable exhibition.

Emigrants Crossing the Plains Albert Bierstadt, 1867


The Moulton Barns Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Readers will have guessed that we have been in the western states of the USA. The natural heritage of the National Parks was the primary objective, but the built heritage inevitably made an appearance. In Grand Teton National Park (the Tetons are the mountains lurking under the clouds in the photograph above), we encountered Mormon Row. The individuals who took advantage of the 1886 Homestead Act generally set up on their own. Conversely, this Mormon community established a small township, living, working, worshipping and playing together. In an agricultural economy, barns were the defining feature of homesteads, whether individual or communal, and two large hipped-roof barns - owned by two branches of the Moulton family, remain standing today. The township dates from the 1890s, and included a school and church - sadly now gone, as are the individual homes.

Jackson Hole was originally known as Jackson’s Hole - a hole being a flat area of land between hills or mountains. The enormous plain is covered mainly with the ubiquitous sage brush, but the Mormon community removed this by hand to allow grass to grow to feed their cattle. At this altitude - 6,800 feet above sea level - the growing season is short; hence the large barns to hold feedstocks for the long winters.

Architectural photography and photography for the heritage sector 73 Whitehaugh Park, Peebles EH45 9DB, Scotland M 07980 750301 colin@colinmcleanphotography.com www.colinmcleanphotography.com

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Tripod summer 2017 e  
Tripod summer 2017 e  

Quarterly newsletter from Colin McLean photography, with articles by Robert Livingston, Director of Regional Screen Scotland, and by Graeme...

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