I recently posted a very long set of images which formed the basis for a research & contextual study I have produced for the Bus Station Project. I have now managed to sort out how to post a link here to the actual pdf document, which you can now view with much more clarity.
This pdf is only a part of the contextual research which has been done – but forms a good basis on which to reflect upon the influences and threads of research which have caught my attention. Much more work has been done since this was completed and I hope to post more images of draft and concept drawings and sketches very soon.
The first page of the pdf looks like this image below – so you will know you are on the right tracks! Click here:
Monday 18th May 2015 – today I have to revise and update the contextual research document I made earlier in the schedule –
I want to submit this as supplementary research and development to illustrate how the artist (me) has worked with the project team in order to influence the design process. Not easy to reduce and re-define what has gone before, but so much more has happened over the last few weeks, that I have to bring this up to date. Am in my studio here in Ramsgate trying to figure out the best approach. I think it’s going to be a late night !
I met with Jason Williams, Lecturer in Art & Design at The College Merthyr Tydfil, and co-ordinator of Level 3 Art. This is just one of a much wider portfolio of courses offered within the division of Creative Industries at the College, which is headed up by Chris Ford.
The Art & Design studios are on the top floor of the building affording the most amazing and creatively aspirational views in the region. Creativity is really significant here. I like to think of this place as a powerhouse of ideas and inspiration – innovation and energy – building a new legacy for Merthyr Tydfil via Education and the Arts.
We discussed the potential for some engagement by students – in this case within Art and Design, but could perhaps encompass the wider Creative Industries Division – to work within and or alongside the Bus Station and Link Bridge developments to take advantage of a live project against which to set and test skills and creativity.
The potential to build this engagement into the Academic year is a tangible one, but something that would have to be developed quickly during this month in order to build it into the next Academic Year.
The College Merthyr Tydfil also shares space at Redhouse, the former Town Hall on the High Street, where all Music, Media, Film, Dance, Technical Theatre and Drama students study in bespoke professional standard facilities.
Thursday 30th April 2015 – This has been a crowded by very productive visit. Yesterday in the National Museum Cardiff and this morning meeting with the Principal of The College Merthyr Tydfil. What perhaps I didn’t mention in the last post, is that the aim of these meetings is to propose some form of engagement with educational establishments and local schools here in Merthyr, during the construction period of the new Bus Station.
This afternoon I had two very informative visits to local schools in Caedraw. St Mary’s Catholic School. Headteacher, Mrs K Wathan, unfortunately had to go to another meeting, I met with her deputy, assistant headteacher Mrs C Cope. St Mary’s school fields and perimeter fence run partly along Swan Street, juts opposite the site of the new Bus Station. This obviously raises questions about security, noise, transparency and the increased pedestrian activity on the site. As the schools are actually side by side and share a perimeter fence, very much the same issues arose when talking to Mrs J Watkins, Headteacher of Caedraw Primary Schooland her Deputy Head, Miss D Williams.
These issues notwithstanding, the purpose of my visit was to discuss the opportunity for engagement with the schools and pupils. This could be by way of a drawing or writing project about Bus Stations, or transport – or even to explore the impact of the new Bus Station on their school day. Quite often on project such as this the main contractor, once appointed, would engage with the local community. Often this translates as artwork on the site hoardings – which can be very visual and effective – to learning visits by children to the project site throughout the build programme to see exactly how this building is constructed.
I would like to see the contractors and other site specialists visit the schools to talk to the children about their work. I will develop this proposal in more detail over the coming weeks. WATCH THIS SPACE!
One of the hundreds of miners who worked on the project volunteered to come to the local primary school to be the model for our Combe Down Miners Ceramic Project. Most of the miners came from South Wales.
Thursday 30th April 2015 – I met with John O ‘Shea, Principal of The College Merthyr Tydfil . We talked about the history of the Old FE College and the state of the art new building the college now occupies. I wanted to know more about the aspirations for students coming to this site and how they travelled to get here. The Bus Station project is part of a wider transportation and communication network in the town and region. Many students walk from the train station, so pedestrian routes through the town are of great importance.
The new building by RMJM Architects (who acquired YRM, the Architects of the original 1960’s college building) sits within an extended and spacious public realm with clear desire lines to the pedestrian link bridge. The feasibility study which is considering replacing the current structure with another design which also links to the new Bus Station, is a critical part of the transport strategy for the project. The building also sits upon the site of the former Ynsyfach Ironworks, which was extensively excavated and documented by the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trustbefore the new building was erected.
Robert Imiolczyk, Head of Estates at The College has also been a great help and has a wonderful and detailed photographic record of the earlier archaeological works undertaken on the site by GGAT. He has allowed me to reproduce some of the images here.
The original College of Further Education by Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardell Architects (becoming YRM) is seen here circa 1960 – bottom centre of image. Just above this can be seen the original Iron Bridge at Ynysgau by Watkin George.To the right of the image can be seen the double weir on the River Taff. There is now only one weir which sits just up river from the St Tydfils Shopping Centre footbridge.
Very interesting to see the list of project contractors – especially Merthyr Ceramics Ltd who supplied ceramic floor tiles.
The brick arched furnace on the far right can still be seen today behind the main college buildings.
The image above shows the excavated Refinery Building. This description is provided by Richard Lewis, Head of Projects for GGAT, who managed the excavation programme.
“The casting bed in the refinery are run out bays and water troughs. The iron ore (and limestone and coke) was fired in the blast furnace and cast into pigs in the casting house which was located in between the furnaces and refinery. The pigs were then taken to the refinery and subjected to further firing in an oxidising furnace and then the molten metal run out on a tray that sat on top of the long rectangular metal cistern (as seen in your photo) filled with continuously flowing water. The molten metal quickly cooled on this plate to form tea-tray sized refined ‘finers’ wrought iron plates. The removal of further impurities was aided by water being thrown over the molten metal which caused the slag to mobilse (exploding off in tiny slag balls).”
St Tydfil’s Shopping Centre – I had the opportunity to get up on Wilkinson’s roof for an amazing 360 degree panoramic view of Merthyr and the surrounding hills. Nick Megor, the Shopping Centre Manager accompanied after gaining permission from Wilkinson’s Store Manager.
Nick also had a collection of aerial photographs of the local area probably taken in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s and during construction in the mid 1960’s of the pedestrian bridge linking the west side of the Taff to the east and the new – as then – shopping centre.
At the top left of this image can be seen the Merthyr Tydfil Bus Station – which is now on the move to a new site just out of shot here on the far right of this image on Swan Street.
On 5th March 2015, I made a presentation to the Bus Station Stakeholders Meeting of current contextual research in relation to the Bus Station project and the Link Bridge Study.
I thought it may be of interest to post all these images here. There are a fair few – so bear with it ! – it is useful to know how the research is being delivered and what is shaping my approach. The screenshot image below gives a clear idea of the number of images I am posting – stick with it as there are some great images and quotations…
I have credited all sources of information and am grateful to all organisations and individuals who have assisted me thus far. Where permissions to use images have not been possible, these images have been withdrawn from posting online.
Where Ordnance Survey Maps have been used, they are all out of copyright, however, I have added a credit – ‘Reproduced from the …date… Ordnance Survey Map’, which the Ordnance Survey suggest on their website.
At the scale above – the individual images are not so clear – so I have added all the images individually. It makes for a long post – but hopefully you will find something of interest here ! Here goes – Image No.1 …
The Engine House was one of a pair of Engine Houses on the Ynysfach Ironworks site. ‘The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd undertook investigations at Merthyr Tydfil College, on the site of the former Ynysfach Ironworks, which began in August 2011 and were completed by January 2012. Archaeologists from the Trust excavated and recorded structures belonging to the former ironworks, which had survived unexpectedly well, buried underneath the college buildings’.
To see the amazing animated 3D reconstruction of the site. produced as part of the interpretation for the project, press on this link. A permanent exhibition of this project can be seen at The College, Merthyr Tydfil, which is built upon this site.
I met withSteve Brewer & Ceinwen Statter , members of the Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society, who operate out of the recently restored Engine House of the former Ynysfach Iron Works. Mary Owen – Author of book on the New Rectory of Merthyr Tydfil, was mentioned as someone who may have some insight on Swan Street history. Clive Thomas, the author of a history of Cae-Draw School, was also mentioned. The Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society also publish the Merthyr Historian, which is a 26 Volume history of the town from every source possible. Published from 1976 to the present, it has some engaging and surprising stories, records & contributory essays and images from many individuals. A great resource document ! A set of these publications is available in the Merthyr Tydfil Library.
The site of the former Ironworks is now mostly occupied by The College, Merthyr Tydfil,the original ironworks being demolished and lost before and during the 1960’s.
We discussed the site specific history of the new Bus Station site on Swan Street and references to a building called ‘The Rectory’, which is show on old OS Maps, but is not referred to in any written text I can find. Alan and his colleagues are assisting in researching this. The wider area around Swan Street is also rich in history and community, which needs to be addressed in this contextual study.
The new College site – although first developed in the 1960’s – is historically relevant to the Link Bridge project, as not only was this the site of the Ynysfach Ironworks, part of the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, but the public realm and highway in front of the College and in-between it and the River Taff, was the site of the Glamorganshire Canal. There was a Lock Gate here, called Parliament Lock. An Archaeological Report was made by the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust(Contracts Division) to support the Archaeological Watching Brief on Parliament Lock during pipe laying works in October 1995. The Report was prepared for Ove Arup & Partners who carried out the works.The report is really interesting. – click on Parliament Lock, above –
Parliament Lock Gate and House is in the bottom right foreground of this image of the Glamorganshire Canal. The bridge, seen at the middle far right of this image, is the Ynysgau Iron Bridge across the River Taff, built in 1799 by Watkin George for the Cyfarthfa Ironworks.
12th February 2015 – Treforest, South Wales – the birthplace of SIR TOM JONES !
I met with Dr Chris Evanstoday to discuss the history of iron production in Merthyr Tydfil and the legacy and impact of this on contemporary Merthyr Tydfil and its aspirations & current regeneration programme. This is in light of contextual research I am doing in regard to the new Bus Station project and Link bridge feasibility study.
Francis Crawshay – an eccentric member of the Crawshays of Cyfarthfa, who had portraits of his workers painted which was, at the time highly unusual, giving a remarkable insight into the lives of ordinary working people. He was something of a Druidic character, building stone circles and mounds.
The Upland Landscape of the Brecon Beacons & its importance in both the past and the future of Merthyr Tydfil. Merthyr is a product of this upland landscape & could make much more of this relationship.
The Taff Trailand how visitors could experience & relate to Merthyr as a gateway to the Brecons.
The Creativity and Flair of the great engineers and innovators who were central to the Industrial Revolution in Merthyr not being sufficiently celebrated. Watkin George,William Edwards, William Williamsworked at the cutting edge of technology and innovation. Even factory buildings were classically proportioned. Merthyr was a hub of creative knowledge, that became not only world famous, but exported this knowledge all over the world – even sending expertise to set up new Ironworks in Russia for example. The town generated and maintained international contacts, becoming an international crossroads of industry.
Elemental Processes of ironworking – extremely labour intensive. The ability to standardize products and replicate to order under these conditions was testament to the degree of control over processes these manufactories had. Confidence in their technology and how to utilise it successfully
Impact on landscape – early extraction methods included damming rivers and streams and then breaking the dam to allow the raging waters to scour the top soils and expose the iron ore beds. Cinder Tips, & Slag Heaps
Power – the control and management of water was at the heart of Merthyrs advancement. Transport was the other – Canals, Tramways, Railways, Roads, River.
Power – Napoleonic Economy & Rise to Wealth – Atlantic Trade – Iron and Slaves – Dr Chris Evans Research
The dominant theme in this project is transport & transport links. Fluid and effective connectivity for cars, trains, buses and pedestrians alike. My role is specifically to try to ‘influence’ the design process being delivered by the teams involved in the Bus Station & Link Bridge. Creative Influence can be brought via research into the heritage and legacy of the town. Contextual research can also look at the practicalities of what a Bus Station or a shared pedestrian and cyclist Footbridge require to function. I can also investigate the aspiration and hope for the future which both of these elements of the town’s infrastructure could bring. All these threads of influence can combine to create a visual and conceptual aesthetic to use as a tool to aid the design and engineering process.
Social history in Merthyr Tydfil has shaped and re-shaped this landscape over a few hundred years perhaps more than natural history did since the last Ice Age. If you look at old OS Maps of Merthyr Tydfil from around 1840 to 1960, patterns of use and development begin to emerge. Transport leads the way, starting with the management of water: rivers, streams, ponds, canals, reservoirs, culverts & aqueducts. Railways, roads, embankments, cuttings, tunnels & spoil heaps all enable the efficient delivery & transportation of goods and materials, whilst also removing & storing waste products. All this happened in a fairly small locality, geographically speaking. This had a fundamental impact on the landscape. Maps show this impact in patterns and textures to evoke a man-made industrial environment. Even the The architecture of industry – buildings, factories, furnaces is also rich in patterns and repeating systems.
I am very grateful for the permission of Merthyr Tydfil CBC Librariesto allow me to photograph the maps in their collection. As these maps are also over 50 years old, the Ordnance Surveyrequest only that the following information is added to each image: ‘Reproduced from the (add date) Ordnance Survey map’.
The annotated detail of the 1876 OS Map of Merthyr Tydfil Town Centre, shows the present day approximate positions of the following: Left to Right –
The College at Merthyr Tydfil
The current pedestrian footbridge
The proposed site of the new Bus Station on Swan Street
The image above showing the weirs on the River Taff is the exact site of the current pedestrian footbridge link form the College at Merthyr Tydfil, to the St Tydfil Shopping Centre.
The Ynysgau Iron Bridge of 1799 is just a few hundred yards upstream from the weirs in the previous image. The Glamorganshire Canal is clearly seen on the left.
The Buildings on Swan Street in the above image – including the large Rectory and the adjacent property called The Hollies, were demolished at some point during the 1960’s to make way for new developments and roads. The Hollies Medical Centre and the Police Station – both built on this site, are now being demolished to make way for the new Bus Station.
The above detail from an OS map of 1919, has been annotated by me to show the positions of the existing pedestrian footbridge (left), the site for the new Bus Station (middle) and the site of the old Merthyr Tydfil Train Station (right). The train Station was built on the site of the current Tesco Store in the centre of town. The original station building was by I.K.Brunel.
I very much like the interconnectivity between the Ironworks – in pink – and the railway tracks and River Taff. The word that keeps coming to mind is ‘Confluence’, – describing the point at which two bodies of water meet. In this case – the dynamic interchange of the man-made and the the natural – albeit controlled – forces of water.
The branching patterns of rail tracks are fluid and respond to the local topography.
The above detail is from the 1920 OS Map above, shows rail lines in cuttings with embankments and raised trackways and crossing points.
This lovely map clearly shows the positions of the Iron Bridge of 1799 & the weir on the River Taff. The pedestrian footbridge of 1970 crosses immediately downstream of the weir linking the College – on the site of the former Ynysfach Iron works, to the St Tydfil Shopping Centre – which was built upon the site of the old Market Square– seen on this map. Swan Street is also clearly marked – a couple of streets below the Market Buildings. This is the site for the new Bus Station. The Old Station was at the top of the map on the site known as Glebeland– originally land belonging to the Church.
These images of Old Merthyr Tydfil come from the website Britain From Above– they really serve to show how dense the footprint of the town was in 1929. This pattern of community within the town centre remained pretty much unchanged until the 1950’s.
This 1885 OS Map of Merthyr Tydfil and surrounding areas is richly – almost decoratively detailed with the patterns of industrial development.
Railways in particular, dominate the landscape with curvilinear arcs branching and dovetailing into one another. The scene at the time must have been frenetic and constantly moving. What the map cannot easily show is the variation in topography and the ways in which the rail tracks were over-sailing one another in cuttings, over bridges and on raised embankments.
The detail above illustrates the complexity of transportation & landscape management and how it interweaves in the landscape. Train Stations and Sidings, various roads and trackways, River Taff, Glamorganshire Canal with towing path, reservoirs, cinder tips, working quarries, disused workings. Sitting tightly in the midst of it all is the dense footprint of the Town Centre.