Diamond-tipped by Thomas Pearson
This book describes a £19.5m project to repair and upgrade one of Britain’s most daring and provocative buildings, the University of Leicester’s Engineering Building (James Stirling & James Gowan, 1959-63, Grade II*). I was the lead designer for the refurbishment, working for Arup, and was commissioned by the university to write about the process.
In Diamond-tipped I explore the nuances of our conservation approach, the intricacies of the design, and the continuing resonance of the building today. It features my own sketches and photographs along with original Stirling & Gowan drawings and images by Simon Kennedy and Quintin Lake.
“Pride of place in the architectural section of my library.”
— Lord Palumbo
All and some by No Spinoza
2. Green grow’th the holly
3. All and some
4. John Cabot, thought to be lost at sea
5. A new dial
6. Saint Stephen
7. The carnal and the crane
9. My dancing day
Click here for a few introductory notes. All songs traditional, except 4 and 8 written by Thomas Pearson. All arrangements, performance, recording, mixing and production by Thomas Pearson, except acoustic drums on 1 and 5 by John Colgan.
Field recordings taken in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire, except waves and thunder by Mike Koenig and singing robin from BBC Radio 4. Mastering by David Blackman at Hiltongrove, Gallows Green, Essex.
© & ℗ 2016 Thomas Pearson
No Spinoza is Thomas Pearson – a poet, musician, designer and architectural conservationist from the north-east of England, based in York.
His work concerns history, buildings and places.
His writing has been published by the University of Leicester, Block and the Architects’ Journal. Readings have included two solo poetry evenings at Eleven Spitalfields gallery as part of Anthony Eyton RA’s exhibition Drawing on Hawksmoor, discussing Nicholas Hawksmoor’s churches in the context of folk art, James Stirling, and an English sense of nostalgia. He leads tours of the site around the hidden river Walbrook in the City of London, reading a ‘triptych’ of poems in and around three key buildings in the area.
He keeps a photo blog on tumblr called Walls, doors and windows.
See also LinkedIn.
“Addictive… like a shot of opium.”
— Colin Fournier (Professor, Bartlett School of Architecture)
“A nice cut on things… very pleased to have the poem in the magazine.”
— Robert Wilson (Editor, Block)
“It was wonderful… Thomas responded perfectly to the intimate and atmospheric surroundings of the gallery, and we were thrilled to invite him back to hold a second, repeat event.”
— Eleven Spitalfields
“Varied but fascinating experiential pieces. Love how the films match the music.”
“An astonishing collection of musical and visual material.”
— praise for All and some
“A wonderful poetry tour… absolutely fantastic.”
“I really enjoyed it.”
— praise for the Walbrook Triptych walk
Artefacts & Influence
Arup, 8 Fitzroy Street, London
An exhibition co-curated by Thomas Pearson. Twelve historical objects are placed in pairs, ‘in dialogue’, to explore different aspects of heritage practice and philosophy.
The Green Man
The Walbrook, rising, heaving still,
has coated piles of ragstone bones
with sticky sterling-silver silt. Its banks
are lined with network rushes;
ranks of bundled reedy flutes; acanthus,
curling, stiffened. Fat-hen, crowfoot, hemlock,
sharp as Mappin cutlery and square-set,
barred and filtering and purposefully
prising out the layered lime and fortune sediment.
Paying, easing, paying still:
this for Mithras, that for Queen Victoria.
Falstaff, shirt-sleeves folded up – a clash
of pink and orange, angled P&O geometries –
is holding forth, a steaming pin-stripe liner.
He sits beside his funnel, round and bull-flanked,
gravy-greased and gouty. Former glories
in the field have made his reputation;
ribald tales of power lunches, credit and Canary wine
confirm his wit, although the years of talk and speculation
(dubiously cured, hung for taste) have left him
out-of-date and oddly-humoured.
Finance, Harvard-slick and slackened,
wireless and almost waxy,
slurs another wine-glass clean
as Falstaff lolls, all heavy-sacked,
one, the old and lolling lard,
the nineteen-eighties Riot;
one, the other, glimmer grey,
belies their common age
this Finance, slurring glass
and aluminium, aluminum,
will rise and watch and glimmer still
in youth and wirelessly sparkle
ever younger; watch him straighten, shimmer,
face old Falstaff,
and take him by the nostrils.
Fingers rest on the stony vein:
chill calloused, smooth and
shhhhhhhhhhhhhh lad —
Chisel-edge and pick-tip bite
and clash and clatter, cutting-in diagonals
and zig-zag seams. What rhythm!
Hymns and harsh percussion counter dole-down bass
as Durham’s mighty columns meter out,
as regular as winding-work,
their partially-remembered years.
The plastic model which I buy,
which fits that shape, and, painted well,
deceives the eye, is lacking its true weight:
form without the blows that formed it;
form abstracted from the form;
form-hollow, leaking sand.
Liberty comes – loose-tongued,
limber-legged, lithe in black.
She moves to a breakbeat,
smooth against a matted mass of ivy,
writhing, limb through limb,
to find an ear – twisting in
to near-whisper Jack, awake!
Waken tetraplegic Jack, thin Jack.
She plucks a catkin,
scrapes at honeysuckle sap
and senses movement:
a twitch, a splitting bur.
She picks at stems, tender
trilling as she concentrates,
pulling to a tone,
turning sharp to strip
resistance from the gnarliest,
the ancient-most of parts,
pitching up, up, aaaaeeeeeeee
unrestrained, the man is fitting violently,
freed within a storm of flitting foliage,
oh flung so fast as to be lost in substance –
nothing left but hue and tone and howling, hurtling geometry.
As featured on the music video for Angel Wharf by Drew Worthley, on Massive Arms Records.
Drew asked me to contribute a poem to one of the films made for his remarkable album CRUCIBLE. His song Angel Wharf was inspired by a nostalgic night walk down the Thames, which seemed to tie in nicely with my ongoing series of works based around the history of the hidden river Walbrook.
From the ghosts of the Steelyard to the stars over Bermondsey…
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