Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hawling, Gloucestershire


The bends

I love corrugated iron. It’s both strong and light. It’s simple to work with, easy to bend to make gently curving roofs. It’s endlessly adaptable. Visually, it’s a material with light and shade built into it – the ridges create a wonderful texture in the sun, a rich grain because the ridges are never quite perfect, the lines never quite straight. What’s more, corrugated iron can be painted any colour, or it can be galvanized, when it gleams. With these different finishes it can look good in the walls of a barn, a shed, even a church. But corrugated iron is often seen as a low-status material. It’s for sheds and privies and outhouses on the cheap. And so it’s often left uncared-for, and allowed to rust. I’d argue that even then, it can look good. The deep oranges and browns of rusty iron can glow in the sun.

This is a rather extreme example. An iron barn in a field in the Cotswolds that has been left to the vagaries of neglect, wind, rain, and who knows what else. The result is a barn that Salvador Dali might have painted. A melting structure that won’t quite give up the ghost. The barn is next to a narrow lane in the middle of nowhere. Not too many people see it, though I pass it regularly on a back route at the beginning of my journey to London. I guess that some of those who do go past it see it as an eyesore, an example of the junk that farmers leave lying around spoiling the view in fields and yards: old harrows, decaying bits of tractors, oil drums, jerry-built chicken sheds, bendy barns.

But the countryside isn’t all rural idyll. It’s a workplace too, with all the detritus that entails. Some of the junk is useful; some of it looks interesting; some of it has a kind of in-your-face resilience. Often, like this barn, it stays in the same state, defying time, for years on end. All of which, along with the colour of the rust and the craziness of the curves, goes some way to explaining why, against all the odds, this building makes me smile.

16 comments:

Thud said...

whilst visiting the Napa valley looking for a new house I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of houses both new and ols that utilise various forms of wriggly tin!

Adam said...

Interesting points you make, but would you argue then that this type of structure has become a kind of rural sculpture?

My personal fear of this kind of material is that it juts out, it's sharp and it cuts. When you add rust into the equation, I can't help thinking about nasty things like tetanus!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Adam: Yes, I see it as a kind of accidental sculpture. I see what you mean about the danger, but the barn is bigger than it looks in the photograph, and most of the sharp, rusty iron is above head level. And I'd hope - though I know one can't take these things for granted - that everyone with business in that field would have had an anti-tetanus injection.

Peter Ashley said...

I need to put my hand up and say I love it too. Simple answer to getting tetanus off rusty bits- don't shake hands with it.

Roy said...

So nice to read of another corrugated iron fan!
It's long been a subject I've sought out ever since I fell in love with a Walker Evans picture.
My own efforts have yet to equal that one.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Your own efforts are good, Roy, but Walker Evans is in a class of his own, isn't he? He somehow got to the heart of his subjects.

Philip Wilkinson said...

For more pictures of corrugated iron buildings, see two sites, Tin Tabernacles and Corrugated Iron Club, in the links list labelled GENII OF THE PLACE in the right-hand column of this blog.

CMS said...

Aside from all the other comments that others have made, can I just say what a beautiful pic it is? Fabulous!!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you very much. A good sky always helps.

ChrisP said...

It is this sort of sculpture of decay that makes us different from (say) Germany. Not better, because it means we also have litter and fly-tipping which are a lot less artistic, but different.

CF said...

I'm always heartened by the fact that so many tin structures are left to find their own shape and colour. I thought I was the only person to take photos of rusty tin sheds

Jon Dudley said...

A late arrival Philip, but what a stunning photograph. Corrugated iron in all its manifestations has a unique character which you've captured perfectly.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thanks for your comment John. I go past this place a lot, but on the particular day I took the photograph it looked at its best.

Anonymous said...

You do realise in all your artistic genius that your looking at the remains of a burnt down barn! As for the comment of it being an eyesore that farmers leave lying around its a working field not some pompus gallery!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes, as the son of a farm worker, I'm well aware what a working field looks like, thank you. That's why I actually mentioned in my post the fact that the countryside is a workplace.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous' snide comment about artistic genius I think this just shows that you should look at the rest of a blog before you post negative comments. Had anonymous done so s/he would have realised that this a blog which celebrates working buildings and those buildings which others might dismiss. Keep up the good work Phil.