14/04/13

AACHEN (Braun & Hogenberg, 1572)

This image is an impressive bird’s eye engraving view of one of the most important urban centers of Germany. It was made in the 16th century, more exactly in the in the year 1572, by the geographers Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg and published in the atlas Civitates Orbis Terrarum. This book is one of the most important works from the early days of modern cartography and topographical illustration. This impressive production, issued in six volumes from 1572 to 1617, was the first modern atlas and collects more than 500 engravings and descriptions of European cities that allow us to know how they were in the 16th and 17th century.

The imperial city of Aachen lies between the Rhine and the Meuse on the border of the Duchy of Jülich and it has become very famous because there took place important coronations of emperors of the Holy Roman Empire; it was also famous because it was the burial place of Charlemagne. The city of Aachen was a Celtic settlement until the Roman conquest. The Romans used it as a place to retreat and heal the legionaries, probably because of the good location of the city and they took advantage of its hot springs. The Romans name this city Aquisgran after the god granum which was credited of healing qualities. Later on Charlemagne installed here his government office. He constructed a palace (where the present city hall is located) and the Palatine Chapel (the current cathedral). From those places, the city grew in the following centuries giving us the complex conglomeration of different architectural styles that we see now a day.

Regarding the morphology of the city we can see that it presents a radio-centric plane. The radio-centric shape is formed around the catedral, the former Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel. The city is characterized by ring roads avenues and streets. The streets converge into the center in a radial or radio-centric way.  The downtown area is divided into rings and also presents a rural atmosphere because it includes many elements from the countryside. The houses are located in the center of the city with different paths and streets forming a network; small plots are next to the village and crop fields around then. As the majority of medieval cities they built a city wall around Aquisgran. The expansion of the city would continue and would require a more extensive second wall.

The city of Aquisgran was also characterized by the spacious streets and squares. It was surrounded by cultivated land which was use for its own supplies and for external trade of the city. Unfortunately this city was badly damaged during the World War Two because it was attacked by land and air by the U.S. army. It was the first German city to be conquered by the army. There are still few structures of that time but nowdays it looks more like a modern city.

Paloma Bueno
 

12/04/13

DUBLIN (Marisa Ramos Ochoa, 2003)

The painting we are going to analyze is an oil canvas that represents the city of Dublin in 2003. Concretely, the canvas shows a part of the Liffey River with two bridges (Ha’penny Bridge and Grattan Bridge) and its surrounding area. It was painted by Marisa Ramos Ochoa which lived in Dublin for two years. In her blog, she expresses her love for this city.

Returning to the image, we can see how Marisa Ramos Ochoa is using a chromatic variety of blue and green tones to paint this oil canvas. Because of the lines and the colors, this is a neoexpressionist painting. This movement was born in Germany in the 80’s and it extends all over Europe and USA. At the top of the image, we can observe some important buildings of the city like the Four Court and the Guinness Storehouse. The Liffey River with the Ha’penny Bridge and the Grattan Bridge is the focal point of the canvas. This is because, since the city was founded, the river has an important role because of commercial reasons. On the right side, there are some houses that correspond with the North zone.

Although the historical centre of the city cannot be seen in the image, it is situated on the left side near the Wood Quay. The author of the painting has underlined the big variety of trees and green spaces that the city has. In the image, we can see it in Ormond Quay Lower at the right, some trees in Wood Quay and near the Grattan Bridge.

Dublin is situated in the mouth of the Liffey River in Ireland and it is the capital of this country since the Middle Ages. It was founded by the Vikings because of commercial and military reasons. Due to the population growth of the city (nowadays in Dublin around 1 million people live), we can deduce that the antique and close to the river area shows an irregular plan with narrow streets and without an order, while in the periphery neighborhoods, there are long streets, avenues and a lot of green spaces.

In Dublin, people usually live around the historical quarter, so the city is a nucleated settlement. There are not very high buildings and this is one of the most important characteristics of the city. The majority of the houses in the city centre are built in a Georgian style, which belongs to the Neoclassic Architecture. These houses are made out of wood or stone, they have a hipped roof and the main gate has a high lintel.

The river divides the city in two parts: the North part, associated with the working class; and the South part, related with the Middle and High class. The separation of the river is not only geographical. Moreover this division influences the architecture and the way of live. In addition, in the North zone, some of the places of touristic attractions are situated around O’Connell Street which is the most important street of this part of the city. In the South zone, we can find most of the touristic attractions of the city like the Guinness Storehouse, the Trinity College or the Temple Bar neighborhood. In this edge of the river the historic centre of the city is situated and because of this the houses are more ancient.

According to the Chamber of Deputies of Ireland, the country has a little economy and the principal economical activities are trade and industry. Ireland is an exporting country, but nowadays the interior consume has increased. Since Dublin was created, it has an important role because it is the motor of the country because of its location.

Paula Luque García
 

12/04/13

ALBACETE (19th Century)

This image from the web of tourism of Castilla-La Mancha, shows a plaza called La Sartén. It is a drawing of the plaza that was made on the 19th century. The square is located between Calle de la Feria, Avenida los Toreros and Calle Benavente. The image is anonymous.

The origins of the city of Albacete are uncertain. We know about an old castle from the times when the Muslims where on the peninsula, but we do not know if there was a city there. We know that they called the area “Al- Basit” which means “The plain”. Albacete is situated on a crossroad that links Andalucía, Levante and the center of the Plateau. So it may have been an important transit area. In 1805, the creation of the Maria Cristina’s Royal Channel was started. It was made to turn the city into a healthier place. In 1833, the province of Albacete was created, the city of Albacete was its capital and it had territories of the Reign of Murcia, Cuenca and other provinces of La Mancha. During the Civil War (1936- 39) Albacete was the International Brigades’ headquarters and after the war it increased its urban development and step by step it came to be the city that it is right now.

The principal element of the image is the plaza, it was built in 1783 and its architect was Josef Ximenez. At the beginning, the enclosure was only the inner circle and the entrance building. In 1784 it was finished and the architect who finished it was Antonio Cuesta. The square has been rebuilt a couple of times. In 1912 the template of the central circle was built. In 1944 a third circle was added, plus the exhibition hall and two pavilions at the entrance building. Finally in 1794 the Puerta de Hierros, at
the entrance, was rebuilt and it was turned into a new and taller door made of white bricks. On the image we cannot see the rest of the city but nowadays there is a lot of buildings around the plaza and they are organized on a regular layout. Probably it is an “ensanche” that was built upon old buildings.

La Sartén was an important meeting place due to Albacete’s fair. The fair was a big social and economic event, a stockbreeding fair that was held there during 10 days and attracted merchants and people from other regions. At the beginning it was held on San Andres’s day ( 28th  of November). Then it changed to San Agustín’s day (30th of August). Finally it changed again and was held on September the 8th along with the Virgin’s pilgrimage.

Cristina Balibrea Pérez

 

11/04/13

VENICE (H. A. Chatelain, 1718)


This work of art belongs to The Phyllis Lucas Gallery Old Print Center in the city of New York. It represents the entire city of Venice, situated in the northeast of Italy in the Adriatic Sea, between the mouths of the rivers Po and Piave. It represents the city around the year  1718. It was painted by Henry-Abraham Chatelain, a famous map cartographer from the 18th century. The name of the painting is “Cartu du Plan de Venise”. It does not focus on a specific element of the city; it shows all the different parts of Venice.

The image portrays with many details the structure of Venice, a city surrounded by lagoons, marshes and different isles. Furthermore, the painting tries to represent the maritime activity of the city with the different boats painted in the water. Venice is composed by one hundred and eighteen islands connected by four hundred and fifty five bridges and there are over two hundred castles through the Grand Canal. Venice is divided in different parts: the main island crossed by the Grand Canal or Canalazzo and the different isles surrounding the main island. In the image we can appreciate the urban layout of the city and the morphology of its main island. The main transport in Venice is the nacelle, a little boat used to navigate through the Grand Canal and between the different islands. The streets are organized in neighborhoods, and there are different waterways across the city called Rii.

Venice is separated in six different neighbordoods: Cananreggio in the north, S. Elena and Castello in the east, San Marcos in the center, Santo Polo e Santa Croce and Dorsoduro in the west and Guidecca in the south. Regarding the main elements of the city we have the Bridge of Rialto, which was the first bridge to cross the Grand Canal and the Bridge of the Constitution, also called the Ponte dei Suspiri that joins the Palazzo Ducal with State Prisons (Piombi). We also see the Plaza of San Marcos situated on the south in the San Marcos neighborhood, which contains the Basilica of San Marcos built in the year 823, the Campanile (that awarded the arrival of ships to the city or the fires), the Palazzo Ducal built in the XI century and the Clock Tower. An important element of the city is the Grand Canal, already mentioned earlier, with three thousand eight hundred meters long, from thirty to seventy meters wide and five meters deep. It is called the Canalazzo. We can also highlight the Basilica de Santa María della Salute built in the year 1687, close to the Grand Canal in the Dorsoduro neighborhood. In total Venice has over fifty churches.

Marc Biarnés González
 

10/04/13

VENICE (Canaletto, 18th Century)

This work of art is part of the Corsini Gallery in Rome, Italy. It was painted by Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, in 1735. This painting is characteristic of the Vetusta style which is a very detailed painting method, usually of urban spaces or some other views. This style was developed over the 16th century and it had an important influence in Venetian painters. As we can see, the painter centered his attention in the different buildings, trying to represent the morphology of the city in detail. This city has an irregular plan because it does not have any system of organization. The streets have been built between the channels, so there are many alleyways and dead-ends. Further, we can say that this is the most important historical part of the city.

The name of Venice derives from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century and it is situated in the northeast of the country. It is the capital of Veneto region and it has a population of almost 272.000 inhabitants. We can consider it as an urban space because it is the social an economic center for surrounding villages. Nowadays this is a popular tourist destination, also the financial and commercial center, however it is not the industrial one, because factories are situated outside the city.

This painting portrays the Rialto Bridge as the main item, and the Gran Canal of Venice. This bridge is the oldest of the four that cross the Gran Canal of Venice and it was built in 1181. It is directly related to the Rialto Market (hence its name), that developed, both as a retail and as a wholesale market. On the sides of the bridge we can find two rows of shops. There were luxury stores, city tax offices and banks, so as we can see, the image represented daily activities.

The Gran Canal is the most important channel in the city. The buildings sourronded the Canal does not have sidewalks, that is people use the Canal as a means of transport. We can appreciate in the image, how people are using the gondolas like a transport. It is 4 km long, 30-90 m wide, with an average depth of five meters.

Regarding the buildings we can remark two of them. Firstly, we can see in the image, a part of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which was built as the German Merchants’ office and warehouse, in the 13th century by Gerolamo Tedesco. This building was destroyed in a fire so it was rebuilt in the 16th century by Giorgio Spavento. We can see that it is situated behind the bridge. The other important building is the Dolfin-Manin Palace and, in the image, we can find it at the right side of the channel. It was built in the 16th century for Juan Dolfin and his family who were dedicated to the political and ecclesiastic life. The structure of the palace has a clear Renaissance style although it has had later modifications.

Finally, we can see on the right side of the picture a tower which belongs to the Church of San Bartolomeo, in Venice. It was originally dedicated to Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki and founded in 830. In 1179 it became a church of the German community. The bell tower, that we can see in the image, was built in 1747-1754 based on designs of Giovanni Scalfarotto.

In addition, the urban space seems like a good neighborhood where whealthy people lived with possibilities and it is situated in the center of the city. The predominant style of the buildings is Renaissance but we can find also influences of the Baroque and the Neoclassicism styles.

Ana Rus Bellvis Santos
 

10/04/13

LONDON (Stephen Wiltshire, 2008)

This work of art belongs to the collection of Stephen Wiltshire. It represents two famous landmarks, The Big Ben and The London Eye, among other monuments. This painting is from 2008, as the date is written on the picture, “23-July-2008”. The painter is a British architect who has been diagnosed with autism; his signature is at the bottom right corner. He is well known for his ability to draw landscapes from memory after having seen them just once. He founded his own permanent art gallery in London’s Royal Opera Arcade, which is full of drawings and paintings depicting detailed city environments.

This drawing portrays the city of London with a great amount of details, near the two banks of the river. The south bank was occupied by suburbs dedicated to activities pursued by the law, such as gambling, prostitution or the theater. For many centuries, there was only one bridge that crossed the river and connected both parts of the city, formed by the City and Westminster. The most important monument in the surroundings is ‘The Big Ben’, a building that was completed on the 31st May 1859 as part of Charles Barry’s design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by a fire. Although Barry was the chief architect of the Palace, Augustus Pugin designed the Clock Tower. On the other hand, the London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, was finished in 1999 and opened to the public in March, 2000. Its construction was funded by British Airways. There are also other representative monuments in London such as Westminster Abbey and the palace of Westminster. In his painting you can see the central plan of London, which is considered to be the urban core, the heart of the city.

The urban layout is orthogonal, because London was constructed around the river Thames, and it still maintains its medieval limits. The new streets were planned in a regular way, directed towards the river Thames. However, the layout of the city was still irregular, especially in some neighborhoods where the route clashed with fixing barriers. In 1666, due to the great fire that destroyed four fifths of the city, London was reconstructed taking into account urban needs, and thanks to the work of the architect Christopher Wren the city was embellished. From this year onwards, the city became the center of English social life as it contained buildings like palaces, churches, monuments, theaters, and museums. With the exception of some important monuments, the buildings were homogenized in height. The industrialization was very important, since London became the largest urban agglomeration in the world at that time, and they built new bridges, expanding the industrial peripheries.

London is one of the main business centers in the world, as well as the former capital of the British Empire, which is one of the biggest global markets, similar to other markets like in New York, Tokyo or Paris. In this city, another important activity is tourism. The industry, the financial sector and the ports sustain the daily life of London. Over the years the industrial sector has declined and tourism has increased. The most important function of Trafalgar Square is tourism, due to the presence of historical monuments such as the National Gallery and Nelson’s Column, as well as having numerous embassies nearby.

Alicia de Miguel Utrera

10/04/13

EDINBURGH (AK Johnston, 1852)

This image is an engraving which is included in the book ‘Old & New Edinburgh’ 1890, which deals with the history of the Scottish city of Edinburgh. It is a lithograph of AK Johnston issued in 1852 that represents a section of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. AK Johnston (1844-1879) was a young and dedicated geographer who studied in the Edinburgh Institution and Grange House School. Johnston, at the beginning, was superintendent of the drawing but in 1868 he was chosen a life member of the Royal Geographical Society. In June 1869 he was assigned to be in charge of the geographical department of the London branch of Messrs. W. & AK Johnston business. In 1878 he was appointed leader of the expedition of the Royal Geographical Society.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland (UK), located on the shores of the River Forth and the East coast of Scotland; it is also the headquarters of the Scottish Government. Something that  should be noted about Edinburgh is that the Old Town and New Town were awarded World Heritage by UNESCO in 1995. Edinburgh has 477.660 inhabitants but when its famous international festival is celebrated, this number is doubled. Edinburg was one of the most important centers of education and culture during the Enlightenment thanks to the University of Edinburgh. As I said before, Edinburgh is divided in two parts: the Old Town and the New Town.

The Old Town (as it is shown in the picture) has the same medieval structure and a lot of buildings from the protestant reform. In that place of the city we can highlight some squares, St. Giles Cathedral, the university of Edinburgh, museums and various subterranean streets… but one of the most important buildings of the city is its Castle ,which is located at the top of the hill that is communicated by the High Street. This Old Town was the first city of houses and apartments located on a high relief.

The New Town appeared as an answer to the overpopulation of the Old one in the 18th   Century. There was a contest to design the new map of the city in 1766. Finally, James Craig, who was a young architect, was the winner. He made an orthogonal planning in which its main streets would be Princes Street, which is nowadays an important shopping place, and Queen Street.

This image belongs to a section of the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a succession of streets that communicate the Castle of Edinburgh to Holyroodhouse Palace. This avenue is divided in four parts or places: Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate. We can appreciate two of the parts in the image: Lawnmarket and High Street. The bottom of the picture corresponds to Lawnmarket, which is a part of the Royal Mile designed for trade. Lawnmarket was originally on High Street and it was a place where they sold thread, cloth, and linen wear. This zone was also called Inland Merchandise and the merchants put their stalls and tents to sell their fabrics in the sides and in the middle of the street. Lawnmarket is situated at the bottom of the picture. As I said before, the image presents a medieval structure, and we can appreciate, in the bottom of the picture, different commercial activities. Finally we can highlight some people in this part of the picture; it seems that they are carrying out the commercial activities of the time.

High Street is the main issue of this graving. This is the avenue that goes from the Castle to the Palace. In this street (in the picture) we have to highlight Old Tolbooth (the old municipal prison) and St Giles Cathedral. Old Tolbooth was a prison where executions and tortures were something common in that era.  The North Berwick witches trials were brought here and the prisoners sometimes wore iron collars for chaining up offenders in public view. The prison was demolished in 1817 because it made the High Street very narrow and promoted an unhygienic environment. Instead, in its place, a heart shape formed by paving stones was put on the floor marking the entrance of the old building. This heart is known as the Heart of Midlothian (the title of the graving). Another important building is St Giles Cathedral that is shown in the image.

St Giles Cathedral is the main place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. It was a very important religious place during the last 900 years. Today it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism that is focused in St Giles, the patron of the city. In 1877 the Cathedral was divided into three different churches, one of them was the Thistle Chapel which was built in 1911 at the South-East corner of the church, that presents great and extraordinary details.

Laura Cabrera Sanz

10/04/13

NEW YORK (Richard Estes, 1980)

This image is a photorealistic picture in oil on canvas by Richard Estes (1980). It is an almost seven-foot-wide panoramic of an intersection in Greenwich Village. The painting is facing North on Seventh Avenue South on a bright, clear day. We can see the location of a jazz club, the Village Vanguard, and parked cars. Regarding traffic, usually the street is full of cars, trucks, buses, and taxis but in the painting there is no traffic. The painter forces us to focus on the buildings, which are presented with a photographical detail. For example, the two-story building on the island reminds us of the prow of a ship. This is a type of realist painting called Photorealism which content is based on photographs or a photographic way of seeing the city. This style started in the USA in the late 1960’s.

As we said before, this picture portraits Waverly Place that is in Greenwich Village, a part of New York. The urban layout of New York is grid plan where in the picture we can see two big Avenues and this is because the city of New York is structured by big wide and long Avenues. The difference between the urban layout of Greenwich  Village and New York is that In New York there are skyscrapers because it is the center of the city, but Greenwich Village is in the surrounding of the center because it started as a residential area.

Greenwich village was a farmland and the village grew rapidly because many people came from Manhattan due to epidemics. Nowadays Greenwich Village is a large residential area on the West side of Manhattan in New York. New Yorkers did not consider  Greenwich Village as a city; for them anywhere that was on the West of the East Village was simply “The Village”. In the early eighteenth century, this area was a village neighboring Dutch settlers in New York, another “village” and hence the name. However with the Northward expansion of the city it ended up annexing to Manhattan. The neighborhood is surrounded by Broadway to the East, the Hudson River to the West, Houston Street to the South and 14th Street to the North. The Greenwich Village Historic District has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since June 19, 1979.

Originally the district was created in 1712. In 1822, the yellow fever epidemic in New York caused the residents to move to Greenwich Village looking for fresh air. During the Revolutionary Period, General George Washington had his headquarters in The Village. Later, Vice President John Adams placed his residence there. In the 19th century, a new street plan was established. But The Village, where winding streets already existed, was left untouched.

Regarding buildings, in the picture we can see many places related with social activities, where people passed their free time, for example, the “Rattlestick” theatre , the Village Vanguard (a jazz club), St John´s in the Village Church. The main building of the picture, that looks like the prow of a ship, was completed by  the local artisan Bayard John Tucker in 1831 and a third floor was added in 1854. We can notice a slight change in the color and layout of the bricks above the second floor. In 1831 it became a dispensary for poor people. The most famous patient was Edgar Allen Poe, who was treated for a head cold in 1837. In 1960 it became a dental clinic (it was in this time when Richard Estes painted this picture). In 1986 they refused to treat a patient who was HIV-positive; the clinic was sued for that reason and since 1997 it has been a shelter for people with disabilities.

 Another interesting building is St John’s in the Village Church: This is an Episcopal Church; its roots can be traced to the congregation of St. Jude’s Free Episcopal Church, which was located in what is now the Waverly Theatre until 1853. In addition, Greenwich Village attracted writers and intellectuals since its beginnings. By 1910 there was a combination of literary talent, independent thinkers interested in social reform, and “bohemian” artists in the area.

Carmen Gutiérrez Cabrera

10/04/13

LE MONT SAINT MICHEL (Richard Harpum, 2011)

This painting belongs to a collection painted by an English man called Richard Harpum. His style is realistic and his paintings are mainly painted with acrylics on canvas or board. Particularly, this one is an acrylic painting on canvas and it shows the Mont Saint Michel which is located on a rocky tidal island of the North-Western coast of France, near Arvanches.

This landscape had just been painted after sunset when the floodlights have been switched on. It portrays in the foreground the Mont Saint-Michel, where you can find mainly The Abbey surrounded by a little village and protected by the fortifications, laying on the English Channel.

At the bottom, the nearest mass of water bordering their banks is known as The Bay of Saint Michel which is rich in seafood, shell fish and crustaceans. Concerning this landscape, it is curious to note that the tides are the highest in Europe; there is up to a 15 meters difference between low and high water. These phenomena are accentuated (spring tides and neap tides) because of the rock being in the back of The Bay; during neap tides, the sea doesn’t reach the Mount. But on the other hand, the sea reaches the Mount during spring tides after 4 hours and 30 minutes from the start of the rising tide. As a remarkable fact, from a high water height of 12.20 metres, The Bay is covered, but whatever the height of the water, you can always access it on foot because the sea wall is never submerged. The highest tides take place after full and new moons.

In the top of the mountain we can see The Abbey which was built as a tiny church thanks to Aubert’s effort, Bishop of Avranches, who consecrated it due to the request of the Archangel Michel «chief of the celestial militia» on the 16th October 709.

Then, in 966 the Duke of Normandy requested that a community of Benedictines settled there, in the pre-Romanesque church. Its Gothic section was made gradually in the 13th century by Philip Augustus, King of France. Throughout the history, a housing area grew around The Abbey where nowadays you can find some museums, gardens (located behind The Abbey) and people living there. Due to its medieval origin, the structure of this area is not regular, that is why its streets are irregular and narrow.

In the left margin of the painting, we can see a big path which connects The Abbey with the French continent. Across these paths, called «Paths to paradise», nearly one thousand men, women and children arrived there during the Middle Ages, hoping for the assurance of eternity given by the Archangel of judgement «Peseur des âmes» (weighing of souls).

Interestingly, because of that, it was one of the most important places of pilgrimage for the Medieval occident and it was the religious centre for the Medieval occident. In the image we can appreciate this fact on the golden bronze statue which represents the eponymous Saint Michel defeating the dragon. We should mention that it is located 170m above the sea level and it was made by Emmanuel Fremiet during the first restorations at the end of the 19th century.

In addition, we can distinguish the Chapel of Saint-Aubert that it is also represented at the left, next to the «Paths to Paradise». It was built in the 15th century and it is said that it is the place where a rock, previously immovable, was pushed by a child who was hold by Saint-Aubert when they worked in the first construction of the sanctuary in the year 708.

In the 14th century, due to the Hundred Years War, it was necessary to protect The Abbey behind military constructions and later, in 1421, it broke down and it was replaced by the Gothic Flamboyant chancel. Then, in the 19th century it was turned into a prison during the French Revolution and Empire and it was necessary to restore it again. Few years later, in the year 1966, with the celebration of monastic’s 1000th anniversary, a religious community went back to recover the original vocation.

To conclude, we want to highlight that nowadays we can find friars and sisters from “Les Fraternités Monastiques de Jerusalem” since the year 2001. Furthermore, Mont Saint-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is a touristic place that attracts more than 3 million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular tourist sites with its beautiful landscape.

Click here to visit this wonderful place in a virtual way:
http://www.lemontsaintmichel.info/es/monte-san-miguel/visita-virtual
Click here to go into a blog and see this painting with more details:
http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mont-saint-michel-soir-richard-harpum.html
 
María Gismero Señorán

10/04/13

BRISTOL (19th century)

The image is a painting of College Green, Bristol. It is taken out of a website related to old photos of Bristol. Although the author is unknown, it is known that the picture was taken at the end of the 19th century, between 1890 and 1900. This city is situated in the South-West of England, at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Frame. Its name comes from “bridgetown”, the city of the bridge. However, its evolution has been linked to the harbour of Bristol. In the mid-18th century it became the second most populous city after London; but due to the growth of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham at the end of 1780, Bristol lost this position. As for the streets of this city, it is possible to say that they are very varied; we can find a combination of Georgian, Victorian, medieval and contemporary buildings. Another thing to add on this city is its morphology; the centre of Bristol has an irregular plan, whereas the suburbs, where we can differentiate between low class, medium class and high class, have a linear plan. In the centre of the city we can find the central business district, here we can find some shops and offices.

The picture portrays the historical monuments and the social activities during the 19th century. It consists of a representation of an urban view, where we look at College Green, which is a green square in the Centre of the city. It is said that it has been frequently used for entertainments and events including the popular College Green fairs of the 1970s. However, it currently serves as a meeting place for the Bristolian people and tourists. This place is between the Council House (recently renamed City Hall), the Cathedral and a busy road leading to the Centre. Apart from that, the statue of Queen Victoria is also located in College Green, as we can see in the picture, as well as the Bristol Central Library.

As for the Cathedral we can say that the Eastern end of it, especially in the Choir, has a unique place in the development of British and European Architecture. The Nave, Choir and Aisles are all the same height, creating the appearance of a large hall. This Cathedral is a good example of a “Hall Church” in England and one of the best anywhere in the world. We can see that The City Hall is situated opposite to the Cathedral and at the foot of Park Street. The concrete frame is clad with very wide thin bricks with Portland stone dressings and a lead hipped roof in a Neo-Georgian style. The roof is steep and high, with gilded unicorns in the corners of the end blocks. This building was opened by the Queen in 1956.

Nowadays we realize that Bristol was an important harbour city for trading with the South of England. During the 18th century they were leaving from its wharfs boats towards Africa loaded with manufactured products that they were changing for slaves. The decadence of its commercial importance coincided with the paralysis of the relationship with France and with the abolition of slavery. Due to this, Bristol had to look for other sources of development to continue with its economic wealth. It turned into an industrial modern city with an increasing trade based on the aeronautical sector of the world of the mass media and the technological industry. In conclusion, Bristol is a city especially destined for free time and for business.

Belén Ríos López