Tuesday 16 November 2010

Urban Beauty

When our new John Lewis opened a couple of years ago, the design chosen for the exterior glass was based on a filigree pattern used by the Leicester knitting industries of a previous generation

liecester highcross john lewis

It is good to hear that a photograph of sunlight through this glass was shortlisted for a prize organised by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment [CABE]

highcross sunlight

The photographer, Barry Gaffney, said

“The image has occurred as a result of light passing onto the pavement through the motif windows at John Lewis, Leicester. I think this image shows that urban beauty can just occur and can come and go in the same way natural beauty can. Urban beauty often occurs in those brief instants where man-made and natural elements come together and create something magical.”

Some of the other shortlisted entries combined natural and man-made elements

Cherry blossom at the roadside [NW London]

belsize lane nw london

Footprints in the snow [Leeds]

clarence dock leeds

Grass growing through the surface of an outdoor playground [Wyke Regis, Dorset]

wyke regis

In case you are wondering, the winning entry for the competition was this night time shot of a car park in Bristol

bristol car park

In awarding The Galleries by Christopher Hoare the first prize, the judges praised the powerful atmosphere of the picture

“You have that wonderful blast of colour from the ethereal Ferris wheel, contrasted with the cheap metal of the door panel and the surprise of the church tower. Just like urban beauty itself, this is about strong juxtapositions, and you can read it on many levels.”

The CABE website has a flicker slide show of all the 750+ entries. There were some brilliant photos– I would not have wanted the responsibility of judging this competition. People so often write off cities as ugly concrete landscapes, and modern buildings as ‘monstrous carbuncles’ but it is good to see beauty in the most unlikely settings.

Have you seen any ‘urban beauty’ today?


  1. I haven't been outside today- I think I virtually caught your cold! But am feeling much better after these pictures!

  2. Interestingly I saw this slideshow on the BBC news site yesterday and was pleased to find a photo taken in John Lewis. Even before I read the caption I thought 'I know that pattern' and I have only seen it a couple of times since it was completed.


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