December 2019

Now you see it, now you don’t… DEREK JONES would like to see more of the Ruthin Craft Centre I would not like what I have written below to be interpreted as an endorsement of Sheffield City Council’s recent policy (now withdrawn) to cut down two hundred trees in residential areas. That was indeed a philistine idea, rightly resisted by many, not only in Sheffield itself, but across the country, following hostile press coverage. The trees have been saved. I am writing instead about the trees which surround two sides of the Ruthin Craft Centre. Winter has arrived and, for a precious few months, passers by can enjoy, without interruption, a fine example of modern architecture—quirky, unusual, the very opposite of the monotonous box-like sheds which cover industrial estates all over the country. All too soon, of course, the trees will be in leaf again, and much of the outside of the Craft Centre will be hidden from view. Like most people, I look forward to spring, summer, and indeed autumn for their changing atmospheres, colours—and warmth! So, if now, I suggest some radical pruning of the Craft Centre trees, (especially those facing the roundabout), that does not mean that I want the whole lot to be cut down, simply that they should be reduced so that we can see the shape of the Craft Centre outside, just as we can inside. I grant that it is opposite Tesco, which, if very useful and used, is hardly a paragon of beauty! It was a great pity that the design was let through, not least because it has made it much more difficult to appreciate the contours of the Craft Centre roof. People may remember that the Craft Centre architects, Sergison Bates, designed it to reflect the up and down shape of the Clwydians. I concede that this is a bit of a stretch, but you can, if you look carefully above Tesco, discern the lines of Foel Fenlli. So, as things stand, you have, during the rest of the year, to work hard to see the Craft Centre roof. Almost certainly, you need to walk, stand at a distance, and take it in, especially when the trees are in full leaf. You need also to do that to appreciate the genius of roofing at the Craft Centre with zinc, rather than conventional tiles; close up and at a distance, it is a fine example of plasticity, covering a building whose exhibits often rewards us with flights of the imagination. I entitled a recent piece for September’s Town and Around ‘It’s the inside that counts’ and nothing I have written here is meant to imply that this also needs to be said about the Craft Centre courtyard. I am merely flying the flag for those who see the outside, either hurrying along the by-pass, and getting in and out of the Tesco car park. I want them, of course, to take a look inside, but I also want them to see—really see—the outside of this prize-winning piece of architecture. A branch or two less of the trees would make that a little more possible. Now we can see it, but, within a few months, then we can’t!
Archive from 2013 Historic Interest