“Do not be afraid of white paper…”

Yesterday morning we wandered for three hours in Leeds discovering, sketching and “getting lost” (not joking, some of us really got lost!). It was a kind of treasure hunt!
We had just an old map of Leeds, a pen and our sketchbook, to go and follow the “warps and wefts” of the city to find out what of the old history still exist, the big changes that occurred.

Starting from the Leeds Bridge, with some cool people, we explored the city and discover the traces of the old textile manufacture, that I’ve been studying in these months, and I even discover some new details!
It’s the drawing effect: by using pen and paper you not only represent what you see, you learn to, and you can communicate quickly and simply your thoughts to someone else.

So thanks to Vale and Flora that suggested us this new way of seeing and to the all people that have come!


Plan for Leeds

John Cossins’ sketch. Quite hard call it just sketch. It’s the “New and exact plan of the town of Leeds”, 1726. It’s one of the oldest printed map in Britain, probably the first on Leeds, and according to Dr Kavin Grady we’re very lucky to have the original one because only one has ever existed.

I was in the Holy Trinity Church, some days ago, attending to a free lecture from Mr Grady (the director of Leeds Civic Trust) from the cycle “Leeds in your lunch time”… just 30minutes talks about the old city compared to the modern one. I was really surprised seeing the church completely crowded. I didn’t expected that these themes can raise so much interest.

Anyway, it’s a very detailed map, amazing for that time, and Cossins designed it after studies and measurements using a particular tool called Gunter’s chain and a plane table to sketch the plan following the right alignment of streets and buildings. So it’s very precise. You can se the rectangular shape of the fields, always with the same proportion of 22yards for 220 yards, because 22yards was the basic unit of the Gunter’s chain and Cossins reported it precisely on its map. In this way he designed long and narrow fields (as they actually were), representing the pattern of medieval agriculture.

But it’s also a celebration of the prosperity of Leeds, look at the description: “Leedes is a large, rich and populous town […] is particularly famous for its Great Manufacture of Cloth where here is every Tuesday and Saturday several thousand Pounds worth of Bread Cloath bought on Briggate in a few hours time..”


Deeper into the..cradle

Morning walk into the “cradle of Industrial Revolution” for some pictures, videos and spectrophotometer testing.

Once again astonished by the mix of old and new, by the conversion of old industrial buildings and the efforts to relaunch the area.

History has not been hidden, it’s been reinvented.
These places are able to tell stories and together to look to their future questioning:
What could we be tomorrow?


Wind @ tower works

Wind. Water. Ground.

Sometimes a simple look around it’s what we need to understand what it was and why. I’ll try to explain.

1. Wind. Leeds enjoy a moderate climate, it has strong winds flowing  from the west, heavy showers and basically no snow. This because it stand in the foothills of Pennines.

2. Water. We’ve already talked about the River Aire, it enters the city from west, together with winds, and going to south-east it loses both depth and speed due to the land changes. But during its journey a lot of pure streams (or beck as the Vikings called them) join it. One of these was the Hol Beck, does it remember anything?

3. Ground. The point is that the particular composition of the soil makes the streams water soft and lime-free.  Morever the the mixed layer the ground is composed of provided naturally filtered water, very useful when the streams and rivers became too polluted to use.

These geographical features provided the Leeds wollen industry with soft, clean water for the washing ans scouring of the cloth. Later the streams to the west make the mills wheel move.


“Obsessed as we have been in Leeds with mimicking the success of other ‘great’ northern cities, we seem to have lost our way in ensuring that the city develops in keeping with its unique geography, culture ans architecture, and it is this which perhaps defines our current dilemma.


Can we transcend the ‘meaningful cities shopping list approach’ and concentrate  instead on ensuring that Leeds develops in its own unique way?”

Jonathan Morgan, “City Living: is Leeds really missing out?”


Meeting with professor M.A. Hann

Euclide using compasses in "Scuola di Atene" by Raffaello

Euclide using compasses in “Scuola di Atene” by Raffaello

Some weeks ago, following Steve’s suggestion we met professor M. A. Hann, teacher at University of Leeds and director of ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive). He was pleased to hear from us, also because he has deep interest in Leeds’ History and since our first meeting he gave us some materials and he invited us to his lectures.

He told us that his researches have brought him around the world (except Italy, where he’s like to come) especially t the far East (China, Korea, Japan…). He studies patterns, structure and their relationship with culture. He’s also deeply interested in mathematics and how numbers series is related to pattern and module in architecture and design. But,it’s better to go in order. He has two different courses here at the University, linked one to each other.

The first is Patterns and Culture. In those lecture Prof Hann go through paleolithic art, caves’ paintings, Mesopotamian evidences to find similar structures, pattern, use of symmetry trying to understand their meaning in those cultures and how they spread in the world and why. In relationship with trades, religion, route of communication and people migration. The aim is to give a framework to examine arts and to understand the way of cultural diffusion and the discover the innate capability of innovation of different communities.

The second one, named “Design theory 2” is for older students, and it’s about universal principles governing structures, forms and performances in design and architecture. He kept saying that it could sound a lot about mathematics and boring things but, actually, symmetry and basics geometry is the starting point of every pattern. So he went through many existing pattern in building, and old paintings trying to answer the same questions:

How they can be rationalized?
How the space is divided?

We will discuss both two and three-dimensional stuff, try to individuate equilateral triangles, squares, hexagons an the rules that organize them: symmetry, rotation, repetition.. And that why he started his lesson showing us the Scuola di Atene, by Raffaello, whit Euclide drowning with a compasses. The key is to find a rule in the complexity, the regular basis on which a particular element is repeated.. Thus you’ll discover that from minimum inventory you’ll get maximum diversity.

I’ve linked prof. Hann’s books to the course names for any further information.

Lazy light and star stickers

Wall stickers

Sometimes the colors’ world can be a kind of cryptic. A lot of numbers, measurements, acronyms tightly bind with discoveries, conventions and physics.

Today we went to visit Steve again, to have a little explanation about how to use the spectrophotometer he lent us but as usually, that became an occasion for a little colors lesson. Of course he taught how to make the zero calibration (3 times toward an open space light) and the white calibration of the instrument and then he passed to explain the meaning of the display’s numbers. D56 refers to the daylight. While, for example, the letter “A” stands for an artificial source of light such as tungsten.

Furthermore: CIE 1931, 2° refers to an experiment the misure the vision angle of people looking to a coin they handle, so at an arm-distance. While the convention CIE 1946, 10° refers to the same experiment but with a bigger coin, so the vision angle is wider.

Then, some other acronyms: if do a measure SCI you’re including the specular light, if it’s SCE you want to exclude it (it’s particularly important for glossy surfaces).

He made also al lot of charts trying talking about amount of reflective lights vs the incident light and at [dunno how] we end talking about phosphorescent and fluorescent material. Basically is a question of time. Fascinating how color can be relating with every sort of aspects! Easily speaking, when the light arrive to an object, this object suddenly reflects just a specific wavelength’s range, that is the colour we can see; and the non-reflected amount of light is converted in other energy: heat. But. Not every surface reflect the wavelength immediately, some delay can occur and, moreover, the late reflection can have a wavelength that is different from the initial one.

So, it’s the lazy, latecomer light that makes the stars stickers on my room ceiling bright at night.


Riboud’s experience

“I love towns, they’re like friends to me. When I haven’t seen them for some time, I miss them ad I want to see them again to find out if they’ve changed.”

Mark Riboud

And that’s exactly what he did. In a inspiring way.

The young Marc Riboud, following Robert Capa’s suggestion, first met Leeds in 1954, to makes pictures of it for the Picture Post. At that time, the magazine were publishing a series of pictures entitled “The best and the worst of English cities” an Leeds was the only town that left. 50 years after, in 2004, Marc Riboud, now a famous Magnun photographer, came back to Leeds to re-photograph it. So they became a book and a exhibition.
But it found difficult to duplicate his earlier photograph.
The city’s been growing and changing. And now, after only 10 years since his last visit, what could he find?
But nowadays anyone has a camera. The knowledge is share and spread.

What if anyone could try this experience? And hunt for those “lasting moments”?