Redcar Beacon

How should a town in the industrial north accessorize its newly redeveloped sea front? According to those in the know in Redcar, with an 80ft vertical ‘pier’ which looks to be made of dead bits of various decommissioned manufacturing plants.

I’m not selling it, am I? Well, you wouldn’t be the first to be unconvinced. Redcar Beacon (another shortlisted name was Lemon Top Tower, which I think is a million times better, but I just call it the vertical pier anyway) was shortlisted for a national ugly building award (the Carbuncle Cup) earlier this year, but was beaten by a student accommodation building in London.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and hop on the train to Redcar to check it out. Results were…surprising.

When viewed as part of the street furniture, it’s a little bit…well, big. It’s somewhat intrusive and disrupts the sedate bench-pavement-bench-pavement-shelter-pavement-bench rhythm of a Victorian seaside town.

But taken in isolation, close to, it’s got a strange kind of beauty about it.

I’ve developed a bit of a thing recently about black and white photography, more on that here, and also about trying to find beauty in things you wouldn’t expect to be beautiful. Redcar Beacon is most definitely one of those things. The sunlight glints off the metal when it’s summer, and in winter it rises like a lighthouse to proudly mark Redcar out.

Beacon close up

In actual fact the cross hatched areas are purple and yellow, but I wanted to get rid of every distraction and show the pier for its construction, nothing more, which is why I’m also not including any photos of the view from the top to sway the vote.

To me, it is oddly attractive. It makes a clear statement about northern towns and their steel making, chemical working, ship building, undeniably industrial past, even if those jobs no longer exist. It says that we were the people who built the first railway and the Sydney Harbour bridge. We have steel in our bones and we are resilient, but we accept too that now and in the future we must change and adapt and innovate.

Or perhaps I’m romanticising it.

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