Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A new angle on progress

On my way around the city centre redevelopment site today, in search of new photographic perspectives, I found myself climbing the stairs of the sole remaining multi-storey car park that hasn't been demolished, in Mary-Ann Street. I don't know why I didn't ever think of doing it before, as I soon discovered that it offers a grandstand view of areas I have been photographing regularly since the beginning of the year. If offers a view of the whole site westwards, close to the remains of the 'New' library, and the huge multi-screen cinema that has pagoda-like pretensions with upturned roof edges as if it was beamed in from another continent.

Apart from finding fresh views I ran into the Safety Officer for Cuddys, the demolition contractor, who was up on the roof with his video camera, logging the scene for the firm. He told me with satisfaction that over the past six months there had been only one non-serious accident on this vast, dangerous looking site. He also remarked with pride that the demolition of the car park sited within three metres of the cinema had taken place with only two cracked windows on the neighbouring building as collateral damage. Now that's something I reckon is worthy of pride, looking at the hundreds of photos I've taken of Cuddy's monster machines munching away at steel and concrete. It's a tribute to the skill of their drivers, who truly deserve their 'significant' wages.

I had wondered why the last wall and end section of the Library was still standing when the rest had been taken down without interruption. It turns out that the final stretch overlooks the ramp which serves as a service entrance to the St David's One shopping centre, in use 24 hours a day. The external wall is clad with heavy stone panelling which cannot be allowed to fall and demolish the ramp. So, very careful preparation has to be made to guarantee that when the walls come down they are sure to fall in the opposite direction. Nothing can be left to chance when the impact on business in the main shopping centre is so critical.

One last thing. That tree growing next to the outer east wall of the Tredegar Street car part, which survived through to the levelling of the entire site, offering first its blossom and now its bright green leaves to the delight of all passers by, is doomed. It sits inside the line of walls soon the be built and will have to be removed. It could have been trashed ages ago I guess, but something in the hearts of all those demolition site workers has left it in place as long as possible. Hopefully when it goes it will be lifted out carefully and given a home somewhere else, even if it's in the garden of one of those involved in site clearance.

There is also the last remaining flowering cherry tree on the Hayes, still tucked in at the base of the last remaining stump of Oxford House. Will it stay? Unlikely. But I did learn from my conversation that its roots are contained within a structure that make its removal and its transplantation possible. Let's hope someone responsible at the other side of the site knows this. The rest of the trees on the Hayes were grubbed out unceremoniously and dumped - something which scandalised me when I noticed this in an early photographic foray.

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