Richard Brine: Defensive Structures in the British Landscape AA Bar 28/2/2015 - 27/3/2015
Exhibitions are open Monday to Friday 10:00-19:00, Saturday 10:00-15:00.
Our countryside and coastline are populated with an enigmatic and eccentric collection of buildings that are now nearly 75 years old. Partly forgotten and often ignored, the defensive structures built across Britain in 1940 and 1941 represent and record an extraordinary achievement. In the space of just a short number of months thousands of these buildings were constructed in an attempt to prepare for the very real threat of invasion.
A Directorate of Fortifications and Works drew up a range of designs that could be built quickly and easily around the country. These designs were ingenious and functional, but also possessed a sculptural sensibility. The fact that thousands survive points to the robustness of their construction yet there was also a degree of localism and amateurism to these buildings, with characters shaped by local materials and the abilities of local soldiers, labourers and volunteers to turn the designs into hard reality.
These small, obscure buildings are poignant reminders of the complexities of identity and national character, now in increasing vulnerability after many years of service. Nature is doing her best to reclaim these buildings, juxtaposing their concrete shells with swallowing sand and choking undergrowth. They serve, then, as metaphors of both victory and gradual decline at one and the same time.
Richard Brine has not sought to simply catalogue or document these buildings out of a sense of historical duty but to concentrate on their particular resonance within a specific local context. Whether on the Norfolk coast or the Oxfordshire countryside, the images record individual stories that bring together aspects of architecture, planning and local endeavour.
Text by Dominic Bradbury