I seem to sort the buildings in Bristol into the following categories: old, ugly-old, new, and ‘that looks nice’. A master of nuance, I am not.
I commute alongside many others spewing from the south of the city into the centre; we are a mass of people funnelled together by the roads, buildings and water. It’s only been in the last few weeks – since being asked to write this post, and subsequently realising how little I know about architecture - that I’ve really considered this.
Having walked the same route daily for over six months now I feel pretty confident I’m going to make it to work every morning – it doesn’t really change. The only variables are the amount of slow travellers and the tight-lipped suits desperately trying to overtake them. However, every few months we find our path literally disappears before us.
It’s only happened a few times in the four years that I’ve lived in Bristol. Momentarily, there is devastation: children cry, adults become agitated and there is a collective sense of anger. Eventually, we’re allowed to continue on our journey at which point the crowds surge ahead with some people running and bikes becoming entangled with limbs. I am, of course, talking about The Old Junction Lock Swing Bridge between Mshed and Arnolfini.
I’ve got a bit of a thing for bridges - I once wrote an entire article for Rife magazine about my love for the graffiti-ridden bridge down by the Create Centre. Regardless, the swing bridge that my commute relies upon is a strange beast. It’s not much to look at, nor is it something that tourists will go back home screaming about. Most people using it probably don’t even consider there’s a significant amount of water right beneath their feet, and why should they?
When I have been unfortunate and arrived just as the bridge is – you guessed it – swinging round to let a stupid boat into the harbour, it’s been a strange experience that emphasises the necessity of infrastructure (I hope that came across as if I know what infrastructure means.) There is a fragility exposed when you have to stop and wait for something so big and important to move back into position before you can move on. It isn’t cumbersome in the slightest, it’s actually quite nifty, just like the dude manipulating the controls – though I’d work quickly too if I had a large crowd of people starting to push at the barriers like a scene from World War Z.
I didn’t intend to write this post entirely about a bridge. I wanted to talk about how I feel like I belong to a city that I didn’t grow up in, how at 24 I’m not sure if I still count as a ‘young person’ and then I wanted to conclude by saying that it doesn’t matter what a city’s architecture looks like, it’s about what the people inside the buildings are doing. Instead, I just wrote about a bridge and its impact on my daily life.