Tuesday, 21 September 2010

I Never Said I Was Deep

I like the world sometimes. A bit of sunshine on my face here, a little rain for the garden there, a lie-in wrapped in daggy flannel sheets, a 95th minute equaliser against Arsenal at home. Tiny things that warm my little cockles. I had another one this week when a man who was helping puppy-proof our yard spotted the Sunderland sticker on display in our car.

Despite being from Zimbabwe he was all too familiar with internecine football politics in the north east of England having lived in Newcastle for a while. We used to live just around the corner from each other. Small world and all that but the thing that made me smile most was that he lived in one of my favourite buildings in the world, Shieldfield House.

It’s hard to explain why I love Shieldfield House so much. As you can see it’s a rather typical and unassuming 1960s tower block, typical of many on Tyneside built in that period. As far as I know it's only claim to fame is the less than prestigious title of second tallest building in Newcastle. I’ve never lived there or even been inside and whilst it’s similar to a block of flats in Hull we used to live in, I’m not so nostalgically romantic about it as to project on other unsuspecting highrises.

Yet there is something that makes Shieldfield House special amongst buildings; it is magic. Magic how, you ask? Look closely at the picture. What do you see? More pertinently, what do you not see? I'll tell you what you won't see - 3D. That is because Shieldfield House is a two dimensional building. Not a reflection on the residents, but a geometrical fact. Shieldfield House has an up and a down, and a side-to-side but it is sadly lacking a front-to-back. In dimensional terms it is deficient to the tune of one. Like those shanty town facades in old western movies, it's easily to believe that a good gust of wind could see the whole thing fall flat on its face.

Now I don’t claim to know the nature of this feat of concrete conjuring, but look again for proof. Even up close and from the side, there is still no... side. Despite the fact that you can sometimes see people going about their lives inside, and even opening their windows, Shieldfield House remains as improbably flat as the Phantom Zone in Superman II.

If you're ever in the area i thoroughly recommend checking out this unlikely architectural phenomenon for yourself. That said, even when visiting it in the flesh it doesn't look any different to these photos, so if you're unlikely to ever take trip up to Shieldfield just take my word for it. As Bucks Fizz once assured us in more innocent pre-Photoshop days, the camera never lies and no amount of James Cameron-style 3D trickery will change that.

Shieldfield House, Mint Custard salutes you. I never said you were deep, but you are profoundly shallow.

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