Guest answer by Ruth Moss (@smashpoetry).
When Stuart asked me to write a guest post on the subject of my favourite building I was stumped.
If he’d asked me about my favourite place, it would have been different. Ravenhead Greenway in St. Helens where I used to walk the dogs I used to have. Greenwich Park in London, where I’d go on early morning walks to shake off hangovers and comedowns, back in the early noughties. Abercromby Square in Liverpool, where I’d sit and read DH Lawrence novels, wearing a polo neck and drinking wine from a plastic cup. A farmer’s field in Newton-le-Willows where I once spent an afternoon with a pretty girl and a suitcase. The underneath of the stairs up to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral where I once spent part of a night out with a handsome young man and … well, I’ll leave that there.
However, the question was about my favourite building, and not my favourite place.
I’m not especially well-travelled, and on the odd occasion I’ve been further than the UK I’ve been more interested in going on long walks and assessing the local landscape; when I’ve been indoors it’s been more for the content of the place (art galleries, museums, libraries) than the building itself.
I’m just not a building person; the only places I really enjoy spending long periods of time indoors are my house, and the houses of people with whom I enjoy spending time. It’s not that I’m unimpressed by great architecture; it’s just that I can’t fall in love with it in the way I can with the great outdoors.
However, I didn’t want to let Stuart down. At first, I thought that perhaps my own house is my favourite building; a simple two-bedroom mid-terrace in St Helens, but decorated throughout with vibrant matching colour pallets with bright bunting, various unusual car-boot finds and generally made to look cheerful and quirky without overstepping the line into tacky. I have, as one might say, made it my own; me and my son spend quite a bit of time there so it has to be a gorgeous place to live.
High ceilings, a faux-marble fireplace, steep stairs and a rickety old landing combine to make it architecturally interesting, if not high art. But as for it being my favourite building? I wasn’t sure. It felt like cheating.
It was only when I was on twitter, reading my stream, and saw a tweet from someone I follow, that I realised I do indeed have a favourite building. I’d forgotten about it, primarily because I don’t really think of it as a building as such; I’d categorise it more as a place, but still, it has walls, and foundations; bricks and mortar; it’s fairly old, too, and architecturally very interesting.
It doesn’t, however, have a roof.
It did once.
The tweet I saw was from @BombedOutChurch and was about something Urban Strawberry Lunch was putting on there.
My favourite building is St. Luke’s Church in Liverpool. It sits at the place where Bold Street turns into Hardman Street. Once a fully-functioning church, it’s now used by musicians, artists, CND campaigners, Yoga teachers, local characters and anyone in need of a bit of solace. Often, walking up Bold Street, music can be heard coming from inside the church drawing in interested passers-by.
Bombed in the Liverpool Blitz on 5th May 1941, St. Luke’s suffered heavy damage; its roof entirely demolished but its walls and steeple miraculously left standing. Trees and plants now grow inside the church; strawberries and buddleja adorn brickwork and seats made of haystacks nestle in the grass for weary tourists or locals.
If I was a religious person, I’d imagine this as the perfect place to commune with God; a man-made building but a carpet of grass and a roof of sky; a perfect meeting of humans and creation. I’m not particularly religious, but it does seem to me at least serendipitous that enough of the church survived to turn it into what it is today; a calm, serene meeting place where people can come together with many differing ideas and share them in an atmosphere of peace, serenity and covered by a ceiling of clouds.
For me, too, it’s my perfect building. Not only is it beautiful (of course churches are beautiful; they were meant to impress peasants, like I would have been back then) but the inside is the outdoors.
You can find further information on the bombing of Liverpool here, further information on St. Luke’s Church here, Urban Strawberry Lunch’s website is here and twitter feed is here.