Thursday, 6 September 2012
The Wool Exchange, Bradford
This is the outside of the Wool Exchange, the building that houses Waterstone's Bookshop in Bradford (see yesterday's post). It occupies a triangular site, so it is narrow at this end, embellished by the ornate tower that is reminiscent of Flemish Cloth Halls. The other end is much wider. You might just be able to see the modern plate glass window (on the right of the photo) that has been inserted into one side and provides a welcoming entrance into the bookshop, as well as flooding the inside with light. It's a tricky building to photograph; hemmed in by other buildings, you really need a proper tilt-shift lens - but a bit of convergence in the verticals merely serves to emphasise the soaring, fanciful design. It's like something out of a fairy story.
Indeed, seen from the viewpoint of Bradford in 2012, the prosperity denoted by this fine building might just as well be a fairytale. According to a recent article in our local paper, Bradford's decline in economic and social terms since the beginning of the 20th century has been the second sharpest of any city in Britain*. Its wealth was built on just one product, wool, and when that trade declined, so did the city. And, as the article says: "The bigger you are, the harder you fall." Incidentally, the article is worth a quick look if only for the photo that illustrates it, which shows wool traders on the floor of the Wool Exchange in the 1960s.
* The worst decline has been in Hastings.