The Blackpool Museum Project team have been sharing their experiences and favourite things about Blackpool. Susan O’Connor, Project Manager for the Princes’s Regeneration Trust talks about the incredible buildings that make up the architectural landscape of Blackpool.
Awe Inspiring Buildings
My take on Blackpool is very much about the buildings: as an architectural historian I am fascinated by the huge variation in style and aspiration of the buildings here. Cheek by jowl with the awe-inspiring Blackpool Tower, Winter Gardens and Pleasure Beach are rows of red brick terraced houses where the sand-grown and blow-ins live side by side.
Lack of Pretence
What I enjoy so much about this contrast is the lack of pretence: no one is claiming that the gilded glory of glitter balls and sequins is evidence of massive wealth. Blackpool is the product of the people who live two streets back from the shore, proudly running the show from a two-up-two-down off Park Road or Central Drive.
Maybe it’s that strength of personality that has encouraged Blackpool to build such a range of buildings; A Queen Anne-style town hall across from an Indian pagoda seaside pavilion, or Moorish dance hall beside a Renaissance ballroom. Or perhaps the drive to be different comes from the seaside attractions, where 20 foot skulls and cartoon characters climbing lamp standards compete for visitors’ attention. They set a precedent that dares the designer to push the envelope further than any other town would ever contemplate: Blackpool is no place for the architectural shrinking violet. The polished concrete and chrome that murmurs modern sophistication in other towns looks unfinished here.
Creating the Museum
That’s why creating Blackpool’s first museum in the beautiful nineteenth century interior of the Winter Gardens’ Pavilion Theatre is such a tricky proposition. On the one hand, we want to be respectful of the magical, light-filled space we have been given. On the other, we need to continue that tradition of glamour and boldness: that will to make everything as shiny, bright and in your face as possible.
We don’t want people whispering around our exhibits. We want them to laugh loudly, exclaim in amazement, blow raspberries, do a little dance. Our museum should be as different from a traditional museum as the Tower is to a terrace. That is our challenge, and the challenge that faces our architects and interpretive designers, and it is a thrilling one.