Jaws at Newcastle City Library Click on thumbnail to enlarge image, view caption and use slideshow options. To return to this page click on the image background I took a lot of photographs as the Basil Spence designed Newcastle City Library was demolished in 2007. Although viewpoints were restricted it was possible to work quite close to the machines and that made it an interesting assignment. An earlier gallery contained a more broadly based image set but this one concentrates on the powerful jaws of the machines and how they operated on the structure of the building as it was taken apart.In earlier days I spent time studying in the original library dating, I think, from around 1878. Its façade faced New Bridge Street and at its eastern end connected at right angles to the Laing Art Gallery of 1904. Entry was by stone steps protected by a classically columned portico centrally placed. The building’s style was less refined than in slightly older buildings nearby.The first half of the nineteenth century saw extensive development in the city centre, often led by Richard Grainger as planner and designed by a number of architects including John and Benjamin Green, Thomas Oliver and John Dobson. The last is perhaps the better known and his original classically inspired designs for the Central Station were a great achievement.I remember the Library’s grand, lofty and softly lit reading room furnished with large wooden tables and heavy chairs. The lofty book stacks lining the wall were of cast iron and fitted with narrow walk ways reached by spiral stairs. I think that other storage rooms lay behind out of reach of readers. A completed request card brought books to the desk for collection from the librarians.Like many British cities in the mid- twentieth century a long accumulation of soot pollution had blackened the once honey coloured sandstone buildings in Newcastle. It was a time when ‘modernisation’ was in vogue and the City lost a number of fine buildings that today would have been completely restored or at least retained their street facades to front new structures.The architectural worth of the building may have been debatable but as a functional library it was considered outdated. Sir Basil Spence created designs for its replacement sited alongside and completed in 1968. The windows in his elongated box form lay behind a vertical concrete rib brise soleil. Exposed concrete and pebble-faced cast slabs were the principal structural materials.The 1878 building was demolished to be replaced by a dual carriageway as part of a radical city centre road building scheme. It was strange that the new road was named after John Dobson, a man who had contributed so much fine local architecture. The rear wall of the Laing Art Gallery still displays the raw brickwork exposed by that demolition.In due time the relatively young Spence building was found wanting and a replacement was commissioned for completion in 2009. The Ryder Architecture designed six-storey structure is spacious, extensively glazed and the antithesis of the squat concrete form of its predecessor. The composer Charles Avison was born in Newcastle in 1709 and the new building carries his name.Uncertain as to how to approach the subject, an early thought to construct a sequence of images recording the progressive destruction of the building was soon discarded. I adopted this approach when recording the demolition contained in THE GET CARTER CAR PARK gallery. The library and that multi-storey car park shared period and the use of reinforced concrete as an almost exclusive construction material.During demolition, the street alongside the library remained open to traffic and the opposite pavement and garden walls backing the Laing Art Gallery provided a very close viewpoint. A contemporary concrete deck above the street and across the end of the building offered other vantage points.This proximity to very powerful and destructive machines held its own excitement. The speed at which the work progressed and the knowledge and skills shown by the crew added significant interest. The mechanical scale is set by the juxtaposition of the large cutting jaws and the man in Image 07 in the sequence.At this demolition the cutting machine jib was very much shorter than that fitted for use at the Car Park. The operator’s ability to lock the jaws at a precise point on the structure to cut through the heavy steel reinforced concrete was impressive, even more so at the taller structure.A low staccato rattle of sound was created as the concrete shattered under the extreme pressure. The cut pieces fell free, slid slowly down or remained attached by a strand or two of steel before final severance. The machine’s neck and head were like a scavenging bird probing the ribbed carcass of a dead creature.Another with a different head worked on the floor to crush the concrete to remove the metal contained within. Another picked through and sorted the metal and other materials from the concrete that was then moved to its own mound by bulldozer. Sometimes their activities seemed independent, sometimes creatively choreographed into a close working relationship.That same choreography occasionally stopped one, or more, or all, of the machine at which one became more aware of sounds from beyond the site. At day’s end they stood in silence, heads down, seemingly to rest through the night to await reactivationA related theme of interest to me is industrial and architectural abandonment and decay recorded in the STEETLEY MAGNESITE WORKS gallery.Why make a series of such closely related images? In this instance I selected the images from a larger collection made over a period of time. With some current projects I am doing this deliberately in perhaps one session, intending that they be viewed in groups or combined into a single image rather than individually.JAWS seemed an appropriate title given the prominence of the machine heads in the compositions.