May Morn

The house is beautiful – a one-storey building, with a square plan – born at the birth of modernism in the aftermath of the First World War.

It embodies the values of early English modernism, of the Arts and Crafts movement: ‘truth to materials’ and honest craftsmanship.

From the road it looks a little unloved, in need of some care and attention.

Up close it is clearly derelict, almost in ruins.

We enter a room with windows at each end.

Curtains are falling away from the runners.

The fabric has been soaked overnight and is drying in the spring afternoon sunshine.

On the window cill and spilling over onto the floor are piles of old magazines.

The pages are stuck together and disintegrate if you try to pull them apart.

There are some photographs of buildings.

One is particularly damp; the corners are soft, the surface is wrinkled.

It shows a tower block, just completed, empty and pristine, a moss green utopia, the modernist dream dispersing as it soaks up spring rain

I turned one rotten section over to reveal two words painted in fast fragmenting white letters: ‘May Morn’. This, I remembered, was the building’s name plaque, which had been located at the entrance to the plot, framed by brambles, when we first came across the house. …

Morn and mourn are homonyms, one suggests a beginning, the other an ending. Morning begins the day, while mourning – in grieving the loss of something or someone – marks an ending. Due to their deteriorating material states, the Moss Green house, the paper of the photographs, and the painted letters ‘May Morn’, all three point towards their own disintegration – or endings, yet the buildings contained within the photographs are shown at the beginning of their life. What does it mean, now, to turn back and examine these icons of modernism at an early moment – a spring-time – when hope for a better future was not viewed as a naïvely misjudged optimism.

Publication Details: ‘May Morn’, Di Robson and Gareth Evans (eds), The Re-Enchantment: Place and Its Meanings, (an Arts Council of England funded publication) (London: Artevents, 2010). … /towards-re-enchantment-place-and-its-meanings/

(Download PDF)
Other Text-Works