Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bill Berrett - Architect, Writer, poet, designer and Coventry Umbrella Club Member

Bill Berrett, born in Birmingham in 1933, was an architect. Town Planner, Writer, poet, book designer and
Bill Berrett
Lecturer and worked  in Coventry for the City of Coventry, Dept of Architecture & Planning. 1955 1961. He was an early member of the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club which was opened in 1955 in Little Park Street by the Goons, who were appearing in Coventry at that time. The Umbrella was largely founded largely by the Coventry Architects department and, looking at Bill's interesting website, he clearly has a substantial interest in the arts and while architecture may be thought of as a technical skill set, looking at his work, there is a great deal of art in his work.

I had just started primary school when the Umbrella Club opened in 1955 and so my knowledge of that period is second hand, so it's good to learn more about some of the fascinating people that were involved during that early period.

Radburn Housing Development
It was interesting too to learn that Bill lived on a Coventry estate based on the ‘Radburn’ housing development designed by Mat Wallace using ‘No-Fines’ construction. That would be Willenhall Wood,_New_Jersey and also here
which built and complete c 1958 / 9 and at that stage in it's history was a beautiful estate and a great place to be brought up. More recent visits show it have decline somewhat - and what a shame. The Radburn design began in Radburn New Jersey in 1929 aimed to incorporate modern planning principles, which were then being introduced into England's Garden Cities, following ideas advocated by urban planners Ebenezer Howard, Sir Patrick Geddes and Clarence Perry. Radburn was explicitly designed to separate traffic by mode, with a pedestrian path system that does not cross any major roads at grade. Radburn introduced the largely residential "superblock" and is credited with incorporating some of the earliest culs-de-sac in the United States. More can be read here

The 'Radburn' design is typified by the backyards of homes facing the street and the fronts of homes facing
each other over common yards. Willenhall Wood was just like that, with the tradesman's entrance at the back and open space with trees and lawn out of the front and french windows at the rear. It was a very aesthetic estate to grow up on. I grew up in Laneside and the front can be seen above.

I grew up on the other side of this picture but the house behind the lady was the home of Drummer Steve Harrison, who frequented the Umbrella Club c 1970 / 71 and played with The Mick Green Blues band and many others, including L'homme de Terre, c 1981, filmed at the Memorial Park in Coventry where Bill did some of his Coventry work.

Bill Berrett tells his own story very well on his own website  - Here

His career spans from Birmingham to Coventry to Milton Keynes and many places in between. in Coventry he worked with Arthur Ling and began work on urban design of central areas at Hertford Street, Bull Yard, Union Street, Unity Way, St John’s and areas affected by the Ring Road then being planned. Also I worked on street furniture for the cross precinct and Shelton Square. I worked ‘across the board’ with Ray Spaxman, and more. It's evident from his site that many of the coventry architects went on to share their influence on so many innovative and prestigious projects around the country, and Bill traces this. the site is full of interesting illustrations of designs and also some his many book illustrations. About 1981, Bill took up a post as senior lecturer at Leeds University and was there during the period I taught for Leeds University on the Creative Writing programme for their Middlesbrough base.

It's well worth a look through Bill's site and here's the one or two illustrations to hopefully lead the way to his website -

Part of his work for Coventry's Memorial Park -
From Bill Berrett's website

An example Bill Berrett's Book design

Writing collection by an Architect and Environment Designer - Bill Berrett - who has worked on Cities, taught in Universities and designed for Poets and Writers. The creative process is similar whatever the medium, words are the current tools. Interest in men's current role in the world.
His book of poetry and other are avaiable on Lulu here  for men at Work - Poems

And for his other books and Lulu profile

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