Today, we can simply log onto Google Earth and, with a few clicks, look at any edifice anywhere in the world. Whilst this is completely commonplace in 2022 – it is, still, a radically new technological development. Luckily, in the 20th century, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983) – a professor of art history, who arrived in Britain as a refugee in the 1930s – was on hand. Between 1951 and 1974, Penguin published Buildings of England, Pevsner’s exhaustively researched 46-volume survey of the architecture, documenting virtually every county in the nation.
The Nottingham guidebook has since been updated, most recently in 2020, when it was republished by Yale University Press. This version commissioned photographer Martine Hamilton Knight, who lives locally and lectures at Nottingham Trent University, to follow in Pevsner’s footsteps, shooting new images. Now more than 90 of these are on display at Lakeside Arts, featuring some of the city’s most familiar landmarks such as Nottingham Castle, Papplewick Pumping Station, the CZWG- designed Maggie’s Centre at Nottingham City Hospital and the two universities, in addition to civic structures. Hamilton Knight says she found herself absorbing “the Pevsner way of seeing.”
Whilst her pictures normally show buildings in use, this time Hamilton Knight deliberately eschewed scenes with humans, signage or cars in the frame, which might fix the shots within a particular historical period. The result is a visual chronicle that retains a certain purity of form, allowing remarkable buildings the visual space to “speak” for themselves through the images.
Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham | Until 28 August
1. Experian Data Centre – Sheppard Robson (2003) Photo ©Martine Hamilton Knight.