Architectural interests in Chester

If a visitor to England was looking for examples of how old and new structures can coexist within a thriving modern city, Chester would have to come high up on their list of places to travel to.

Situated in the North West of England, in the county of Cheshire, Chester stands out for the ways in which it shows off its heritage. There is so much of interest naturally on display and many of the city’s sights could be easily spotted on a leisurely stroll about town.

The melange of buildings and structures which make Cheshire such an intriguing destination fall broadly in to four categories: historical sites, preserved but working buildings, buildings constructed to fit in or around a particular architectural style and the shock of the new.

Landmarks and historical sites

The place known as Chester today was founded by the occupying Roman forces as a fort called ‘Deva Victrix’ in around 69 A.D. Indeed, it is Chester’s Roman heritage which makes it such a tourist attraction today. People flock to see the Chester City Walls which still form an imposing circumference.

The wall provides examples of a number of construction techniques, from the use of humble turf and earth by the enterprising Romans, to the later use of sandstone, followed by stone, and finally the more modern engineering materials used during major repair work on a collapsed section (completed in 2010).

A visit to Chester would also not be complete without taking in the Amphitheatre remains. The amphitheatre area, despite only structural traces remaining, still conveys the Roman preoccupation with elegant curvature, creating a distinctive sense of space.

Preserved areas still in use today

Chester sports some remarkable areas which combine preserved buildings with contemporary uses. The Rows is a classic example of this. A thriving cluster of streets, packed with attractive shops and places to eat, the Rows contain two-storey buildings, which traditionally encompassed trading with the public on the ground floors and living quarters on the upper floors. The Rows offers a structural contrast with the Roman curvature displayed in the Walls and the Amphitheatre, evoking the straight lines and dense, angular shapes of Tudor architecture.

Buildings designed to fit in with city traditions

Chester also has its share of structures built to reflect a certain style. For example, Mock Tudor is a popular style prevalent in both commercial and private properties. The distinctive black-and-white livery is a hallmark of this Mock Tudor style, and even the McDonalds fast food restaurant on Northgate Street has a black and white sign replacing the usual red and yellow.

Striking out afresh

Finally, there is a growing number of contemporary buildings which look more to the future than the past, whilst still respecting Chester’s heritage. Perhaps the most striking is the new HQ building, built on what was once the Cheshire Police headquarters site. An imposing glass-fronted curving structure, the building will be, amongst other things, the new home of Chester Council, as well as offering hotel and restaurant facilities.

Posted by Adam Lloyd
October 10, 2013
Features

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