…or recapture the past?
Spent yesterday in the quirky, pastel-shaded oddity which is Portmeirion. Visionary and architect Clough Williams Ellis bought the unloved site with its tumbledown waterfront hotel in 1925 . After restoring the hotel, he spent the next fifty years lovingly creating a mock Italianate town, cascading down the steep promontory to the water’s edge. It is undeniably pretty, with its gaily painted buildings, salvaged porticos from much older buildings and clever trompe l’oeil paintings wherever you look. Through it all, right on into his 90s, Ellis was driven by the desire to:
Cherish the past
Adorn the present
Build for the future
There is no doubting his vision, energy or creativity.However, I was left wondering whether you really can cherish the past by adorning the present in yesterday’s guise. Underneath all the prettiness the visitor to Portmerion is left with a taint of the faux. The buildings, solid though they are, feel a bit like a two-dimensional movie set which might wobble if you leant on them too hard.
For me, the two windows below summarise the dilemma. In the first the perfect blue sky and the delicate tracery of the trees is framed in the window. In the second, an artificial reflection of the Welsh Hills and the sparkling water is painted onto the concrete wall to look like a window. Which would you rather have?