The Promise - Arnolfini, Bristol

The current exhibition at Arnolfini takes a fascinating look at the relationship between the built environment within a city and it’s residents.

Being a lover of large-scale architectural models, I enjoyed the displays that fill most of Gallery 1 on the ground floor. Here we get to see some historic models of Bristol as it was, plus several for things that were proposed but didn’t happen.

One that completely passed me by at the time was an enormous museum / cultural centre that was seemingly once destined for Castle Park. There are also lots of pieces that relate to the proposed series of elevated walkways, which were intended to lift pedestrians away from the massed ranks of cars, that dash around at ground level. As well as models and drawings, there are some local newspapers of the day, which capture the “vigorous” objections that were flung at those pesky Modernists.

Gallery 2 has some potentially interesting maps showing the density of a wild variety of subjects around the city of Bristol. I feel that if these had been larger (in fairness, they are quite large pieces), they would have been easier to understand.

Gallery 3 has a fascinating 1985 piece by Stephen Willats, which displays the life of residents in a high-rise block in London. It also has a lovely model of the legendary Gane Pavilion that was built for a temporary exhibition at Ashton Court, Bristol in 1936. The architect was Bauhaus student Marcel Bruer working for furniture company P.E. Gane. The exhibition also includes some of great examples of the sort of Modernist furniture that P.E. Gane produced.

On the top floor of Arnolfini, there is a chance to put your own work on the walls of the gallery, if you wish to add your drawing to the charming exhibition guide that Rosie Faragher has produced.

All in all, an excellent way to spend an hour or so for anyone one with an interest in the way a city, and Bristol in particular, develops. The exhibition runs to 9 November 2014 and is free.