I’m back in Brighton

No posts in August! Thought I’d update you on my life situation since I’ve not posted for five weeks. And that’s a long time for me not to write anything for the public, it seems.

It’s September 4th, Sunday, and on Friday the 2nd I had my first day on the PGCE course I enrolled in back in July. I realised that I really wanted to go back and live in Brighton, at least for another year, so I withdrew from the York course and reapplied to universities near Brighton (Brighton, Sussex, and Portsmouth). Because Sussex had already interviewed me all the way back in January, after a short phone conversation they offered me the place again, unconditionally. So, of course, I took it up!

What followed was filling out a bunch of questionnaires and forms, like, the DBS check, health check, and, best of all, I had to pass a GCSE Maths equivalency test because I never took GCSEs. So I did that on my penultimate weekend in Edinburgh and got results really quickly, three days later. I got 98% which amounted to a grade 7, which was good enough. At last, the final requirement was passed!

So exactly a week ago I arrived back in Brighton – I took the train from Edinburgh Waverley down to Brighton, through London King’s Cross/St Pancras – and moved into my new headquarters, which is absolutely lovely. I’m telling you, it’s lovely. There’s a wonderful garden and a deck and a cat and it’s cosy and my room is spacious and I have a plant and my room overlooks the garden and it’s quiet here but super close to a main shopping street and the cinema. I actually went to the cinema yesterday with an old friend from Sixth Form, we saw the independent Iranian film Hit the Road. (What do you think the son had done?)

Tomorrow is my first day of the three-week course induction where we learn the basics of… well, the basics of what we need to know before we start our school placements. And in three weeks I start my school placement number one. (We have two placements throughout the year). It’s a one-year-long course and dude, I’m stoked.

By the way, in three and a half months this blog will be five years old. Five! That’s more than a newborn. Five’s not a long time but I’m glad I’ve managed to keep something like this going for this amount of time. It’s fun and I like it, and I’m thankful to you all for reading and subscribing to kotersey.

Anyway, that’s the update from me. Greetings from Brighton and if you’re ever in the area, give me a heads up and we’ll get iced flat whites together.

Oh, I almost totally forgot. About a month ago I watched Outer Banks for the first time and I’m rewatching it now for the fourth time. Let me know who your favourite character is, because we all know who the best character is (it’s JJ).

Brighton beach, eastern side of the Palace Pier, last Friday night. I went for an evening swim in the sea and it was everything I ever wanted xxxx
Falmer House, one of the first buildings you see when you visit the University of Sussex campus in Falmer near Brighton. Shot taken on September 2nd, too! Right before my first class.

Graduation cards – 4 variations

Let a girl dream and she will make graduation greeting cards, because she herself has not had a graduation ceremony yet.

I graduated with a First Class degree in Geography last year, July 2021, from the University of Edinburgh. Because I’ve been in Edinburgh for just over a month now, and I happened to be on campus a few times – visiting the library as an alumna and making use of the (much richer than at the University of Brighton) book collection (I mean, fair enough, UoE is like 409 years older than UoB) – I also happened to completely accidentally and involuntarily have witnessed graduation ceremonies of a bunch of people that probably both started and finished their studies after me. Ngl, I hate being last in line (mostly owing that to the fact that my boarding school cafeteria would sometimes run out of veggie food before all veggies received their portions), so this was kind of frustrating.

So I made some greeting cards in Canva, and here are the four variations of the same card. Judge all you want, it’s not peak Polish graphic design, I only run this WordPress because I like to write and I get bored sometimes. I know 131 people are subscribed to this blog, but guys, blogging is a journey, they said. You know what I mean.

If you graduated during/after the coronavirus pandemic, when was your graduation ceremony? Or are you still waiting for it, like me?

The case of Hillfort House [Brighton]

With this post, I introduce a new post category to my blog: housing!

It started with the ad [picture 1]

I check my email and see this ad at the top of my inbox. (Thanks, Gmail). It’s adorable – nice colours, fancy font, and a catchy heading – “Up to 6 weeks’ rent on us”. Who wouldn’t want that? Especially in the summer, when your choices are either stay in your university city and spend more than you can afford on rent, or stay rent-free (but not drama-free) with your parents? Plus, they make a good point that so much happens in Brighton over the summer. (Whether those things are things you like is a separate question, unmentioned). So I look into what Student Roost has on offer for people like me (that is, university students – yes, still) this summer.

What’s on offer [picture 2]

Right, I wasn’t looking specifically at that summer promotion. I don’t need accommodation this summer (though I’m moving back down to Brighton in late August, so come see me then), but I am fascinated by the topic of student housing, or what most like to call it – student accommodation.

Actually, what does accommodation mean? My quick Google search says that in British English, so I guess the one relevant here since we’re talking about the UK, accommodation means “a room, group of rooms, or building in which someone may live or stay”. In North American English, though, Google says it means “temporary lodgings, sometimes also including board”. When I encounter the word “accommodation” in the British context, it usually appears to mean the North American version, though – temporary lodgings, specifically for students. Think: the subpage “student accommodation” on every university’s website. It also appears in company names (iQ Student Accommodation, iqstudentaccommodation.com) and their self-descriptions: e.g. Unite Students describe themselves as “the leading provider of student accommodation in the UK”.

But why is student accommodation so temporary?

The answer seems simple – because students are only here for the academic year; they need rooms, not houses or flats; and they’re whimsical. They’re like products you want to attract and then shift elsewhere once they stop being profitable, because they’re disruptive, rowdy, antisocial, etc.

There are only two questions I want to ask:

(1) Why is student accommodation so expensive? and

(2) Why aren’t other types of housing like student accommodation? (excluding the price, forget the price for now – just the system and the kind of rooms and services that are on offer).

Why can’t an employer provide accommodation for its workers [anymore, if you are from a formerly socialist country]? Why can’t we rent rooms from companies instead of from private landlords who may or may not like you, cause you problems (e.g. by being nosy, rude, or restricting your freedoms), provide substandard accommodation, and their number is neither large enough nor reliable? Why has housing became such an issue? There’s more than enough space to go round, and it is a basic human necessity to have shelter. Why is this basic human right still problematic?

Booking process [picture 3]

I wish finding and booking accommodation was as easy as it seems when you look at the booking page of Student Roost. You select when you need the accommodation for; your preferred location; choose add-ons (great for flexibility! for example, what if you could have unlimited laundry done for you? cooked breakfast every day at the cafeteria? linen and specific furniture provided?); and then just provide your payment details and you’re set. Imagine how amazing moving house would be then! No worries, just excitement and the peace of knowing that you have somewhere to live, somewhere that’s not gonna surprise you… at least not in a negative way.

I love this vision, as long as prices are kept low, so that the most ordinary person can afford them. Not high so that only the kids of the rich elites from around the world can live there.

Another update [16/7/2022]

Summer has been going by fast, that’s for sure. It’s already mid-July and I’ve got about a month and a half to finish the final draft of my dissertation (not that I have any drafts at the moment! It’s a work in progress) but there’s been some key changes in my personal life lately so I thought I’d throw them out there, just for accountability’s sake and all.

I changed my mind re where I want to be next year. I enrolled in a PGCE course at the University of Sussex, so in short, I’ll be studying how to be a teacher in Brighton starting in September. And I’m very much happy. I like my life at the moment and I like where I’m going, and I feel pretty confident and the only thing that I want to get done properly now is my dissertation. So wish me all the mental clarity that’s needed to do proper work on that so that eventually I’ve got 15,000 words I’m proud of.

That’s it. But please, do let me know what you think about pavilions on Philadelphia Boulevard because I’m starving for other people’s opinions on that topic. Read about them in this post.

Edit: I forgot to add that today I went swimming in the sea for the first time this summer. I think this was my first time ever swimming in the North Sea, and I found it extremely salty. Probably even saltier than the Irish Sea, though I could be wrong on that. I just don’t remember the Irish Sea being this salty… Portobello water is painfully salty! Anyway, it was fun. But salty. But fun.

[Torun, PL] Pavilions on Philadelphia Boulevard

This is a rushed article so not edited; bear with me though, it expresses most of what I needed to say.

Lately, meaning especially in late June when construction started, an important topic in the local news in my hometown, Torun (a 200,000-resident city in northern Poland, located along the main river in the country, Vistula River) has been the topic of the pavilions on Philadelphia Boulevard.

My opinion is:

  • Potentially very negative because although it is in theory outside of the protected area of the Old and New Town complex of Torun, which has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the pavilions could negatively impact the famous Torun panorama and the view of the Old Town from the road bridge that connects the main train station with the city centre and from the south bank of the river.
  • Cool for maybe putting more life into the Boulevard, especially in the winter when the restaurant/bar barges (hehe, put not intended, but let’s call them barges from now on) are not operating. Also, who knows, if it’s an exceptional piece of contemporary architecture then I’m down. Of course, as long as it does not impact the UNESCO World Heritage Site status (we’ve held it for quarter of a century; it’d be senseless to give it up so easily now!).
    But for a while now I’ve been of the opinion that what the Boulevard needs is more trees or some other cover to provide shade in the summer, because summers get really hot and sunny, and because the Boulevard is almost entirely exposed to the sun, it is basically a frying pan in the summer. It’s scorching. Really.

Imagine there were stalls with local art; maybe some information area with displays about the environmental and cultural history of this part of the Vistula River (like a Blue Humanities approach?); or something other that strengthens the sense of place and local identity, and makes the area attractive to locals as well as visitors.

As far as I know, there was no/little archeologist supervision during preparing the grounds for construction. And this is really bad because the area has been a human settlement since , and acted as an important port since the medieval times.

Some photographs from the construction process can be found in this article from Tylko Torun, embedded below:

What is your opinion on the pavilions?

Edit: So I did some talking and thinking about this topic today and I figured out that I probably would like the pavilions if they were very short and had green roofs. I wouldn’t like them, though, if they are to be in the form they are already… which is pretty tall (i.e. with high ceilings) and it seems that they have a viewing terrace on their roof, which I think is completely stupid and pointless and a green roof would be a much better solution. Much better. Seriously. It’s 2022, it’s time for a green roof on a public building in Torun. Also, the building is just too big, along with all the railings on the top and its own height. Scale it down and make it green and simple. It’s that simple. Who even hired those guys for this project?

Quick update 30/6/22

I’ve not written for ages, and I’ve got some very good excuses. Most of May I tried to spend every single moment getting my uni assignments done. My last deadline was 31st May, so May felt pretty busy. Besides, I started kind of seeing someone in May, so aside from uni work I was seeing them, too. Then on 30th May I started a Level 2 diploma course which was in-person, based near Preston Park in Brighton. It was intense – it run from 10 till 5 (I know, I know, it’s not even 8 hours per day, but we were learning stuff!! and sitting in an office building without AC all day, so it felt way longer than 7 hours), Monday through Friday (with exceptions, like the Jubilee weekend, when we only had class Monday-Wednesday), for three weeks. I was done with it on 16th June, which left me over one full week to prepare for moving out of Brighton. This included sorting through my stuff (I disposed of a lot, of course) and packing it up, and I ended up having a few neat packages… at least relatively neat. I had my full-size suitcase, a full tote bag, a full backpack (which is broken, by the way, so I need to get a new one), and a guitar case with my guitar and a bunch of clothes inside it. It wasn’t easy to move it all on my own, but surprisingly, it was manageable. Thankfully I had friends who helped me take it (1) on the stretch between Churchill Square Pret and Brighton train station and (2) from Waverley Station to the flat I’m currently living in. (Thank you so much again, C and G).

Leaving Brighton wasn’t too great, but overall I’m feeling good about this summer. Right now I’m leaving right by the beach with two cute dogs and an old uni friend of mine (who’ll be leaving next week, which is the reason why I’m here – to take care of the dogs while the friend is gone). I spend my days mostly working on my dissertation, walking around, strolling on the beach, and reading Hillbilly’s Elegy. It’s a pretty good lifestyle, if you ask me. Though I miss the busyness of my life of the previous few weeks – working at Shabitat, and going to my course at that office building (I love a busy routine like that), and exploring Brighton’s coffee shops while I could (Waterstone’s cafe on the third floor is actually very nice… though I might be biased, as it’s right next to the architecture & design books section). Now I’m limited to exploring Portobello which isn’t that huge, but sometimes I like to be somewhere more remote so that I can focus on a few select things rather than have my mind all over the place… that is, unless I overdid my caffeine. Then it’s rush rush rush either way.

Anyway, good to check in on here, words are coming to my brain like crazy and this morning I had to catch up on my diary writing anyway. I had not written in my (paper, private) diary for over a month between May and late June, for a bunch of reasons. I better stop writing now or this post will get too long. Next time I hope to finish one of my 100 drafts and finally post it on here. Hope y’all are doing well!

PS: If you want to see the silly website I made during my Level 2 diploma course, the link is here: https://12torun26.wixsite.com/kotersey-cc

My London

NB to start with: I don’t live and have never lived in London.

‘My London’ is the idea of London as it exists in my mind – the prevalent idea that allows me to like and not hate it – and the parts of London that I like to visit in London, the parts of London I visit London for, and the parts that make me feel like it could be my home (though it isn’t and there’s of course much more to this city than those parts I like). Needless to say, but said anyway.

London is particularly pleasant at this time of year – late April, early May, when trees are already green and it’s finally viable – after all these months – to sit outside and enjoy your coffee or pint of cider. (Beware, though, ’cause you might get the wrong idea that London is the only place you can do it, if you time your trip wrong. Let me know in the comments if you understand what I mean, ’cause I don’t think it’s entirely clear but also feel like explaining it would take too long. Or I’m just straight up lazy). So that comes into the equation that decides which parts of London are my London.

If you follow my Instagram stories, you’ll know I went to London last Saturday to see Lewis Watson perform live at Lafayette in King’s Cross.

London always causes me to see ‘what ifs’ on every corner. What if I had gone to UCL? What if I had gone to UAL to do an MA in Publishing, like I could’ve ’cause I got in last year? (It was one of the two MA courses I applied for, the other one being the one I’m now doing in Brighton). Would I see my friend who lives there (he’s doing a PhD at UCL) (almost) every day, meaning I’d be way less lonely than I am in Brighton? Would I still be in touch with the many people with whom I did my scholarship in Sixth Form (albeit in different schools) who now live, study, and work in London? Would I be way more successful and confident and open to way more professional and educational opportunities than I have been in the places I’ve lived in instead? – This last question is kind of stupid, but I’m pretty sure I have thought about this at some point, maybe many times. If you know a good answer to this question, let me know. I’m sure there is one.

The quiet green streets you see at the top of this post are Gower Street and some streets to the west of St Pancras International station. While the street running past the southern faces of St Pancras and King’s Cross – and the British Library, and the northern faces of the UCL hospital and the Wellcome Trust – is busy as hell, it’s still relatively pleasant, compared e.g. with Westminster Bridge and the whole tourist alley by the London Eye – and those streets stemming off of it, and those stemming off of those stemming off of the main road whose name is Euston Road, are surprisingly quiet. Hardly any people there, at least when I was there on a Saturday afternoon. This is the kind of London I like – paradoxically un-busy, green, pleasant, aesthetically fantastic.

So, if one day I could live in a place like this, I would. To finish off, I attach three pictures of two cultural institutions, each within a 10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross Station: the interior of the British Library, and the Central St Martins building of UAL (University of the Arts London) – the same one I would’ve gone to if I had chosen the MA in Publishing. I must tell you, space-wise the University of Brighton is more appropriate for me than Central St Martins – though the quality and usefulness of teaching, I won’t know. When it comes to the British Library, its entrance hall will forever have a place in my heart. It’s a perfect bridge between the inside and the outside – the red bricks and the cloudlike staircase pushing against them make you think like you’re not quite inside; the seating arrangements make you feel like you’re at a cozy library at the same time as being at a transient railway waiting room, as if you were just midway your journey from a place of knowing less to that of knowing more.

How I really feel about Brighton

Dear friends and subscribers (though feel free to consider yourself my friend if we’ve ever engaged in any sort of exchange of comments or messages, isn’t this what everybody does now in the era of Facebook friends and followers?), thank you for your patience and apologies (or you’re welcome?) for not posting for a few weeks. I went home for a couple of weeks, meaning I was in Torun (and only in Torun) over Easter and a little longer. I went there because I hadn’t been there since September last year and I have friends there that I want to stay in contact with. Unfortunately, I don’t have a cat there anymore, not since the night after my birthday, though only now that I was home for two weeks did I realise what it actually means to lose your last cat. It means being alone – really alone – when no humans apart from you are home. For the first time was I actually alone in my parents’ flat – this never happened before because we got cats when I was 5 or younger, so I never stayed home alone, which is justified. And I tell you what – being home alone is truly uncomfortable. Home doesn’t mean the same thing without fur and cat hairs everywhere that I’m allergic to. It means that when I’m sneezing and scratching my face and limbs and my throat hurts I’m unsettled because I don’t know why that is instead of happy because I’m at home with my cat. Anyway, this is my main impression from being home for Easter. Aside from the realisation that I’m not ready to move to Torun completely, not yet.

I thought I was after my stint (or stunt?) living in Torun for many months during my final year of undergrad. Living there was great, but now I think this was mainly because a) I stayed busy with uni work, b) I worked at JustEat which paid me and got me out of the house all the time so I could never get fully lazy, c) my cat was there and so was an endless supply of great filter coffee, and d) it wasn’t now. I don’t know, I guess there’s a time and place for everything, and sometimes time just isn’t right for whatever it is that you might want to do eventually, but you’re not supposed to do it yet, just not yet, not right now.

When I got back to Brighton – and when I was on my way from Luton to Brighton – on Monday night this week, I felt a huge sense of relief and at-peace-ness coming from the realisation that I was coming back to Brighton, and that I was supposed to be there, not anywhere else! You might know that I went to Edinburgh for a few days just a month ago, and everything in Edinburgh felt familiar, apart from the awareness that I was not there to be a university student. I was there to be a graduate coming to visit friends who had stayed there, because they were either still studying, or they were continuing to lead their lives up in that city. Something I don’t really understand, because I clearly couldn’t do that, but the thing I actually don’t understand, I bet, is the why I couldn’t stay there. Edinburgh seems to be the shit to everybody. Everybody loves it, everybody sees it as the best city to live in, and I just don’t. I moved to the opposite end of this long island to live and study, while I was perfectly capable of staying in Edinburgh to live and study, so why didn’t I do that? Mysteries! My philosophy of ‘connect the dots’ and ‘everything happens for a reason’ comes in in puzzles like this, and I am glad to have at least this way of coping with happenings in my life, since I don’t have the best anger management skills and generally the best relationship with regret.

How I really feel about Brighton, then, I already said – Brighton is the best and at the moment I don’t want to be anywhere else. I wish my world was in Brighton because here I have everything I need – coffee, the sea, books, good architecture, and an easy access to London. There’s a national park just outside the city and you can go to the beach literally every day, even twice or thrice a day if you wanted to. There’s an Odeon and lots of independent coffee shops, and Starbucks, and Costa, so regardless of whether I want to watch Netflix or go to the cinema, or get a £4 or a £1 coffee, I can do it. I can go hillwalking or sit on the beach. There’s a swimming pool and the sea, too, so I can swim anywhere, anytime. There’s two universities. I can live in the city centre or commute if I want to. There’s also a bunch of Aldis, a Morrisons and an Asda, so I never have to step foot in a Lidl or Tesco if I don’t want to. I’ve gotten now to the silly bits of liking Brighton, but I swear, this is a great city. It’s only downside is the difficult access to the airport that can take me to Poland, but maybe it’s actually a blessing? I’ll treat it like a blessing from now on since I like Brighton so much.

I never expected to love Brighton this much, but I did have a good feeling about this city before coming here. Possibly mostly due to its location by the sea and the picturesqueness of its architecture. But I’m a geographer and an architectural historian, so what else should I look at? Of course, the quality of the library, and while the University of Brighton library has fallen short of my expectations, at least I can hope the University of Sussex library (how very beautiful, designed by Sir Basil Spence in the 1960s!) is much better equipped. I don’t know, I haven’t checked yet (but I know I can access it, it’s not like the Main Library in Edinburgh).

There’s certainly downsides associated with attending a former polytechnic/plateglass university. This is the only thing I don’t like about Brighton – it’s the University’s position in national rankings. But I came here for history of design (wrong choice!), so I didn’t bother to look at universities that didn’t have an established design history department. Anyway, not much to do about this now, so I’m just sticking with what I’m doing and enjoying the ride. And hell, I am enjoying it because I’m in Brighton.

If you read all of this, wow! Who would? You did. Nice. I appreciate it so much. Now, let me go back to the library, because I’m sitting in a Pret at the Brighton train station. (You should come visit me. The train station is so cool and it’s literally up the street from the best part of Brighton, Sydney Street).

#1 – Some developments just don’t make sense

19 March 2022 – massive thank you to the 50 people who have so far subscribed to my site! Every post like and comment (the latter are more scarce) matters hugely to me, and I hope you find my 🄲🄾🄽🅃🄴🄽🅃 at least a tiny bit interesting, entertaining, helpful, or inspiring.

Now, to the point:

Real estate developments divide into those that make sense and those that don’t make sense. Any site redevelopment, regardless of its size – from micro to large scale – can be classified according to these two categories. Fortunately, the Big Build in Lewes Road, Brighton, belongs to those that make sense.

Further examples: the development of the land north of the existing UMK (Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika, English: Nicolaus Copernicus University) campus makes sense because that campus was specifically laid out in such way in the fabric of the 1970s Torun that its situation allows for the expansion of the university that keeps the buildings together, as a continuous whole. Stylistic choices require a separate consideration, and a rant is compulsory if we are to regard the ‘renovations’ done to the Chemistry Department (Wydzial Chemii) buildings in Gagarina street and the UMK Aula (assembly hall). However, I do side with Collegium Humanisticum (2010-2011), though rather not with the Biology and Earth Sciences (BiNoZ) department building, which was finished in 2006 and it looks very much like it was built in 2006 (that is, not good).

(I’m not the only one who feels this way about the Biology building. I quote a 2012 article from Gazeta Wyborcza Torun: “Ten dziwny gmach, odwrócony tyłem do głównej osi campusu, był pierwszą rysą na starannie zaplanowanej strukturze miasteczka. Zacytujmy fotografa i grafika Jacka Chmielewskiego, który swego czasu recenzował go w Gazecie: -Budynek przytłacza. Jest mieszaniną stylów. Na jego elewacji znajdziemy zarówno element jak najbardziej współczesny w postaci wycinka przeszklonej kuli, jak i także pilastry narożne w stylu jak najbardziej historyzującym (…). Nie wiemy, którędy iść do dawnej części BiNoZ. (…) Krótko mówiąc, to największa porażka architekta, gdy korzystający z budynku musi pytać o drogę.” Translated into English: This strange edifice, with its back turned to the main axis of the campus, was the first crack in the carefully planned-out structure of the university town. Let’s quote the photographer and graphic designer Jacek Chmielewski, who once upon a time reviewed the building in Gazeta: ‘The building overwhelms. It is a mixture of styles. On its elevation we will find both contemporary elements such as the segment of a glass sphere, and corner pilasters in a very much historicising style (…) We do not know which way we should go to get to the old part of the Biology and Earth Sciences Department. (…) In short, it is the greatest failure of an architect when the user of the building has to ask for directions.).

Another example: the housing blocks right outside my home and a bit further up the street by the tram terminal in Slowackiego street, Torun. That ‘development’ (I would rather call it ‘crime’) makes little sense, if any at all. The unsightly blocks with the texture of a standard insulated block (=no texture at all; if it was plywood, it’d look both better and more interesting) in questionable hues of orange took the place of a large playground, car park, and two football fields, one large and one small one. It got rid of some valuable trees and added tons of kostka Bauma (Bauma cube) and concrete to the neighbourhood. And guess what arose last year, and even before, as an issue to be addressed in this part of Torun? Parents complained that there is no playground near where they live. A proposal was made to replace a green area further down the road, opposite Koszary (Mickiewicza street, area west of the Arts Department building at the Reja/Mickiewicza intersection) – an area which I really like and consider it valuable for its greening, so aesthetic and calming, properties. Guess what? You should’ve never built housing blocks in a part of town that is already dense in housing. Otherwise you’re turning it into slums with people and flats but no amenities. I guess everyone should get a solid education within the fields of geography, architecture, and urban studies, so that thinking geographically and laterally is something everyone in the country is capable of and utilises in all aspects of their life. Otherwise we’re destined to become like the classic West – short-sighted and a-little-too-late.

But the subject of my tirade isn’t the BiNoZ building, or even the crime against the neighbourhood committed in my part of Bydgoskie Przedmiescie more than 10 years ago (the blocks I just discussed). It’s the Big Build of Brighton – a redevelopment of the Preston Barracks area adjacent to Lewes Road, between the big Sainsbury’s and Moulsecoomb train station. Unfortunately, this post developed (excuse the pun, or, half-pun?) in such way that there’s no room for writing about the Big Build here – so please do check back in some weeks into the future, once I’ve written and posted about the Big Build itself. Or, if you haven’t already, subscribe to email notifications about new posts on kotersey.com. In settings you can choose to receive immediate, daily, or weekly notifications (I usually prefer to have weekly notifications, as I don’t have the headspace to read all posts at once).

Storytelling through houses in The Sims 2 – Pleasantview (part 1)

It’s no surprise that settings can be, and often are, important parts of a story told through a movie/book/show/whatever other fictional form. But so far, video games (or computer games, or digital games) have not been classified as fictional forms until very recently, and their status as ‘fictional forms’ has been neglected and even rejected. But what players often point out when comparing different renditions of The Sims games – The Sims (2000), The Sims 2 (2004), The Sims 3 (2009), and The Sims 4 (2014) – is the differences between the stories these games tell, and the extent to which they incorporate these stories into the game.

A particular set of stories in a video game (as well as other types of cultural texts, such as books, movies, or analogue games) is called ‘lore’. Lore is by no means a new word – it’s a pretty old one actually, and Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “traditional knowledge and stories about a subject”. That’s why we have the word “folklore”, which is “the traditional stories and culture of a group of people” (as well as one of Taylor Swift’s best albums!). Lore in the context of The Sims games is used to describe the collection of stories that the games tell through the characters, the relationships between them, their memories, world structure, and in-game descriptions of households etc. Fragments of the lore can also be found in paratexts such as tweets and other content published by people officially associated with the franchise (e.g. the so-called “SimGurus” – @SimGuruFrost, @SimGuruGraham, and others on twitter).

A signature thing about The Sims games is that they tend to tell the stories of a number of Sims who re-appear in the different renditions of the game, only at different points in time in the lore timeline. For example, a Sim named Bella Goth is present in the first The Sims game as an adult living with her husband Mortimer and child Cassandra. In The Sims 2, Bella is not present in the game, but her family is – only now Mortimer is an elder, Cassandra is a teenager, and there is also Bella’s second child, Alexander, who is a child. Bella is still present in the storytelling of The Sims 2, as the story goes that she went missing from Pleasantville, where she had resided with her family, and some mysterious sightings of her have since happened in another neighbourhood called Strangetown. In The Sims 3, Bella appears again, only this time the timeline has gone back – she is a child and her name is Bella Bachelor, which is her maiden name. In The Sims 4 the timeline is somewhere between that in the first and second game, as Bella lives with Mortimer and their two children in a world called Willow Creek.

The timeline and storyline are not always consistent between all these games. Add to that the console editions of The Sims, and there is a bunch of information that sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t follow the rules of logic. This lengthy intro has hopefully explained some ways in which The Sims games perform storytelling, and now I can talk about what I came here to talk about, which is the role of architecture in the telling of stories in The Sims 2.

Sure, you could say that the digital, 1-0-1-0 (binary code!) buildings made by players in a video game are not really architecture. And you may be right. But I needed that word to make you think like the world in the game is a real world, and so buildings in that world can actually be considered architecture. Anyway, you know what I mean. How can houses tell stories through the way they were built?

Goth family house, 165 Sim Street. Source: Sims.fandom.com.

The Goth family house 165 Sim Lane, Pleasantview

The exterior looks like it’s made of shingle, a popular exterior covering option for houses in North America in the 19th and early 20th century. While the Goth house doesn’t have a roofed porch – which is a shame since because of that the house looks a bit empty (though no less iconic) – the intricacy of existing details may suggest that the house could have been built sometime in the 19th century (in Sim time, obviously; though time in The Sims is somewhat frozen, I’ll write about this one day). The house doesn’t look Queen Anne. It doesn’t look Eastlake. If anything, it gives a slight flavour of the Shingle style. Maybe it was designed by the Sim equivalent of McKim, Mead and White? Like, maybe it lacks the horizontality (William G. Low House, 1887), but it sticks to the similar range of 90 and 45 degree angles and a modest colour palette kept in the browns.

There are Goth-ic elements to the Goth house in The Sims 2, but it’s certainly not like the entire house is Gothic (or Neo-Gothic, more appropriately). But it’s not like it was possible to make a fully Gothic house in The Sims 2, anyway. The Build Mode in TS2 was pretty advanced, but not advanced enough to be anything like The Sims 4, where you can change the shape of the roof from concave to convex; the extent of the roof overhang; the height of house foundation; the height of walls; build basements without using tragically complicated tricks and cheats, etc. The Goth house in The Sims 4 is a lot more Gothic (if Gothic has a scale?) – see image below. The two houses have little in common, but what they have in common, you could say, are the grey brick exterior; chimney; railings and fences that are more on the intricate side; more old-looking windows, with many divisions of the glass pane; and that neither of them is particularly pretty. On the interior, they have more in common – they feature expensive, regal-looking furniture and stick to darker colours, whether that be black, dark red, dark green, dark blue, or dark brown.

There is a small cemetery behind TS2 Goth house. Combined with the old willows and the general ‘old look’ of the house, we find out that the family who lives there (=the Goths) has probably been here for a while. The house has certainly been there for a while, since it is old, the big willows outside are old, and there’s graves… because you know, you don’t typically find graves at a freshly finished house, I guess.

The Goth household house in Willow Creek, The Sims 4 (2014). Source: lilsimsie.

The Caliente and Lothario houses – 170 Main Street & 150 Main Street, Pleasantview

Images of both 150 and 170 Main Street lots come from sims.fandom.com articles for the lots. These articles claim that these houses, together with three other neighbouring houses in Pleasantview that look similar (same shape, looks, and the presence of palms… in a presumably temperate suburb?), are referred to as “the Condo District”. I have not seen this term, or any other reference to them being “condos”, myself. Condos are most often understood as building that consist of several residential units with some jointly owned common areas; however, there can also be “detached condo(minium)s”, which resemble detached, single-family houses, but are considered condos because the external facilities (such as streets, yards, exteriors, etc.) and/or recreational facilities (e.g. swimming pools, tennis courts, etc.) are jointly owned and maintained by a community association, i.e. an association of owners of the condominiums in the complex. The term comes from Latin condominium, which combines the prefix con- (together) with dominium (dominion, ownership). Not something I’ve thought of before, but it makes complete sense now! The condo residents own their own flats/houses, BUT they own some facilities together with other condo residents.

Still, it’s not like I can justify the use of the word “condo” for these lots – but also, I don’t have access to The Sims 2 at the moment, so maybe I’m missing something from the other lots’ descriptions?

When it comes to the residents… Dina and Nina Caliente are daughters of Flamenco Caliente (who was potentially Spanish/Latino) and Nighat Al Mahmoud (who was potentially of Arab descent). (Note that the Caliente sisters’ family tree looks different in The Sims 4, where their mother is Katrina Caliente. Katrina’s maiden name is unknown, but we know that she likes Don Lothario, potentially romantically, just like her daughters). (Also note that any discussion re ethnicities in The Sims 2 is only dependent on ethnic connotations of name as if they existed in the real world; Sims have no in-game system of acquiring or inheriting ethnicity, nationality, and other cultural identities – anything like that is given by the player independently of the procedural gameplay).

Don Lothario is the town’s Lovelace – a fit man, allegedly of personal charm and visual valour. He’s engaged, but truly, his Life Aspiration is Romance, so living alone in a trendy modern single-household house suits him better, as it’s a perfect place for luring potential lovers into and showing off. Same goes for Nina and Dina Caliente, really. Nina also has the Romance Aspiration, while Dina’s Aspiration is Money, so a modern, trendy, and not-cheap-looking house suits them well and responds to their desired lifestyles of hedonism and material comfort.

The Broke family house – 55 Woodland Drive, Pleasantview

The 55 Woodland Drive is home to the Broke family: Brandi (nee Newbie), Dustin, and Beau. Dustin and Beau are sons of Brandi and her deceased late husband Skip Broke. The house doesn’t look neglected as such, but it certainly looks like whoever lives there might be low on money – the house is fitted with cheap, cheap-looking furniture, particularly the fold-up garden chairs and table in the kitchen. The oddity is that Brandi’s red bedroom looks out of place here, as her bed is from the more expensive side than the rest of the house.

While the house isn’t a trailer, it certainly bears resemblance to it with its elongated shape and single-storey-ness. From the outside, it also looks like it was made of the cheaper materials, potentially some plastic horizontal siding and raw slabs of cement as the foundation. The landscaping isn’t rich, and the path leading up to the entrance stairs is also cement tiles, which could potentially be associated with more ‘grungy’ or ‘shabby’ neighbourhoods (I’m putting the apostrophes here because personally I grew up amid lots of concrete and I’m hesitant when it comes to attaching classist interpretations to building materials – but that’s what I’m doing here anyway). Overall, the house looks like pretty good match for the “Broke” family (who’s literally broke), and the odd red bedroom suggests that there’s something… well… kind of special about the relationship between Brandi Broke and her late husband Skip. Why is this bedroom so red and extravagant? It is up to the player to fill in the gaps in the story.

Pleasant family house, 215 Sim Lane. Source: Sims.fandom.com.

The Pleasant family house 215 Sim Lane, Pleasantview.

The house at 215 Sim Lane in Pleasantview is a large detached home with a steep roof and a facade that makes it resemble a “Stockbroker Tudor” type of house. A “Stockbroker Tudor” is a term coined by architectural historian/cartoonist Osbert Lancaster (1908-1986), used by him to describe a style of house that employed pastiche Tudor features on the facade – hence “… Tudor” (see below). The “Stockbroker” part comes from the fact that this style was initially limited to well-off citizens – such as stockbrokers – as it was expensive to produce such a house.

This style became popular in the first half of the 20th century in Britain. However, it has since also appeared in the United States and other Anglophone countries. In his 2015 book The Tudor Home (illustrated by photographs by Paul Rocheleau), Kevin Murphy wrote that the style was “equated with stability, venerability, and success in society and business, due in no small part to the notoriety of the ‘stockbroker Tudor’ neighborhoods in New York City’s toniest suburbs” (Murphy 2015, p18). This is what’s significant for the storytelling of the Pleasant family – the family is to be viewed as one that’s successful, a fulfillment of one’s dreams about building a family, a house, and material wealth. After all, the mother in the family – Mary-Sue (though this name can also mean a lot…) – works in the political career (even though she is only an intern, level 2 of the Politics career – I guess this emphasises that she has little time for activities other than work, which relates to the epitome of career success in the conventional Western society). Her husband Daniel, on the other hand, is on level 8 of the Athletic career, working as Assistant Coach. This means he earns an impressive 1,488 Simoleons per working day (working 5 hours x 3 days per week). Because of his career level, the family earns a substantial amount each week, so their earnings could match the house’s worth, which is just over 100,000 Simoleons.

Osbert Lancaster’s illustration of a Stockbroker Tudor house in his book Post to Pillar, 1938. Source: W.

If we want to read more into the social meaning of the (Stockbroker) Tudor style, we may mention its function as recalling a sort of “escapist fantasy“, distancing the inhabitants of such house from the modern, industrial, conflicted world (Murphy, in Vanderbilt University History of Art Blog, 2018, para2). Tudor homes could “give the impression of being more established, not be so much nouveau riche as old riche”, or to distinguish the house owner from non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants to the US, particularly New York City suburbs (ibid, para3). Now, there would definitely be reason for Daniel Pleasant to try and impress other people – he has the aspiration of Romance, and a developing affair with the housemaid, Kaylynn Langerak.

Dreamer family house, 195 Main Street. Source: Sims.fandom.com.

The Dreamer family house – 195 Main Street, Pleasantview

There is little remarkable about this house. And the Dreamer family is hardly remarkable – the inhabitants of the house are pretty low profile. There’s Darren and his teenage son Dirk, living just the two of them since Darren’s wife and Dirk’s mother Darleen died. When the player first enters the lot, the following notification pops up:

Darren Dreamer wants to paint for a living, but does he have the skills to pay the bills? Those past-due statements are starting to pile up…

I guess Darren isn’t a remarkable artist, the same way that the house is not remarkable at all. It is a sort of a blank canvas, ready for the player to take to new heights (or in the opposite direction) along with Darren’s career. The future of Dirk isn’t certain either, as he’s only a teenager with no particular storyline to him.

Here are just some examples of how buildings created in The Sims 2 by the game’s producers relate to the storylines of the Sims inhabiting them. Like the Sims 2 reality, the buildings seem strongly embedded in the United States tradition. Although the game is relatively old – compared with other popular titles on the video game market – and is celebrating its 18th birthday this year, its capacity to tell stories was no weaker back in 2004 than it is now, in the game’s fourth rendition, The Sims 4 (2014-).

Pleasantview isn’t my favourite neighbourhood in TS2, it’s actually Strangetown because of how strange its stories are (aliens, ghosts, spectres, and all). Pleasantview has to do for part 1, though. Stay tuned for more Sims-analytical content on my blog.

Park Close flats, Coldean – redevelopment proposal

Two years ago, a proposal was made to replace the old Meeting House at Park Close, Coldean – a ‘garden suburb’ of Brighton – with a new development of 12 flats. The Meeting House was built in the 1950s and used by the Mormon community (i.e. the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), but since 1993 it has served a residential function.

This is what the Meeting House looks like (or at least looked like in September 2012, but it hasn’t changed much since then):

The old Meeting House, 2012 Google Street View screenshot.

And this is an artist’s impression of the proposed development:

An artist’s impression of proposed new Park Close flats, to replace the old Meeting House.

Sadly, the artist’s impression does not show well what the flats would actually look like once they’re built. It seems to still be more of a conceptual image than a realistic rendering. Even the immediate surroundings of the redevelopment aren’t shown – grey blocks is as far as it gets, and we can’t see the neighbouring houses or the texture of the road. The artist also committed what happens nearly all the time – the image is set in summer/late spring, thus taking advantage of the luscious vegetation. Any building, especially classic English red brick, just pops when you put it against vivid greenery.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any more realistic renderings of the proposed development. Therefore, the only thing I can say for sure now is to comment on the Meeting House. It’s an interesting building, and a building of interest – speaking to local history in terms of who lived there, and in terms of architectural styles that were preferred at the time of construction. Mormon churches do not have a uniform look. However, I would dare say that Mormon churches in Britain may not follow the same logic as that when a Mormon church is built in North America. Not only the British Mormon temple is bound to be smaller, but also there tends to be less space available for the construction, as a rule of thumb when comparing the UK with anywhere in North America outside of metropoleis (NYC doesn’t overflow with space).

A lot of other Christian churches built after World War Two in Britain followed the Modernist style, since Modernism was the style of postwar Britain – even though the Festival of Britain, which was patently Modernist, didn’t pay much (if any) attention specifically to religious architecture (Grieco 2021, 236).

From Brighton and Hove News, we find out that the former owner had previously made three attempts to knock down the building and replace it with houses – in 2014 and 2017. However, both times he was refused planning permission. It’s not entirely clear why permissions were refused, but at least once it was potentially because the proposed new buildings were “out of keeping with the hip-roofed bungalows surrounding it”.

In the planning statement, consultants Lewis & Co Planning said: “The proposed frontage would replicate the semi-detached chalet bungalow appearance of many of the surrounding properties on Park Close.”

Jo Wadsworth, Brighton & Hove News, 5 August 2020

Personally, with the information I have at this moment, I wouldn’t support the development. None of the proposed flats are planned to be affordable, and it’s a fact that Brighton has an issue with housing, especially not enough affordable housing. So, the only case in which I would welcome the redevelopment of the old Mormon church site is if the flats were affordable housing, like the development currently under construction next to Varley Park. Bear in mind the current building in Park Close is from the 1950s, and so I’d say it is a place of local historical interest.

However, we now know that the redevelopment was approved in early October 2021. The main debate among councillors voting on the permission was with regards to the accessibility of these buildings, and how they were not particularly accessible – more of a tokenic presence of wheelchair ramps than a truly accessible proposal. Despite that, the majority of councillors voted in favour of it, so permission was granted.

Reference links:

http://www.theargus.co.uk/homes/property/news/19618062.wheelchair-ramp-concerns-meeting-house-flats-coldean/ Sarah Booker Lewis, 11 January 2021. The Argus. [Accessed 12/2/2022]

http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/19635742.planning-condition-approved-meeting-house-coldean/ Sarah Booker Lewis, 1 October 2021. Planning condition approved for Meeting House in Coldean. The Argus. [Accessed 13/2/2022]

http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2020/08/05/flats-planned-on-former-church-site/ Jo Wadsworth, 5 August 2020. Flats planned on former church site. Brighton and Hove News. [Accessed 9/3/2022]

Regency Society, Brighton. Joinable at £20 fee per year (or less if subscribing for longer amount of time).

Book: Post-war Architecture between Italy and the UK: Exchanges and transcultural influences. Lorenzo Ciccarelli, Clare Melhuish. Copyright: 2021 Publisher: UCL Press Lorenzo Grieco, Chapter Post-war British church architecture and the Italian model, pages 236-254.

Writing from the basement

I often write posts on here from a basement. It’s a basement at Pavilion Parade, Brighton, because it’s a place where you can sit down and it’s pleasant and isn’t a beach so you can use a laptop. The other place where you can sit down and it’s nice is the beach, but it’s not so good for using laptops there. I mean, I’ve never tried, and to be honest, I saw someone using their laptop on the Palace Pier the last time I was there. But while on the beach, I like to be busy by being on the beach only, not stuck in my head trying to unstuck it with a website. So when in Brighton, I usually write from here – the basement.

And it often happens in-between my classes on Tuesdays. There isn’t much else to do in-between those classes. The only two decent options that I have, really, is either reading or writing something on my laptop. This is because starting to watch a movie in the middle of the day might be quite disruptive, and since I have class only one day a week anyway, I want to keep this day as studious as possible. ‘Oh why,’ you could say, ‘Asia, you could after all use your lunchtime to have lunch?’. And do know that I do have lunch pretty much every day, which might as well be a tick off the list of successful taking care of yourself as a young adult. That is, if you forget the fact that too often it is some basic sandwich, an Oasis and crisps bought for £3.30 from the Student Union shop, because so far this year (and bear in mind it’s almost mid-March) I’ve refused to cook myself meals that produce leftovers that I could later pack up for a packed lunch. I don’t even have anything to pack my lunch in, and whenever I visit the Brighton & Hove city library, I start to think that perhaps there is something about pretty/silly/cool lunchboxes – if I bought one just because it made me laugh/go aww/want to show it off to friends, it could be a good excuse to actually prepare some lunch and put it into that box. (Why the library? OH, because in order to get into the library you have to walk through a gift shop first, which is a lot of book-related stuff which is legit, but also I’m not paying £10 for a tiny lunchbox, so all that official HP and GoT merchandise really means nothing to me).

The location of the Brighton & Hove Jubilee Library is a little bit strange, when you think about it. There’s a big flat grey square in front of its entrance. To the east, there’s the big Prince Regent Swimming Complex. To the west, there’s Las Iguanas, YO! Sushi, and Tesco Express (is it just me or suddenly everything at Tesco requires you to use your Tesco Clubcard in order to be a reasonable price at all? like, all sales items need you to use your Clubcard. I have one, but usually it sits in my wallet at home, since I’ve switched from carrying a wallet <it was too heavy because of all my loyalty cards> to carrying my cards in my pockets, since I don’t ever need change for anything, ever). And to the south there’s the Chilli Pickle, a fancy Indian restaurant. You could say it’s a fairly Brighton square because it’s multicultural; I’d say it’s Brighton because it makes little sense. There’s a fair share of poverty mixed into the less-cheap restaurant scene of the square – either the poverty of the sad empty space, without a flowerbed or a bush in sight; or the homeless outside the Tesco or inhabiting the benches outside the library; or the hollowness and hostility of the streets leading to that place, where instead of being baited by colourful storefronts and outdoor cafe seating (but head to the next parallel street and you’ll get all that and more in Bond Street), you’ll always get honked on by delivery vans (or some other vans, maybe they actually contain mutilated human bodies? who knows) and other damn cars trying to pass through. Car arrogance, I’m telling you – carrogance – but if you want to get carless, go to the Netherlands. Carlessness isn’t Brighton’s brand; Brighton’s for the queer stuff.

(To answer any potential questions, no, I won’t be here for the Brighton Pride Parade. It’s in August and I’m not planning on being here then. I won’t even be here for the Brighton Gin Festival, because it’s in July. Out of the two, I’d much rather go to the Gin Festival – so long as there’s rose lemonade provided).

I’ll tell you what, I really wanted to get in some vegetables for lunch, but there simply weren’t any. Urban Eat might market themselves as supporting urban gardening, but there isn’t much gardening that actually partakes in producing their food. So today it is oven baked walkers, a sugar free Ribena, and a chicken salad sandwich to tide me over until 8.30pm which is the time I’ll probably get home. Good thing I’ve got a flask of black coffee with me – I’ll consume at least one decent thing today.

Send help, I need to find out how to make packed lunches to stop throwing £3.30 at the BSU shop every lunchtime in exchange for a limp sandwich and kid juice.

(picture “for attention”; it’s the winter view of Foxbury campus in Britechester, The Sims 4 video game)

(also, my Dad’s turning 66 today – happy b-day Dad)