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Rough and Smooth Sands: Social Thresholds and Seaside Style

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Publication date1/12/2020
Host publicationSandscapes: Writing the British Seaside
EditorsJo Carruthers, Nour Dakkak
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783030447809
ISBN (Print)9783030447793
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Ribbons on the edges of the land, sandscapes are “strands”, echoing the horizon line of the sea. Seemingly as untouched by human hand as the sea itself, the sandscape is often turned to by writers who testify to it as a space in which we can lose ourselves, to escape the world. Elizabeth Gaskell described her heroine, Margaret Hale, on the sandscape as enjoying the “luxury of pensiveness”, a moment of peace and transcendence. This chapter explores the way this sense of the sandscape as escape is projected onto the straight line of modernist architecture. The example here will be the iconic 1933 Midland Hotel in Morecambe. Built on sand, the hotel reflects the architect, Oliver Hill’s, commitment to the complementarity of natural and built forms. Yet, the straight line also privileges the sandscape’s smooth aesthetic over its rougher realities, placing minimalism above what has been labelled the “vulgar” or “crude” working class aesthetics of the seaside town. This chapter will explore the smooth line in seaside architecture as a smoothing over of quotidian reality and calls for a greater celebration of ornate seaside aesthetics that express the complex beauty of sand itself.