Architecture Spotlight: The Elegant Emerson

Iona Lowe discusses one of her favourite Newcastle landmarks.

Iona Lowe
16th October 2021
Credit: Wikimedia
Waterstones. Yes, that (somewhat) famous bookshop. Snuggled into one of the corners on Blackett Street. As I wandered through the area, wasting time between lectures and avoiding my dissertation, I took the time to look up at the baroque building which houses some of the world’s finest literature, and is also an example of an archaic piece of architecture which contributes to the cities character immensely.

Whilst it was the iconic arches on the Newcastle Canvas that made my decision to spend three years (or more like two) walking back and forth to the Percy building, it was that little blue clock – hidden to most – that made me fall in love with the city.

Yes, Newcastle has other landmarks. Just think about the layers of Bridges which meet your eyes as you pull into central station – but it is the subtlety of this small blue clock which credits the city with so much of its beauty. The mixture of art nouveau and the baroque stands as a reminder to the delicacy of what architecture once was, while intricate engravings on the building contain whispers of the past which diffuse onto the streets and into the passers-by.

Originally built as a restaurant for the innkeeper Robert Emerson, (hence its name) the building then went on to house several different retail stores – even a sunrise Chinese restaurant, until eventually it became the beloved bookshop we know it as today.  A simple yet effective story that shows a complex history can still hold beauty.

"Intricate engravings on the building contain whispers"

It is often easy for one to miss the character of a city. Constantly tapping on pixelated screens, scanning the surface level for shop names, or staring at the worn-out pavement to avoid awkward eye contact. Hardly ever do we take the time to look up – the history of cities nowadays often lies on the second floor, just above the shopfronts consumerist touch.

So next time you find yourself on the way to Grainger market, or perhaps making a trip to market shaker, take the time to look up – and admire the history (and that little blue clock tower) that has left its mark on the city. 

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