The Nissen Hut Cafe…

But firs…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s existential angst is centred around the sound of the word cringe.

EPSON scanner imageHere is another picture from my days of old-style, film and darkroom, black and white photography – it is a scan of the original 35mm negative. It was probably taken in the late 1980s or early 1990s – but I’m not very good on history, especially my own.
I suppose this one would fall into the category of ‘architectural photography’ – well, I don’t see why not, I’ve seen far less interesting buildings than this – especially new ones!
This is, or rather was, a cafe. No no, really it was… It stood at the side of one of the western docks of the city, Albert Dock I think, or was it William Wright Dock? (Docks) It is what is known as a Nissen hut; these were designed during WWI and were widely used during WWII – what a very clever, and efficient design they are! By the way, the Americans had ‘Quonset’ huts which were based on the Nissen design. Anyway, this one was being used as a cafe for the dockers and others who worked in the area.
What caught my eye, apart from the lovely curving corrugated steel structure, were all the additions it had accumulated over the years; the vents, pipes, and chimneys poking out through holes bashed in the metal. Oh, I have just noticed that some of the vents in the top of the building, which do not seem to be in use, have had what look like ordinary plastic buckets jammed over them to seal them off – I do like that! I’ll bet the chaps were really pleased when they found that the buckets were such a perfect fit! Oh, and how about the chimney coming off at a jaunty angle instead of being vertical as chimneys generally like to be?
I like this unusual composition, the way all the detail is around the edges of the frame with very little going on in the middle, apart from the lovely curves of the rusty metal of course…

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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13 Responses to The Nissen Hut Cafe…

  1. “Dockers and others who worked in the area” I wonder who you mean by that…..?! Your photograph is lovely! I wish we had such things up here – its very unique, and yes the jaunty chimneys do add to the design! Was it painted at all? I think if I had one, I would paint it bright colours. Oh, and the word cringe….maybe its just me, but when I say the word out loud, I inadvertently screw up my face as if saying the actual word is cringe inducing, haha!

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Well, I think most of the customers would have been dockers, there were lots of dockers in Hull back then, but there might have been a few office staff who joined them.
      I reckon it was painted with black or grey ‘ship paint’, there would have been plenty of that around the place.
      Oh Scribbler, just cringe cringe cringe!…

      • Haha! Stop the cringe-making! Up here, at docks, there are some ladies who like to make “friends” with them, thats all. Maybe that custom hasn’t reached your neck of the woods yet….. 😀 Oh and I have a question regards painting wood, if I can pick your brains, please. 🙂

      • Dave Whatt says:

        Painting wood? Of course my dear.

      • Ok, well I am in the middle of wheeling home 5 large wooden spools that a builders yard gave me. Having got the first couple in, I noticed they are actually not “real” wood, but something like plywood? MDF? Layers of something anyway. So, I was wondering about the kind of paint I should use, and more importantly, the varnish. They will be indoor use only. Possibly for kids, since now I see the sheer size of them inside, I’m running out of room, haha!

      • Dave Whatt says:

        Layers – that sounds like plywood to me. I’m assuming that they are plain wood and not painted already – if so, it would be a good idea to ‘prime’ them before you slap on any colours. For the last coat will you use oil-based paint, such as ‘gloss’, or water-based paint such as ’emulsion’ or even ‘acrylic’? Gloss is a bit smelly, slow to dry, but hard wearing; water-based isn’t smelly and is quicker drying and has a matt finish.
        Do get back to me with your answers and I’ll suggest suitable ‘primers’.

      • Yes they are plain wood and not painted, although there are printed details of the company on the ends, like a stamp or something. Ok, so is primer the same as an undercoat? And the emulsion….like housepaint? I think I would go for a water based paint & varnish. I’m not keen on toxic fumes permeating the place. I have sanded the first one so its ready for your priming suggestions! 😀 Thank you SO much for this, I appreciate your help immensely!

      • Dave Whatt says:

        Emulsion is the thick sloppy water-based stuff you do interior walls with.You could probably not bother with an undercoat at all if you are using emulsion, although if you are thinking of bright colours as the finishing coat you could use white emulsion (or any light coloured emulsion you happen to have in house) as a ‘primer’ to provide a good light background – bright colours like yellow, red, light blue, might look a bit disappointingly dull when put on the bare wood.
        When your colours are done you could give it a coat or two of clear water-based gloss or matt varnish to protect against scuffing. Do you have a branch of Wilkos up there in Scot-Land?… Don’t hesitate to get in touch again for more info.

      • Thank you so very much for this help! I usually gesso small pieces before painting, but since these are so bloomin’ large, obviously I won’t be doing that for budget reasons, ha! Wilkos….yes we have a few, but not really within “paint hauling” distance. B&Q is down the road, so I will get a few smaller tester pots from there, I think, along with the emulsion. Gosh I wish I had a shed to work in, haha! 😀

      • Dave Whatt says:

        Good luck with it… By the way how big are these ‘spools’?

      • 30 inches in diameter, and 15 inches deep……I know its perhaps not *that* big in comparison with some I have seen, but considering I’m 5 foot 2 and live in a tiny house, its pretty big! haha 😀

      • Dave Whatt says:

        Ah, a coffee-table-ish sort of size…
        So, did you have your house specially made for you then?…

      • Hahaha! No, Dave, most flats up here are small for financial reasons. More living space = more families = more money. Its just a bonus that I’m in proportion! 😀 And coffee table/side table, yes, I’ll be keeping one for myself for just that.

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