I suppose we didn’t need the crashing of the British Airways IT system to demonstrate our total dependency on computerisation. We arrived at Heathrow for a flight to Madrid. Long queues. No indication as to what had happened. Eventually we were checked in. We were told that our flight hadn’t yet left Madrid, so we had breakfast and went shopping. Then, Romilly luckily spotted the last call for our flight. We rushed to the Gate. We’ve made it to Madrid, but our luggage hasn’t. The only compensation was the sight of Richard Rogers’s beautifully elegant, curved and coloured roof to Madrid Airport, part of the great programme of public works by the Spanish government in the 1990s (opened in 2006):-
The last of the great eighteenth-century churches I passed last night was St. George’s, Hanover Square, another of the Commissioners’ Churches, designed by John James, who was himself one of the two surveyors to the Commission, with Hawksmoor, as well as joint Clerk of Works at Greenwich. He’s always regarded as a bit dull as an architect, but I don’t think that either the massing or the detailing of St. George’s is dull:-
This is one of the more esoteric views of London because it is nearly impossible to appreciate the façade, let alone, the interior of St. Anne, Soho, because it is protected from the street by very high curved fencing. But passing it this evening, I noticed that someone was cleaning the churchyard of rubbish and guessed – correctly – that the door from the street might be unlocked. So, this is a view of the church tower, added in 1800 by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, the surveyor to the Bishop of London, to the body of a church said to have been designed in 1677 by either Talman or Wren:-
I have often posted photographs of the courtyard of Somerset House, where the Royal Academy used to be, occupying the rooms which are now the Courtauld Institute gallery; but I don’t think that I have ever previously photographed William Chambers’s grand, monumental, neoclassical entrance façade, announcing his project built for the government off the busy highway of the Strand and with keystones representing the rivers of England:-
I find that walking across central London on a hot, early summer evening is like seeing it in reverse, because it is so rare to see buildings lit up from the north. None more so than St. Mary-le-Strand, normally asphyxiated by the passing traffic, but tonight visible in its full baroque glory, less muscular than the works of Hawksmoor, but at least as well informed in its use of Roman precedent, because Gibbs had actually been in Italy, first as a student at The Scots College, then as a pupil of Carlo Fontana, returning to London in November 1708. On 18 November 1713, he was appointed architect to the Commission for Fifty New Churches, replacing William Dickinson, and St. Mary-le-Strand was their first work. It was originally planned to have a campanile rather than a steeple and narrowly escaped demolition in the late nineteenth century:-
Whilst I was at Charleston, I picked up a copy of a book of photographs of the house and interiors as they were in 1981, three years after the death of Duncan Grant, as taken by Kim Marsland, who was then a student at Maidstone School of Art. I have found the book unexpectedly evocative of the house as it was before its renovation, at a time when it was lived in by Vicki Walton, who had worked as Quentin Bell’s studio assistant, and when the family were wondering what to do with it and whether or not it would be accepted by the National Trust (it wasn’t). It must have been at roughly this time that I first visited it, walking along the track beneath the Downs from Heighton Street. But annoyingly I can’t remember the house as it was then, nor did I have a camera, as did Kim Marsland, to record its more rundown and unreconstructed state.
I went to see the exhibition about diaries down in the basement of King’s College, London. It started with an intriguing timeline, beginning with Babylonian clay tablets from 1400BC, extending through Edward VI who kept a personal chronicle, through Pepys (of course) to Thomas Turner, the Georgian shopkeeper, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu whose diary was burnt by her daughter, the Countess of Bute, on her death, the establishment of Letts diaries in 1796 to the invention of the blogosphere as recently as 1999, the foundation of Facebook in 2004 and the discovery of a hitherto unknown diary by Bram Stoker in 2011. I read recently that keeping a diary was recommended for one’s health and found this confirmed in a quotation from the Journal of the American Psychological Association: ‘Expressive writing reduces intrusive and avoidant thoughts about negative events and improves working memory. These improvements, researchers believe, may in turn free up our cognitive resources for other mental activities, including our ability to cope more effectively with stress’.
After many years as a Trustee of Charleston, discussing the pros and cons of development, selecting an architect, debating whether or not to use Cor-Ten as a roof material, I stood down just before construction began. So, it was the utmost pleasure to discover that the great bulk of the new buildings, designed by Jamie Fobert to create a new courtyard alongside the existing two part-medieval barns, had been constructed offsite in Germany and arrived on a lorry a few weeks ago. The quality of hand-built wooden construction is impeccable, including a bat loft and space for a small museum/library and exhibition space, as well as a lecture theatre in one of the old barns:-
This is some of the jointing in the old barn:-
Readers of my blog may by now be getting a bit sick of the flow of publicity surrounding the publication of the book, but I have just been listening to a podcast recorded by Thomas Marks, the editor of Apollo, which helped me to think about, and reflect on, the character of the book and its literary antecedents. He does the questioning very thoughtfully, helping me to place it as a text in arguments not just about gentrification, but also historic preservation. The length of the podcast is apparently determined by the length of the average tube journey to work, so that people can listen whilst whiling away their travel. It’s on https://www.apollo-magazine.com/the-apollo-podcast-charles-saumarez-smith/ Enjoy !