Alderney Road Cemetery

A man was clearing leaves in the Alderney Road Cemetery which meant that unusually the door was open and I was able to walk in and wander in the peace of the tombs:-

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Leonard Manasseh

There was a memorial event this morning for the late Leonard Manasseh RA who died in March aged 100.

There was a display of work connected to him, including his Ravilious-like pen-and-ink drawings done during the war:-

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A watercolour sketch of the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu:-
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And a cricket pavilion in Lewisham:-

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The talks took one back to the days of his teaching at the Architectural Association, when his architectural practice operated out of three rooms at the top of The Lady and he taught the likes of Paul Koralek and Peter Ahrends by a system of gentle encouragement, as opposed to the later system of collective critique. He later graduated to a much bigger office in Rathbone Place off Charlotte Street, living in Bacon’s Lane, Hampstead, and driving an outsized Peugeot. He undertook a much wider range of work than I had realised, including private houses, schools and offices about which he wrote a Batsford book. It gave a strong sense of the profession as it was in the 1950s: socially oriented; collectivist; and gentlemanly (that said, we worked closely with the town planner, Elizabeth Chesterton, who had been his pupil at the AA in the late 1930s).

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St. James’s Park

The only consolation of being required to come in early to the RA on a Saturday morning was seeing St. James’s Park and Palace so completely empty in the early morning sun:-

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St. Paul’s Cathedral

As the prospect of moving back to the West End looms closer, I have started paying more attention to my surroundings in the City, which I have never really warmed to – it’s been too butchered by redevelopment – apart from the silent majesty of St. Paul’s which so effectively, but unrhetorically, dominates its surroundings:-

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Harry Handelsman

I went to a fascinating talk by Harry Handelsman, a developer who arrived in London in the early 1990s from Germany, France and Manhattan (some combination of all three) and recognised the value of buying warehouses in what were then still cheap areas of town. He started by buying for less than £450,000 (he gave the precise figure) what became Summers Street Lofts in Clerkenwell which had been designed by the architect of the Central Court, Wimbledon as an ink factory. Then he developed Soho Lofts with a Damien Hirst in the show flat. Bankside – immediately next door to what became Tate Modern – was a new-build project by Piers Gough in a style which was 1930s industrial. Then (amazingly) he took on the development of the hotel and chambers attached to St. Pancras Hotel Station: a gigantic project which must be one of the more successful radical renovations of a historic building. Chiltern Firehouse was another smart move. And now he’s developing Manhattan Loft Gardens, a skyscraper in Stratford designed by SOM with interiors by the Parisian Studio KO. It looked like he’s got pretty impeccable design instincts.

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Apollo Awards 2017

I went to this year’s Apollo Awards:  a good set of winners, some expected, some less so.

Exhibition
Raphael:  The Drawings
(I knew I should have visited it)

Book
Aileen Ribeiro, Clothing Art

Acquisition
Van Otterloo and Weatherbie Gift
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum Opening
Musée d’Arts de Nantes
(With a new extension designed by Stanton Williams)

Digital Innovation
Smartify

Personality
Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo
(from Turin)

Artist
Lubaina Himid

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Brain Tissue Research

I spent the first half of the morning, by long-standing arrangement, studying the cross-sections of the brains of people who have suffered from MS.   I have never actually seen a brain before, so to speak, in the flesh:  all wobbly, made out of tissue like jellified nougat, including the minuscule hippocampus where information is processed and the fatal lesions, small, desiccated, oval areas which are the causes of MS, owing most likely to viral infection.   But the causes are not fully understood, nor the reasons why it affects people so differently.

Alongside the yellow-ish bits of cross-section of brain laid out on the slab was what looked like a bit of old rope, but turned out to be a spinal chord, with multiple wires protruding out of the bottom of it which control the movement of the body.

I would post photographs, but there are understandably very strict rules round the photography of grey matter.

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Todd Williams and Billie Tsien

I went to hear Todd Williams and Billie Tsien talk in the Royal Institution as part of the RA’s Architecture Programme.   I wanted to hear them because they were responsible for the recent building for the Barnes  Foundation, which (with a few reservations) I admired:  not least for the fact that its redisplay of the collection is very unusually an improvement on the original, which they demonstrated by juxtaposing a wall of the new with the old, demonstrating the very subtle variations of window design, wall colours and the way the pictures are hung.   I liked their philosophy which consists of only doing projects they want to do, either domestic or public;  emphasising the role of drawing and model making in design;  and trying to do things slowly, not fast.   Now they are doing the Presidential Center in Chicago for Barack Obama.

This was my view of the Barnes Collection with the addition of plastic swans:-

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Physical Energy

I walked into the courtyard of the RA this morning to be confronted by G.F. Watts’s great equestrian statue titled Physical Energy, a gesso model of which survives at the Watts Gallery and a full-scale bronze on display (but not much noticed) in Kensington Gardens.   A version was also displayed in 1904 in the courtyard of the RA and it is to mark this and draw attention to the work of the Watts Gallery that a new cast made by Pangolin is being shown again:-

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East End Vernacular

We were kindly sent a copy of the book East End Vernacular:  Artists who painted London’ East End Streets in the 20th. century which the Gentle Author has produced about artists who have depicted East London.   They were mostly locals, trained in the art classes held at the Bethnal Green Men’s Institute, members of the East London Group, and exhibiting at the East London Art Club or the Whitechapel Gallery (during the 1930s, it had an East End Academy).   The style is mostly one of painstaking topographical precision, showing the streets as they were when still much more densely built.   But the book includes, for example, the work of Lawrence Gowing RA who, although the son of a draper on Mare Street, was sent away to boarding school and studied painting at the Euston Road School under William Coldstream;  Anthony Eyton RA who was educated at Canford and studied painting at Reading before the war and Camberwell after;  and Jock McFadyen RA, who has created his own vision of industrial dereliction round Salmon Lane and beyond.   I was surprised that more space wasn’t devoted to the work of Adam Dant, whose graphic views of Spitalfields the Gentle Author has rightly promoted.   But he includes several good discoveries, including the work of Pericles Parkes, who was born in Hampstead Garden Suburb, trained at the Slade, and later lived in Stepney and painted atmospheric big city, as well as back garden, views.

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