Museum of London (1)

Following the announcement that Sir Simon Rattle’s folie de grandeur has been axed, I wonder very much what will now happen to the old Museum of London, a strange and awkward building straddling a roundabout, but surely important as late work of Powell and Moya, informed by Philip Powell’s experience of designing Christ Church Picture Gallery under the Deanery garden. The site was due to be sold for redevelopment to help fund the new museum, but it will be a pity if the Barbican has to compete with another dull monster, like the rest of those which line London Wall:-



We went down to Wapping, which I have sometimes thought a bit gloomy, with high Victorian wharves closed in on narrow cobbled streets. But this afternoon, with the bright mid-February sun, it felt surprisingly busy, maybe because all the city workers were out running.

There is nice Victorian brickwork on The Three Suns:-

Canary Wharf looms extraterrestrially downriver:-

Still some good detailing on the wharves:-

Then Wapping Pierhead:-

And the old Charity School:-


Robert Venturi

Since the Sainsbury Wing is in the news at the moment, I am re-posting Denise Scott Brown’s fascinating description of how she and Bob met and collaborated in teaching architectural theory and town planning at Penn and their shared interest in mannerism, long before their documented (and photographed) meeting at Las Vegas in 1966 when she invited him to come and lecture at UCLA:-


The Garden Café

I’m pleased to see the Garden Café listed as No.1 in National Geographic’s survey of museum restaurants – very deservedly as it serves such good food and in the summer you can eat outside. It was one of the few places I went to when it was allowed – good for social distancing and a leisurely lunch.

Am pleased to see that Hastings Contemporary makes the cut as well, and not just for its view across the huts to the coast of France.


Can’t Get You Out of My Head

We have been watching Adam Curtis’s latest series of documentaries Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World one at a time, because each one seems more than enough in terms of a great morass of footage, alternately illuminating and bewildering, as if one is going to learn about the intellectual construction of the modern world, but instead that it is invariably and everywhere the product of malice and conspiracy. I have now been alerted to an interview with him in this week’s New Statesman (Adam Curtis: “Big Tech and Big Data have been completely useless in this crisis” ( I am not sure that it makes his thesis any clearer, but it at least makes clear that there is no thesis, but instead is wilfully nihilistic, deliberately provocative and wide-ranging, using old footage often arbitrarily: both admirable and perplexing, which is exactly what we feel at the end of each evening.


Trevor Dannatt RA

I am so sorry to hear of the death of Trevor Dannatt, a lovely, thoughtful and intelligent architect, who always seemed much younger than he actually was, having died on Monday aged 101, still with a good head of very white hair. He was encouraged to take an interest in the work of Le Corbusier while still at school, trained at the Regent Street Polytechnic before the war, then worked for Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, before joining the LCC in 1948 to work on the design of the Royal Festival Hall, as well as a bar which only served tea for the Festival of Britain. I had forgotten that he did quite a bit of design work for Bryan Robertson at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, including 20th. Century Form in 1953 and the exhibition on Jackson Pollock in 1958. Hard to think that he thought of Peter Smithson as one of ‘Les Jeunes’. There are very good interviews with him by Alan Powers available in National Life Stories.


The interpretation of history (1)

My views of the Secretary of State’s invitation to cultural leaders to be told how to celebrate ‘our history’:-


The Sainsbury Wing

This will be an extraordinarily interesting and important project for whoever wins the competition: the next generation on from Dixon Jones and Venturi Scott Brown, given the task of reshaping the experience of visitors as they arrive and enter the building, which, as always happens, has become over elaborate and cluttered, handicapped by the need for bag searches and a bit confused by the brightness of the adjacent shop, luring the visitor sideways. I will look forward to hearing who is chosen.


Hélène Jeanty-Raven

I opened a copy of the Christ’s College Newsletter this morning and found, to my great surprise, an article about my step grandmother, Hélène Jeanty-Raven, who spent the Second World War incarcerated in a German mental asylum in an attempt, which failed, to secure the release of her husband, Paul. She then spent her life working for international reconciliation, including attending the Nuremberg Trials and, late in her life, corresponding perhaps too warmly with Albert Speer. I had not known that she had established a fund to help impoverished students because I had always understood that she lived on £5,000 pa, having misread the amount which was available to her, which was £50,000 pa. She was in many ways a remarkable woman and I’m pleased to find she is remembered.