Dumfries House (5)

For some reason I don’t understand, the article I have written for the November issue of The Critic has already been posted online (Fit for a king | Charles Saumarez Smith | The Critic Magazine), maybe because it is a bit more topical than usual. It should be free to view, unless you have already looked at other articles this month. The death of The Queen already seems another era.


The Corringham (2)

I have received a very helpful note from Celia Maxwell, the widow of the late Robert Maxwell, architect, architectural historian and the former Dean of the Architecture School at Princeton, about Douglas Stephen, who I described, as it turns out quite wrongly, as ‘somewhat mysterious’ only because I couldn’t find out much about him from my limited searches online and had a vague memory that quite a few people had worked for him in the 1960s.

She has allowed me to post it here where it will be more read than in the Comments section (not least, it is a way of encouraging people to go to the Maxwell exhibition in Dublin):-

There was nothing mysterious about Douglas. He was larger than life and had great style. A fellow student of Maxwell, James Stirling, Colin Rowe, and Thomas (Sam) Stephens at Liverpool, he set up an architectural practice with Margaret Dent in London and the firm designed many modernist buildings. Douglas himself favoured Terragni and designed a fine residential block in Kensington.

The practice was a hotbed of thinking-practicing architects in London during the late 1950’s and 60’s. Other notable architects who worked at Douglas Stephen were Alan Forest, Adrian Gale, Birkin Haward, Edward Jones, Panos Koulermos, David Wild and Elia Zenghelis. Kenneth was editing a journal the time and my late husband Robert Maxwell teaching while designing buildings at DS & P.

Maxwell was a partner in the firm for many years and designed several projects. His best project being the Southwood Park Flats, about which Kenneth Frampton made some glowing remarks at the symposium relating to the Maxwell Scott exhibition currently on at the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin.


Dumfries House (4)

The November issue of The Critic has just appeared with an article I have written about my experience – and enjoyment – of Dumfries House in early September. Since then, a host of articles have been written about the King’s involvement in Poundbury and, more recently, Highgrove and what this tells one about his architectural interests and tastes. What I found impressive about Dumfries House was not just the conservation of the Adam house, but the use of vernacular design in the grounds.

Till recently, I could rely on the article becoming available online, but they have – no doubt sensibly – introduced a restriction on the number of articles they make freely available. So, you may have to wait or even buy a copy….


Tate Modern

I walked round from the back of Tate Modern this evening and was confronted by the smoke stack. I remember David Chipperfield wanted to take it down, but it’s impressive:-


Just Stop Oil

I put in a brief appearance on the PM Programme to talk about the increasing tendency of the Just Stop Oil protests to attack not just oil depots and motorway petrol stations and – today – 55, Tufton Street, but works of art. Of course, the attacks are planned and they choose works which are glazed; but I am not convinced that chucking a tin of Heinz Cream of Tomato soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers does much to change the government’s attitude towards climate change. Indeed, under Liz Truss, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Suella Braverman, the government’s stance towards legitimate public protest and preventing climate change has radically hardened.

Rishi Sunak started out as Housing Minister. Maybe he could introduce legislation to encourage home insulation and low carbon retrofitting. It would be a good start to his administration.



The Corringham (1)

I have been meaning to have a look at this somewhat nondescript block of flats known as The Corringham at the top of Craven Hill not exactly for its architectural quality, but because it is one of the small number of recorded works by the architectural historian, Kenneth Frampton, designed 1960 to 1962, completed in 1964 when he was working for Douglas Stephen, a somewhat mysterious architect, not in the DNB, who had established his architectural practice in 1954 and later employed Carl Laubin:-


Lea Bridge Library (1)

I read this morning about the recent extension to Lea Bridge Library and thought that I would go and see it. The original library is 1909, funded by Carnegie, a fine bit of municipal classicism:-

Studio Weave have added a pavilion behind it – a place to work and have coffee, a modern-day pavilion:-

It’s nice to find a library so busy and expanding.


Leighton House (3)

I should have recognised that the restoration of Leighton House was inevitably much more complicated than it appears from a brief survey of the press coverage online. In particular, I left out the role of the Friends and their trustees, chaired by Sir David Verey, who have obviously made a big contribution. The HLF gave a grant of £1.6 million in 2018. The total project cost is reported as £9.6 million. So, presumably a big chunk of the difference was made up by private fund-raising and charitable donations, a great achievement for a small organisation. I also assume that there were a lot of specialist advisors as well. These things are never straightforward. I probably should have studied the names of the donors inscribed in the floor more carefully. Anyway, however it was done, it’s a remarkable achievement.


Johnson Redivivus

Phew ! Maybe some sanity will be restored to British politics. Like so many, I spent yesterday in a state of anxiety that the Conservative party, or at least a portion of it, might have forgotten why they kicked Johnson out only three months ago and were fantasizing that maybe he was the only person who could win them another election in 2024. But, in the end, reality seems to have won out. 57 of his ministers had resigned because of the appalling incompetence of his leadership, not just the lies, but the laziness and ineptitude. Had all 57 forgotten or decided that there could be a Johnson Mark 2, full of the trustworthiness which he has so signally failed to demonstrate for the last 58 years of his career ?

It’s a great relief.