Phyllida Barlow (2)

A very good and thoughtful obituary of the late Phyllida Barlow by Ben Luke (see below), which makes clear her immense originality, both slightly anarchic, but also philosophical. I have never forgotten the experience of walking into the old Midland Bank on Piccadilly and finding it filled from floor to ceiling with an astonishing and magnificent, celebratory mess. She always struck me as a bit like that as a person: life enhancing in a totally original way. Such a great loss.


Hylton Nel (2)

If you happen to be in Sussex tomorrow, I strongly recommend seeing the Hylton Nel exhibition and coming to hear him talk about his work because he is not often in the UK and the exhibition is beautiful, showing his decorated plates from the early 1980s to now.


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (113)

I have been sent an absolutely brilliant photograph which demonstrates very clearly what has happened to the Bell Foundry over the last six years. Buildings deteriorate very fast if not looked after. It will no doubt soon be on the Buildings At Risk Register and deserves to be:-

Interacty – engaging content | Interacty project


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (112)

Every time someone puts something online about the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, I can’t help but notice that there is a massive amount of public interest in its fate.

You only have to look at its current state to see that we are shamefully neglecting a historic building:-

The question is, what is to be done about it ?

The agent handling its letting/sale has provided assurances that many people are interested in taking it on, but the terms of any lease will require reinstating some level of foundry, which may not make it straightforward for a conventional tenant. A hedge fund is not necessarily going to want to cohabit with a working foundry. Meanwhile, it is deteriorating.

What is sad is that there is already a well worked-out business plan for it to be turned into a modern version of a historic foundry, using new technology as well as traditional crafts skills. The Planning Inspector dismissed this proposal, preferring the idea of it becoming a hotel. But the hotel proposal is now dead. It surely needs someone – maybe Historic England or the World Monuments Fund – to broker a deal with the current owner to get it back into a working condition, if necessary using the necessary legislation, in order to protect what is left of something which, in its way, is an extraordinarily important piece of living history.


Herzog & de Meuron

I read the long and rightly admiring profile of Herzog and de Meuron in today’s FT,  but was surprised to find that there was no mention of their biggest projects currently in London – the two huge new office blocks, one of which is cantilevered on top of Liverpool Street Station.   This, if it is permitted, will become part of their legacy:  two elephantine and bland office blocks which will disfigure this part of the city.

I am hugely looking forward to their exhibition at the RA and am a great admirer of their international museum work, but it is sad that they are willing to lend their name and reputation to one of the grosser examples of current corporate development. via @FT


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (111)

The Gentle Author is quite rightly keeping the fate of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in the public eye (see below).

I had myself noticed last time I passed that it looks increasingly dilapidated. There is a risk that the current owner, Raycliff Estates, is allowing it to deteriorate in order to make Tower Hamlets more flexible about its future use, because at the moment there is a requirement that some portion of it is turned back into a bell foundry, which obviously limits its commercial value.

What is frustrating is that the London Bell Foundry has a well worked out and commercially viable business plan to put back the foundry element, whilst at the same time modernising the work that is done in the foundry by the use of new (and clean) technology.

This would require Raycliff to lease the foundry to the London Bell Foundry or agree to its sale. But there is said to be an alternative client who has expressed interest. It will be interesting to find out who this client is and what their plans are, since there is no evidence yet of them seeking planning permission. And planning permission would be conditional on reinstating a foundry.

Tower Hamlets should, of course, intervene. It was their planning department which supported the scheme to turn the building into a hotel. Tower Hamlets must have a tourism strategy. There are not so many buildings of international significance which could become tourist attractions so close to the City. The New Town Hall is just up the road. Perhaps the Chief Executive could convene a meeting of interested parties to see if there is a workable solution ? Or could Historic England do this ? Someone should.


Hylton Nel (1)

One of my all-time heroes, Hylton Nel, is showing work in an exhibition at Charleston, opening next week, and I am looking forward to talking to him next Saturday.


Phyllida Barlow (1)

We have spent the day mourning the totally unexpected death of Phyllida Barlow who we saw not so long ago at the opening of her joint exhibition at Gagosian in Paris – Hurly-Burly, now closed. She was, as ever, full of an immense joie de vivre, and it feels unreasonably cruel that she should have been struck down.

Of many articles about her work, I admired Tanya Harrod’s:-


Sir Christopher Wren (3)

I devoted my monthly column in The Critic to Sir Christopher Wren to mark the tercentenary of his death, trying so far as is possible – it is not easy – to give a sense of his personality, which seems to have been pretty reticent, incredibly hard working, able to get on with successive monarchs, and in the end, upset by the way he was ousted from the Office of Works, which had the benefit that he sat down to document his life in Parentalia.

A great man, as well as a great architect.


Anthony Green RA (2)

I went to Cambridge to bid farewell to Anthony Green RA, who I always liked when I was at the RA, always jovial and full of good commonsense.

This was the picture of him on the order of service, copyright James Hunkin:-