I am a sucker for the Albert Memorial, particularly glimpsed in the distance, surrounded by trees and greenery and unkempt grass, gleaming with grandiose ostentation. My mother would have dismissed it with contempt. In fact, I can hear her whisper ‘absolutely hideous’ in my ear. I don’t care. There’s something magnificent about that moment of Victorian imperial confidence which allowed Prince Albert to be surrounded by statuary representative of the four corners of the globe:-
Before going round Regent’s Park, I was shown a very beautiful, fold-out panoramic view of it, produced by Richard Morris, the Secretary of the Medico-Botanical Society of London, and published by Rudolph Ackermann in 1831, price £1 10s., described on its title page as a Panoramic View Round Regent’s Park. From drawings taken on the spot by Rich. morris, Author of Essays on Landscape Gardening and recently republished by the London Topographical Society. These give much more of a sense of how it was originally intended to be: more theatrical, less private, much less planting and a place of public parade.
This is Hanover Terrace to the west, completed in 1822:-
I didn’t necessarily expect to like the latest Serpentine Pavilion by Bjarke Ingels, but I did: a piece of pure geometry, simultaneously simple and complex in a way that is visually both adventurous and satisfying:-
One of the few benefits of a morning which was so cold and wet is that, when the air cleared, it had a crystal clarity. So, I was not the only person who was impressed by the Henry Cole Wing, designed by Henry Scott as a School of Naval Architects, gleaming in the early evening sun, with its abundance of terracotta ornament, the loggia at the top which allowed the students access to fresh air, and its restrained Victorian pomp:-
I spent yesterday morning learning about the mysteries of Regent’s Park. Of course, one is aware of it as a Londoner, laid out north of the rest of the city in open farmland as a grandiose gesture of urban town planning to rival Paris towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars. But I had not realised the extent to which each of the Terraces is set back from the road and the vegetation has grown up in such a way that the epic scale of the stucco palaces and the way they are supposed to relate to one another is not really evident unless one pokes about behind the scenes.
I started at the back of York Terrace:-
In the distance was the corner pavilion of Cornwall Terrace:-
As gentrification creeps up the Roman Road, we’ve got a brand new Italian delicatessen at no. 21, opened last Wednesday, which stocks the finest fresh pasta and olive oil straight from Italy. After years of having nothing but chicken shops locally, it’s a pleasure to be able to stock up on different varieties of spaghetti:-
Yesterday, I was walking down Cockspur Street and noticed the astonishingly elaborate metalwork decoration above one of the doors of the Brazilian Embassy. It was done by Ernest Gillick, an ARA who did much 1920’s commemorative sculpture, including a medal for the Royal Academy Schools. The building, designed by Arthur Bolton in 1906, had been taken over by P&O from the Hamburg America Line in 1918 as reparation for the first world war. P&O then commissioned Gillick to do grand statues of Britain and the Orient – Britain as a Roman centurion with a putto holding a trident on the right, the Orient as a Nubian slave – and the company motto QUIS SEPARABIT in between:-
I was walking down York Way north of King’s Cross and realised that it has one of London’s ghost underground stations, opened in December 1906 to serve the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. It closed in September 1932. I am surprised that it hasn’t re-opened now that it is one of London’s property hotspots. It’s got odd, wobbly lettering:-
As I was getting money out of the cash machine, I saw a building I have seen a thousand times lit up in the evening sun. It’s the former Royal Insurance building on the corner of Piccadilly and St. James’s Street, designed by J.J. Joass of Belcher and Joass, a Scot from Dingwall who trained in Glasgow and who seems to have imbibed some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s adventurous indiscipline. As Pevsner says – or maybe it is Simon Bradley – ‘the indiscipline must be considered a positive quality. The endeavour here was clearly to smash up the classical conventions, but the fragments are left in a restless disquieting pattern’:-
My latest bulletin on the progress of works in Burlington Garden involves a walk outside the so-called laboratory galleries at the back, looking up at the temporary roof in the middle of a thunderstorm:-
I poked my camera through a hole in the awning to take a photograph of the lantern over Sidney Smirke’s Octagon:-