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 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:-
I was wandering down Bond Street on Saturday morning trying to remember why the Time & Life Building is regarded as of such significance. Part of it, of course, is the presence of four grand abstract sculptures by Henry Moore set into the wall to the side of the building:-
The rest of the building is a rather bland and neutral American-style, postwar office block:-
That is precisely its significance: that it was built with dollars in the early 1950s as a mark of Anglo-American friendship, designed by Michael Rosenauer, a fashionable Austrian architect who was a friend of Oliver Messel and worked for Cecil Beaton before the war. The interiors were by Hugh Casson and Misha Black.
I was tipped off that there is a new and elegant building for Valentino on Old Bond Street which has been designed by David Chipperfield. Indeed, there is:-
As I was slightly early for breakfast, I made a detour on my morning walk across the parks to inspect the Victoria Memorial, one of those great and overblown monuments which it is easy to ignore. Its design was the result of an open competition held in the summer of 1901 which was won by Thomas Brock RA, who had recently completed an equestrian statue of the Black Prince for Leeds. It was paid for not by grant from parliament, but by subscription throughout the Empire. The work took some time to complete. The bottom half was unveiled on 24 May 1909 and the final monument in March 1911. It benefits from close inspection rather than just being seen out of the car window with good bas-reliefs round the basin:-