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Blog Category: Design (3 posts)


Guy Fairbank | 05th March 2020 | Guy the London Guide
Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington and, among its many treasures, you’ll find a rare survival of pre-Great Fire architecture from the City of London. Peter Pindar’s house originally stood on Bishopsgate, about where Liverpool Street Station now stands. When the station was developed the Chairman and Directors of the Great Eastern Railway Company gave it to the museum.  It’s made of oak and dates from around 1600, when merchant Paul Pindar had it built - more of him later. The impressive full-height windows would have originally been glazed, either with imported glass or local greenish glass. The semi-circular window shape was a type used in grand houses since the 1530s. The storeys project over the one beneath, a feature known as ‘jettying’, a design common in English timber houses from the 1300s. ‘Grotesque’ brackets would have been added to  support the jettying. The panels used to decorate the house were a new concept in design and probably could have been chosen from pattern books. They’re quite thick, 7.5cm deep, and again, made from solid oak, carved and nailed onto the oak framework. You can see the arms of the City of London in the centre; also look for the thistle - in reference to the new king, James I. Pindar would have used the standard London practice of using a pre-assembled timber frame, as it was quicker and cheaper than brick or stone. The timbers would have been measured and cut in the carpenter’s yard, then assembled on the spot, using mortice and tenon joints, and fastened using pegs. You can see some of the carpenter’s marks on the timber. What is extraordinary is that modern buildings in the City are still constructed in a similar way! As the streets are still so narrow, it’s easier to pre-fabricate much of the building off-site, ship it in and build upwards. In medieval times you would have visited  Wood Street, off Cheapside, to get your Ikea-style house. Evidence suggests tha...

fairbankguy | 15th May 2018 | Guy the London Guide
     Though the City today seems dominated by high rise developments and soaring skyscrapers, you can still find some pockets of earlier office buildings. One such gem is Holland House, tucked away in Bury Street, behind the iconic Gherkin. This impressive Art Nouveau structure was designed for the Dutch shipping magnate Kroller-Mullers by a fellow countryman Hendrik Petrus Berlage. It dates from 1914-1916 is quite unlike any other building within the Square Mile. Berlage was inspired by a visit to the United States; indeed Holland House wouldn’t seem out of place in Chicago or New York. It has a narrow, 4-storey frontage that faces south east. Its heart is steel framed but its exterior is clad in wide, grey-green faience tiles and chamfered uprights. Step up to the entrance and look up to the ceiling and you’ll see some remarkable mosaics. Inside there are more delights apparently, with glass lanterns and stained glass, the result of a collaboration between Berlage and the artist Bart van der Leek. Don’t forget to walk around the building as you’ll see an addition from the 1960s, a ship’s prow by J Mendes da Costa. Now I need to charm the present tenants, Landmark Plc and gain entry…       ...

fairbankguy | 05th April 2018 | Guy the London Guide
How many times have you crossed Westminster Bridge and gazed up at the large Lion Brewery feline on the southern end of the bridge? Or admired the two Chinese figures above the doorway to Twining’s in the Strand? Both sculptures were the product of a remarkable businesswoman by the name of Eleanor Coade. She was born in 1733 in Devon, the daughter of an unsuccessful wool merchant. In her thirties she headed for London and began to set up her own drapery business. She added the title ‘Mrs’ as a courtesy as it was highly unusual at the time for an unmarried woman to run their own company. Before long Mrs Coade had gone into partnership with a Daniel Pincot, who ran an artificial stone business in Lambeth but they soon fell out. Undaunted, Eleanor Coade established her own factory at Narrow Wall, the present day site of the Royal Festival Hall.Mrs Coade did not invent artificial stone - that had been around for some time. What she did do, however, was perfect the formula.  She called her product ‘lithodipyra’ (Greek for twice-fired stone), though in fact it wasn’t stone - it was a ceramic, a mix of clay, terracotta, silicates and glass, fired at a very high temperature for four days. The result was an extremely durable material, impervious to rain and pollutants and ideally suited to sculpture. The eighteenth century was a boom time for architecture and design. The neo-classical designs of Robert Adam, William Chambers and Sir John Soane craved ornamentation and Mrs Coade’s factory was much in demand.  She used her entrepreneurial skills to the maximum, keeping the recipe a closely guarded secret and only employing the most talented of people. You can find her work all over the country, from her home in Lyme Regis to stately Ham House in Surrey as well as in the City. On the exterior of Trinity House look out for two medallions containing portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte, the arms of the Corporation, and a friez...