Sunday 31 July 2011

Pretty Tube Stations

Anyone not wanting to read a geeky train-related post, turn away now...

Source: London Transport Museum

Okay, now I'm alone with my fellow transport enthusiasts, I can gush unashamedly about Underground stations.  I was very pleased to read the other day that English Heritage has listed 16 new tube stations, particularly as some of these are ones for which I have a particular, personal fondness.

I've always liked Russell Square and Chalk Farm:

Russell Square Station (Photo by Diorama Sky via Flickr)

Chalk Farm Station (Source: Geograph)

I just love the "ox-blood" faience - it's such a rich and distinctive colour, which was the point really, to draw people's attention so they could spot the nearest tube station easily.  And they have beautiful green, art nouveau style tiles once you're inside.  Well, underground travel isn't a terribly pleasant experience, so why not liven it up with some vibrant colours?  The architect responsible for these stations (along with other lovelies such as the already listed Mornington Crescent ) was Leslie Green, who designed 40 stations for London Underground between 1903-1907.  Impressive turn-out for only a few years in service but I suppose when you're onto a good thing with your design and also aiming for standardisation, it's a lot easier...

I was also quietly pleased to see Wood Green make the list as well.  This used to be my local tube station and - although I didn't enjoy living out there particularly - I can't help but have a soft spot for the building I ventured through every day on my way to work.

Wood Green Station (Source: Wikipedia)

And back in the day (Source: The Independent)

I have to confess that, although the ticket hall is quite nice, overall it never particularly spoke to me architecturally.  Even though it is 1930s and by Charles Holden, who has some other buildings that I adore.  Holden is probably the architect most famously associated with London Underground, introducing a modern, minimalist style to the stations during the 1920s and 1930s.  He also designed 55 Broadway as the headquarters of London Underground - a fabulous building from the outside, though I've never been privileged enough to see inside it.  To me, Wood Green Station doesn't hold up quite as well against his other work but there you have it - someone must have deemed it worthy!

Source: Doug Rose

Saturday 23 July 2011

Garden scrolls and serpentines

 I came across this wonderful drawing whilst doing some archive research the other day:

It shows the grounds of a villa near Crystal Palace Park in Sydenham, and it wasn't relevant to what I was looking for but I snapped a shot as it captured my fancy.  I'm really getting into historic gardens lately and I thought this layout was just fabulous.

My knowledge of garden and landscape history isn't so hot (yet!) but this was a late 19th century drawing and I think the trend around then was for picturesque, "natural" (but in reality, completely contrived) landscapes.  There's a bit of formality closer to the house here:

But overall, there's not much formal symmetry or straight lines in this garden.  Check out that scrolled path at the bottom!

Oh, the thought of traipsing about in that garden just makes my toes tingle with excitement!  Meandering along the serpentine paths, ducking into the wooded borders for games of hide and seek...

And I wonder what those open lawns might have been used for?  Garden parties?  Croquet?  Sigh!

Sunday 17 July 2011

Churchill War Rooms Late Opening

Now, this post would have been a report on the Chap Olympiad which took place yesterday, had I not dropped my camera in a jug of Pimms during said Olympiad.  Unfortunately, my camera didn't survive.  My memory card should hopefully be okay so I should have the few pictures of the event I did manage to take before the alcohol-based drowning, but my outfit pictures were taken on an emergency disposable camera.  So I think that post will now wait until I finish my film, develop it and scan in any shots that turned out decently...  How old school.

But I thought I'd just drop by to alert any Londoners to the upcoming late-night opening of the Churchill War Rooms on Friday, 12th August.

The map room at the War Rooms (source: CWR website)

Very sadly, I'm unable to attend as I have prior commitments but hopefully someone else out there in blogland might be able to attend and I can live vicariously through them.

It's an American-themed night to celebrate the 70th anniversary of our "special relationship" with the States, and there will be dancing and drinking and history - three things which, combined, should make for a very fine evening.  I'm terribly sad I have to miss it but there will always be another time, I suppose...  And perhaps next time it will be purely British, which (let's face it) will be more my cup of tea!

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Historic Prison Exploration

I'm finally back with the second part of my Clerkenwell Design Week triptych.  This time, in the spotlight is the House of Detention.

Regular readers may recall that I wrote a post over a month ago about the Farmiloe warehouse, which was hosting designers during the event.  I promised to return with related posts but, as I am wont to do, got distracted with more current happenings.

But, now I'm back to tell you all about the spooky former prison which was the other venue used for the Design Week.  Unfortunately, it was rather difficult to take photos in there so this post will be lighter on pictures than the last... though darker on content.  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

So, on finding the House of Detention, my friends and I all commented, "Funny, this looks more like a school than a prison."  I think you'll agree we were right to be confused:

However, passing through the Schoolkeeper's entrance and descending some stairs, we undoubtedly encountered the prison:

So, the story goes like this...

There was first a prison on this site in the early 17th century, and it was subsequently rebuilt a number of times.  My little bit of research gave me a number of different dates and total number of reconstructions, so I'm just going to leave it loose and undefined!  There also seems to have been quite a few prisons and such in Clerkenwell and its surrounds, serving slightly different purposes.

Previous incarnation of Clerkenwell House of Detention,
from Old and New London, Volume 2 (1878)

Perhaps the area was a little too well-serviced by prisons, because in 1877 it was closed, and then demolished to be replaced by the Hugh Myddleton School.  This late Victorian period was a big time for school buildings in London, following the passing of the 1870 Education Act which meant all children of a certain age, regardless of class or family income, had to attend school.  It's probably a positive transition, to change from a prison to a school, though some people would probably like to suggest that there wouldn't have been much difference between the two types of institution!

The underground rooms and corridors formerly used for prison baths, kitchens and medical examinations (I get shivers just thinking about what they were like in that period) were retained below the school building.  Although massively creepy (and rumoured to be haunted), the sturdy underground network came in handy during World War II, when it was used as an air-raid shelter.

By the 1960s, the building was no longer in use as a school and it has recently been converted into flats.  Now, I like the idea of re-use of some old buildings for flats when they're no longer able to serve their original purpose.  For example, I'd love to live in one of those old river-side warehouses, but to live on the site of an old prison, knowing that creepy underground world was below you and that for hundreds of years straight, people were imprisoned on the site...? That doesn't really appeal to me no matter how nicely the flats are done up!  It does make for some nicely atmospheric photos though:

So, would you live in the flats above this...?

Saturday 9 July 2011

Cherokee Chic

On my recent visit to the countryside, my friend and I went for a civilised, post-dinner evening stroll through the fields around her village.  On our adventures, we found some Cherokee planes...

I know, we probably weren't supposed to go onto the airfield, but there was a public right of way path running along the edge of it, and we weren't out for sabotage so we decided it would be harmless fun.

I've heard of Cherokee planes but don't really know anything about them so can't say much more.  I just love the old school look (and sound) of them.

So I had a quick browse of the internet for some history and found a couple of fun facts:
  • The first Cherokees were introduced in 1960
  • The original style of wing was colloquially known as the Hershey Bar wing as its convex shape had a resemblance to the chocolate bar.

But that's about all I have to say on planes, so I'll just fill the rest of the post with pretty pictures of the English countryside in mid-summer.

Caught taking pictures of cows.  I do love cows...

Tuesday 5 July 2011

'60s Pulp

Guess what band I went to see on the weekend...

What, you mean you didn't guess Pulp?

No, that's fair enough.  I felt more like I was going to the Kinks, with my itsy bitsy dress and demi-beehive.  The 60s-inspired look happened kind of by accident, a series of decisions which just found me hurtling towards this seemingly inevitable result.  But I quite liked the outcome, and it was fun and novel wearing something so different to my usual look.

Basically, I was planning something mod-ish, as a nod to the whole 90s Brit Pop aesthetic.  But I have a lot less of this style in my wardrobe than I did in the past.  I've got a good stash of blazers so probably would have built something up around one of those, had the weather been cooler.  But it was quite warm out, and when I opened my wardrobe, this long-neglected dress caught my eye.

Long-neglected because I just rarely wear anything so short these days!  But mini seemed appropriate for the evening's event so I pulled it out, only to realise...

 Oh no!  Missing top button!  Was it somewhere at the bottom of my wardrobe?  It was in too obvious a spot to get away with not replacing it, but I didn't really have another appropriate button to hand.  I might have to wear something else.  Unless...

Yes, fabulous!  Just add in some more black accessories to co-ordinate...

And in case it gets cold, a little jacket in a completely different pattern.  Shouldn't work but I think it does...

We're there!  Sweet, kinda 60s, kinda Brit Pop outfit.  You know what hair would look great with this?  A restrained beehive.  Never attempted this before but can't hurt to try...

Voila!  Not too shabby, even if I do say so myself.  I had a bit of cat's eye, top lid eyeliner going on but just subtle so you can't really tell here.  Pinky-purple tint to the lips (gloss and a dab of lipstick blended in).


Off to see the Kinks, I mean, Pulp!  Well, you can't say that Mr Cocker himself doesn't have a bit of a vintage sensibility...

The dapper Jarvis Cocker
(all images courtesy of Last FM)

Saturday 2 July 2011

London in July

It's July!  Eep!  But the sun is high and there's quite a few things I'm looking forward to this month, so I thought I'd do a little "Things to do in London this month" post.  And I'll try to make it at least a bit interesting for anyone not based in London or nearby.

1. Cult of Beauty Exhibition at the V&A Museum, until 17th July

V&A foyer (courtesy of Nick Garrod)

So, I've actually already been to this but thought I'd alert those who haven't gone along yet.  The exhibition covers the Aesthetic Movement, an artistic style and lifestyle from the last decades of the Victorian era which embraced beauty for beauty's sake, at a time when society was swamped with industrialisation and capitalism.  

The exhibition gives an excellent overview of how this movement covered art, design, architecture, fashion, literature... so one could really live and breathe this philosophy if one so desired!

Naturally, I rather enjoyed looking at the architectural drawings, because I'm like that:

Design for The White House by Godwin

 ... and I really enjoyed some of the furniture:

Japanese table by Godwin

... and the clothes, and anything Oscar Wilde-related, and observing the other people in attendance...

My boss went to see it shortly after me as well, and we had an interesting debate over Frederic Leighton.  He's one of the Pre-Raphaelite artists I've had less exposure to, and I really enjoyed discovering some of his paintings there.  My boss, on the other hand, can't stand him!  He said that he thought they lacked depth but I pointed out that perhaps that was their intention - they are supposed to be purely aesthetic.  Personally, as someone very sensitive to colours, that's what really struck me about them - they were so rich and lush.  My boss understood it when I put it that way, but was personally unmoved.  

Does anyone else know and have an opinion of Leighton?

The Countess Brownlow by Leighton

We were both in agreement that most of the Pre-Raphaelite muses don't really do it for us though!  They're rather too masculine for my liking - or, are painted to look so anyway.  I prefer women to be a bit more delicate - these ones are so lusty and heavy with their lips and jaws and thighs!  However, I do like some of them when they're portrayed a bit more delicately, with their fiery element coming out in their hair, contrasted with pale skin:

Veronica Veronese by Rossetti

2. The Chap Olympiad, 16th July

Hosted by The Chap, the magazine for the modern gentlemen, this one day event takes place within the gated gardens of the oh-so-posh, oh-so-Georgian Bedford Square in Bloomsbury. 

Bedford Square, c.1913

The event has been running for several years but this will be my first time attending.  I'm very much looking forward to watching the "steeple-chasing" (racing by chaps in horse masks, jockeyed by female partners over an obstacle course) and umbrella jousting on bicycles, perhaps trying my hand at the cucumber sandwich discus and, of course, dressing up appropriately in chapette style.  

Let's just hope for fine weather!

3. Vintage Festival at Southbank, 29th-31st July

A celebration of British music, fashion, film, art, design, etc of all decades from the 1920s up to the 1980s.  Appropriately taking place at Southbank, with this year marking the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain.

Royal Festival Hall in 1951 (courtesy of Hyphen Press)

There will be bands, dance lessons, vintage make-overs (for those who, heaven forbid, show up without their hair already perfectly coiffed), fashion shows, vintage stalls selling clothes and antiques...  There's even themed boat rides happening.  Much excitement!  Although I've not yet purchased my ticket as I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the activities and music so can't decide which will be the best day to attend.  Better get my act together soon because, if the quick passage of the year so far is anything to go by, the end of July will be upon us before I know it!