Friday, 12 September 2014

More Short Course Mayhem: History of Architecture

Big Ben and Portcullis House, Westminster

I recently took a 5 day course in History of Architecture and Interiors at Chelsea College of Arts, which didn't actually take place in the college. Instead, we spent 5 days roaming the streets of London and travelling to the city's outer zones to experience England's classical architecture first hand. While at times learning about classicism is like eating vegetables for a modern and contemporary enthusiast such as myself (very good for me, but not the most appealing thing), the course was really informative, interesting and enjoyable. We began our travels at the Banqueting House at Whitehall, the first classical building in England, designed by Inigo Jones in 1619, and finished in Sir John Soane's Museum to see his amazing Regency-era experiments from 1792 to 1824. In between we visited country houses in Ealing, Marble Hill, Chiswick and Osterley, the Royal Society of Arts, Somerset House, Greenwich and St Paul's Cathedral. We learned an incredible amount and I took a HEAP of photographs. Here are some of the highlights, giving you a TINY flavour of what I saw...

Painted detail, Osterley House, west London

Up at the top is a photo of London's iconic Big Ben, part of Westminster and built in 1859 in the Gothic Revival style by Augustus Pugin (amid the Westminster Palace design by Charles Barry). Beside it is Portcullis House, designed in 1992 by Michael Hopkins and Partners to house the overspill of parliamentary staff from next door. A striking looking building, Portcullis House and the amazing Westminster Underground station below were designed as one unit.

Pictured above is a painted detail from Osterley House, a mansion built west of London, with repair and significant augmentation of the building originally there done in the 1760s. While most credit the building to Robert Adam, there are many details which suggest William Chambers was involved in parts of the building's design. In keeping with patterns, below is some AMAZING wallpaper from Marble Hill House, another stately home west of London, near Richmond. It was designed in the 1720s by Robert Morris, very much in the style of Andrea Palladio.

Wallpaper, Marble Hill House, Richmond

Durham Street Auditorium, RSA, Adelphi

A trip to the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) on John Adam Street meant more insight into the work of Robert Adam, as well as the impressive history and membership of the society itself. The feature of the building that I found most intriguing was more recent though: pictured above is the Durham Street Auditorium, a former cobbled tunnel running underneath the building to the Thames, cleverly converted by Green Lloyd Architects and featuring Robin Day seating, completed in 1990. Across the street is The Adelphi (below), a beautiful Art Deco building designed by Stanley Hamp and completed in 1938. As it replaced a Georgian terrace my tutor doesn't think it should be there at all, but I'm delighted that it is...

The Adelphi, Adelphi

Furniture in Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing

Above is a picture of furniture from John Soane's Ealing home, Pitzhanger Manor. I had previously visited Soane's home on Lincoln's Inn Fields, and while more experimental and full of the architect's amazing collection of art and artefacts, I prefer the pared back Pitzhanger Manor. You can see how forward-thinking he was in his designs, much of which look almost Art Deco in their simplicity and colour palette (are you seeing a thread here?!). While we visited, there was a number of furniture and glass pieces by Modernist Alvar Aalto on display, shown above. It was an interesting pairing of two visionary designers from two different countries and generations.

Lastly, below is a shot of a staircase in Somerset House, England's first purpose-built government building, designed in 1776 by William Chambers. One of the things I enjoyed most about this course was looking not at a building in its whole, but rather focussing on its details, such as this impressive stone spiral staircase with each step supporting the next, topped with elegant blue balustrades.

Staircase, Somerset House, Strand

History of Architecture and Interiors at Chelsea doesn't come cheap, but if you're willing to part with a couple hundred quid you'll get a lot in return. Another one I really enjoyed was History of Fashion at London College of Fashion. There is a whole host of short courses available to study in UAL sites all over London in all manner of disciplines, and I would heartily recommend them.