Cromwell Tower from the Podium

Here is Cromwell Tower, in the Barbican, with Frobisher Crescent to the right, sketched pre-lockdown, from the Podium.

Cromwell Tower from the Barbican podium, 1st January 2021, 10″x 12″

This was a very cold day, and it started to sleet. That pitted effect you see on the left? That’s not a clever artistic technique, that’s ice crystals dropping on the painting from the sky!

I finished off the tower indoors. I used Daniel Smith Iridescent Moonstone watercolour paint. See how it catches the light!

For the podium tiling I used an experimental effect: scratching. I was in a bit of a hurry (it was really cold) and it was hard to get the angle right as I was holding the painting and standing up. It created an interesting effect, not quite what I intended, but I liked it.

This is one of a series of drawings on Jackson’s watercolour sheets: 10″ x 12″ cold-pressed, 300gsm. The bone implement I used for scratching is from the Vintage Paper Company and is a “bone folder”, intended for folding paper. It is good because it is not entirely sharp, and it’s nice to hold.

The colours are Daniel Smith watercolours: Prussian Blue, Perylene Maroon, and Mars Yellow, with a bit of Green Apatite Genuine for the plants, and Iridescent Moonstone mixed in, especially for the tower.

I’ve drawn in and around the Barbican before. Here’s a collection: (click “load more posts” to see more posts of the Barbican.)

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Golden Lane Leisure Centre – South

On Golden Lane Estate there is a Leisure Centre in the Modernist style. Its roof floats on slender columns, and there are huge windows so you can see the activity inside.

Here’s a view of the south end. The tree is in the garden in front of Basterfield House.

I drew this picture sitting on the paving stones outside Cullum Welch House. This was the location I’d chosen, because from that precise spot I could see the Atlas Building in the gap between Basterfield House and Great Arthur House. It’s a huge empty space. A woman walked past me, intrigued by my equipment spread around. She looked critically at the plastic carrier bag I was using to insulate myself from the concrete. “I’m glad to see you are sitting on something,” she told me. “My mother used to say you should not sit on cold concrete or you would get…now what was it you would get?” Since this woman was herself somewhat elderly, I was guessing that the advice from her mother dated way back into the previous century. We smiled at each other, thinking of mothers. She walked away, puzzling over what it was that her mother had been concerned about. I continued my drawing, thinking about advice from mothers, and how it endured.

A day or so later, I made a sketch in the evening, looking the other way.

It was evening, and very cold. This time I was standing up, looking West, as the sky dimmed.

Here is a collection of my sketches in the Golden Lane Estate.

Bayer House, Golden Lane Estate

I drew Bayer House from a quiet spot above the Leisure Centre. Bayer House is the brick building on the right. The white building in the centre is Peabody Tower, on the Peabody Estate, the other side of Golden Lane.

In the background, you see the “HYLO” tower on Bunhill Row, under construction.

Bayer House (right), Golden Lane Estate.

Bayer House is three rows of 2 storey maisonettes: like three terraced streets, stacked. The brick walls are pink brinks with pink mortar: very pink. The architects are Chamberlain, Powell and Bon.

I drew this picture from the podium level, one storey up. In the sunken playground area, children played. I could hear their voices below me, and caught an occasional glimpse as they dashed into my field of view. Then I heard another noise, a rhythmic beat or clunk. I thought the children must have some kind of percussive instrument that they were playing with, like two large rocks. May be they were slapping two boxing gloves together. Then their voices opened into greetings. Just at that moment, two enormous police horses came into view, walking at my level. The police officers had paused their mounts, and were waving to the children below. I called out a hello, and then the police officers saw me too. “Hey look, there’s someone drawing!” They moved their horses on, hoofs clip-clopping on the concrete, very loud, and now, of course, utterly distinctive.

Many of the blocks on the Golden Lane Estate are named for councillors or other officials of the City of London who were in post at the time the Estate was under construction. But I could not find a “Bayer”. “Hatfield”, of “Hatfield House” which I drew previously, was also not to be found in the lists. After a long search, the marvellous London Metropolitan Archives turned up the answer. Hatfield St, and parts of Basterfield St, were subject of a compulsory purchase order in 1954. Bayer St, Great and Little Arthur Street, and the intriguing “Hot Water Court” were compulsorily purchased in 1951. So these houses are named after streets. More searching revealed the maps, see below. You see the former Bayer St in approximately the position of Bayer House, and Great Arthur St where Great Arthur House is now. Hatfield House and Basterfield House are also in the position of their corresponding streets. There is still a vestige of Basterfield St north of Basterfield House. Click to enlarge the maps below.

The colours in this picture are Fired Gold Ochre (DS), Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Mars Yellow(DS), Buff Titanium (DS), and Perylene Maroon (DS). There a bit of Transparent Pyrrol Orange (DS) in the tree and the balconies of Bayer House. It was very cold and the colours did not dry which is why they are a bit blurry.

The collection of my Golden Lane Estate drawings is here:

Hatfield House, Golden Lane Estate

This is Hatfield House, at the North side of the Golden Lane Estate, EC1.

Hatfield House, Golden Lane Estate, 12″x9″ watercolour [SOLD]

The arches in the middle of the picture are above the Golden Lane Leisure Centre, which is closed at the moment. You can just see the blue vending display, which has goggles and other items for use in the swimming pool.

While I was drawing the picture, I caught movement in the side of my vision. A man appeared below me, indoors, by the side of the swimming pool. I looked at him through the window. He was fully dressed, with covers over his shoes, stirring a bucket with a long pole. After a long period of patient stirring, he poured the contents of the bucket into the swimming pool. Then he refilled the bucket, set it on the edge of the pool, and started stirring again. At that point I stopped watching and resumed my drawing. When I looked back again, he had gone.

This picture was drawn for a commission. I made a preliminary drawing, and various sketches. Here is work in progress. The big challenge was to get the perspective lines right, to show the depth and distance.

This drawing was done on 29th September 2020.

Here are more sketches in the Golden Lane Estate:

Crescent House, Golden Lane Estate

A resident of Crescent House commissioned me to draw his block.

Crescent House – 12″x9″ original watercolour (SOLD)

This is a view from the podium level, above the Golden Lane Leisure centre. The block on the left is Cullum Welch House. The yellow colour in the centre is a reflection of Great Arthur House in the windows of Crescent House.

Map showing the view of Crescent House in the drawing (North is on the right)

The pavement by the wall was being re-laid. Just off the picture, to the right, people who were laying the paving stones sang merry tunes, and insulted each other. “Dean, I don’t believe how long that’s taken you. It’s a five minute job!”

Dean was moving the metal fencing around, making a sound like a drum roll. They needed to reconfigure their enclosure as they finished one section of paving and moved onto the next. I didn’t catch Dean’s repost, but the answer was, “No…no.. it’s just because you are lazy….”

Here is work in progress on this final drawing. It is made on a block of Saunders Waterford Hot Press 300gsm paper.

I made some preliminary drawings a few days previously, to get my head around the composition and the perspective challenges.

At the bottom left of the sketch is that strange sloping block. It is pointed. I didn’t get the whole of it in the sketch as it is so fascinating that it would have distracted from the main object of the drawing which is Crescent House. But it is worthy of examination. It looks like a tank trap. But what is it doing there? There are two of them.

As you see they are wonderful sculptural objects, worthy of a drawing in their own right.

Probably they are to stop people from sitting on that convenient ledge.

Great Arthur House and Cullum Welch House

I found a good viewpoint at Podium level, underneath Crescent House. At ground level a woman ran circuits of the tennis courts. After a while she started doing interval training: running up and down the stairs near where I was standing. Then she came and asked if she could see the picture.

Great Arthur House and Cullum Welch House, Golden Lane Estate, from Crescent House.

Cullum Welch House is named for Sir George James Cullum Welch O.B.E., M.C. He was Sheriff of London, then knighted, then Lord Mayor of London in 1956, which was when the Golden Lane Estate was being built. He was knighted in the 1952 New Year Honours. He served in the army in 1914-18 and 1939-45 conflicts, and gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Cullum Welch House and Great Arthur House, together with other buildings in the Golden Lane Estate are listed Grade II. The listing was in December 1997. Here is an extract from the listing on the Historic England site.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: Cullum Welch House, part of the Golden Lane Estate, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: as a self-sufficient ‘urban village’, in which every element of space is accounted for and every detail carefully considered, the Golden Lane Estate has claim to be the most successful of England’s housing developments from the early 1950s.

* Planning interest: the estate reflects the formality, mixed with picturesque attention to landscape, which was emerging in British architecture in the early 1950s, this saw the spaces between the buildings being almost as important as the buildings themselves.

The strong formality of the estate became a key characteristic of the work of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, as did the provision of a wide range of facilities on the site other than just housing. These are features that can also be seen at their Barbican development.

Here’s the description of Great Arthur House from the Historic England website:

Great Arthur House was built in 1953-7 from reinforced concrete. The 17 floor building was the first to break the London County Council’s 100 ft height restriction and was briefly the tallest inhabited building in England. The flats were designed for single people and couples such as nurses and policemen who had to live near their work. The architects for the estate were Chamberlin, Powell and Bon.

It was cold when I drew the picture, 10 degrees C. I wore a hat and gloves. Here are photos of work in progress, and a map.

This picture took about two hours overall, plus 15 minutes for the preliminary sketch.

The colours are Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue, which make the grey tones, plus Hansa Yellow Mid which is the exact colour of the yellow cladding on Great Arthur House.

Here is a collection of my recent drawings of the Golden Lane Estate. Click on the picture to read more about the picture.

Stanley Cohen House, Golden Lane Estate

I sat near the Community Centre and looked East.

Stanley Cohen House, on the East side of the Golden Lane Estate. Peabody House in the background.

I enjoyed the bold statement of the vertical yellow rubbish chute, visible above the balconies.

There were many plants on people’s balconies. I didn’t draw them all. Many people had window boxes, with geraniums and trailing leaves. On the upper floor, a length of camouflage netting hung across the balcony. You can just see it towards the middle of the picture. Then there were the three rose bushes, sketched in the foreground. All the while, the fountain played. There were lilies in the pond.

Stanley Cohen was chairman of the City of London public health committee in 1954. His name appears on the almost-indecipherable Foundation stone on Bowater House, near where I did this drawing.

Here is work in progress and a map.

This drawing is 25cm by 16cm, 10 inches by 6½ inches on Arches 300gsm watercolour paper. It took 1½ hours. After a preliminary sketch, shown in the gallery above, I started work on this drawing at 14:30 and finished at 16:00. The colours are Fired Red Ochre, Mars Yellow, Perylene Maroon, and Phthalo Turquoise, over De Atramentis document black ink.

Here is a collection of my drawings of the Golden Lane Estate:

Basterfield House, Golden Lane Estate

Yesterday I drew Basterfield House, sitting on some steps in the shadow of Great Arthur House.

Basterfield House is at the North of the Golden Lane Estate. Here is a map. Great Arthur House was over my right shoulder, and cast its huge shadow in the afternoon sun.

Sketch map showing the view shown in the drawing.

Behind the tree, the low-rise block is Stanley Cohen House. In the background of the drawing is the Atlas Building, just to the left of the tree. On the right of the tree is the architect’s practice at 88 Golden Lane.

88 Golden Lane

Today was a glorious sunny day. I walked out into the sun and everywhere was worthy of a sketch. Here is 88 Golden Lane, a strange thin building. It is an architects’ practice: Blair Architecture. I sketched this standing on the side of the road in the sun, then retreated to sit on my case … Continue reading “88 Golden Lane”

This drawing is 25cm by 16cm, 10 inches by 6½ inches on Arches 300gsm watercolour paper. It took 1½ hours. I did a preliminary sketch first, shown in the work-in-progress photos below. The colours are Fired Gold Ochre, Phthalo Turquoise, Transparent Pyrrol Orange, and Mars Yellow, watercolours over De Atramentis document black ink.

I have drawn the Golden Lane Estate before. Here is a selection of drawings in this area:

National Theatre in lockdown

The National Theatre is on the South Bank of the Thames. Here is a view, looking East from Waterloo Bridge.

National Theatre, 9th September 2020, 3:20pm

As you see, there are gates across the walkway. The Theatre is closed, and the walkways are closed.

My drawing shows the empty theatre, and the empty walkways. The theatre restaurant, which is on the left of the drawing, is also closed and empty.

The walkways, in true 1960s style, are at “podium” level, above the traffic. Below me as a drew, people walked and cycled, and traffic passed on the nearby road, Upper Ground. Grass and buddleia grow in the cracks. Life continues, but at a different level.

This drawing is 25cm by 16cm, 10 inches by 6½ inches on Arches 300gsm watercolour paper. It took 1½ hours. I did a preliminary sketch first, shown in the work-in-progress photos below. The colours are Buff Titanium, Neutral Tint, and Lunar Earth, all Daniel Smith watercolours, over De Atramentis document black ink.

I’ve drawn the South Bank before:

Alexandra Road Estate, Camden

I cycled to the North West of Regent’s Park, in search of the Alexandra Road Estate. This estate is a truly astonishing work, testament to the vision and social ideals of the Camden councillors and architects who made it happen.

I cycled past the large and stately houses of Queens Grove, Marlborough Road, Loudoun Road, going north, uphill. I went left on Boundary Road, which is the north edge of Westminster and the south Edge of Camden. There on the right I glimpsed brutalist concrete. This is it. But the side road I followed, Rowley Way, led downwards into a disappointing loading bay, with barriers, delivery drivers and much disorganised parking. It was hot, and I’d cycled what felt like a long way. Then I remembered that this was a 1960s development. There must be a podium level, above the cars. There was. I looked for, and found, the slope upwards.

Rowley Way, Alexandra Road Estate

At the top of the slope was another world. A long village street led into the distance, with tranquillity, with greenery, and with concrete benches. People walked about immersed in conversation, leading children. Two lads sat on a bench, chatting and looking at their feet. Everywhere, there were trees, bushes and flowers. The street was tiled with red terracotta tiles. Each side the flats sloped up, looking irregular, like houses I have seen built into the hill in Crete.

I walked all along the tiled street, pushing my bike. There were concrete benches, but from those the view would give directly onto someone’s home, so I didn’t feel that would be good manners to sit down and draw there. Many features I recognised as typically 1960s: wood-marked concrete, thick iron railings, slabs of exposed concrete, round stairwells. The flats were all interlocked, so it was not clear where one flat started and the next stopped. It was most intriguing architecture. There were ledges, and low doors, gardens on ledges, and stairways climbing high up right to the roof.

At the end of the street, there was a small tiled public area, with a tree, and a viewpoint, and more concrete benches. Here I had a view of the end of the terrace of flats.

“..monoliths of tower blocks..” behind the Alexandra Road Estate.

I particularly enjoyed the way that the architect had made that walkway protrude at the end of the block, to provide a viewpoint, a special place. I didn’t go up there. To the north, there were the tall monoliths of tower blocks. Trains rumbled. The railway line is immediately behind the terrace I was drawing.

The architect of the Alexandra Road Estate was Neave Brown, of the Camden Architecture Department. It was designed in 1968 and built 1972-78. The construction was controversial. Inflation was 20% at times in the seventies, and so costs went up. Neave Brown fought hard to complete the scheme, and he prevailed.

There is a wonderful description of the estate and its history on the Municipal Dreams website on this link:

https://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/the-alexandra-road-estate-camden-a-magical-moment-for-english-housing/

Here are maps showing where it is, click to enlarge.

Here is work in progress on the drawing:

Here is the map on the entrance to the estate. Click to enlarge it.

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