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.

Charcot House, Roehampton

Here is a sketch of Charcot House, one of the five tower blocks in the Alton West Estate, Roehampton, SW15.

The Alton West estate was completed in 1958, as social housing. It was designed by a London County Council team led by Rosemary Stjernstedt (1912-1998).

The five tower blocks stand in a huge green space, on a hill, with many trees. When I visited, people were picnicking on the dry grass. You can see some of them in the centre of the picture.

I went there by bike, it took about two hours, partly because I also went to look at the Dover House Estate, nearby, which was built in 1918. Also it took me a while to find the Alton West estate. There are a number of hills in the area.

Here is a map:

The arrow shows the sightline of the drawing.

Drawing time: 45 min. Colours: Mars Yellow (DS), Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Burnt Umber (Jacksons).

Balfron Tower

I went on a marvellous cycle ride in East London. The air was clear, the roads were wide and empty. As I came back I spotted this view of the Balfron Tower. I sat on a low wall in a housing estate off Willis Street, and sketched it.

Balfron Tower, Poplar, east London.

This tower is designed by the architect Ernő Goldfinger, and resembles his other famous tower, Trellick Tower, which is in North West London. Balfron Tower was built in 1967 as council housing.

It has recently been sold by Tower Hamlets Council, and redeveloped by the developer LondonNewcastle as luxury flats. You can see some of the scaffolding in the drawing.

Here is where it is.

Here is work in progress. Also a glimpse of my bicycle.

As I sat sketching, a pale young man approached. “It’s beautiful,” he said as he strode past. He was referring to the Balfron Tower, not to my drawing.

“Yes, ” I agreed, “I think so”. I looked down to my drawing again. But the young man had something else to say.

“You should see Jesus,” he told me, “He’s beautiful too.” Taking my baffled silence as amazement, he continued, “I’ve seen Him, believe it or not”. He left this statement hanging in the air and walked on around the corner, without breaking step.

Ben Jonson House

Sketching from the window, here is Ben Jonson, part of the Barbican estate.

The people who live on the top floor of Ben Jonson have sunlit roof gardens. You can see one person enjoying his garden. He sits just at the bottom of the blue fire escape ladder.

There is also an interesting void space shown in the lower right of the picture. It was empty when I was drawing, but sometimes someone’s legs are visible, using the space for sunbathing. Sometimes they set up a table and chairs there.

Here is work in progress. I used colours: Mars Yellow, Burnt Umber, Prussian Blue and a bit of Perinine Orange.

Barbican Lakeside

A view from the residents’ gardens.

Barbican Lakeside

The building in the background is the Heron Building, luxury flats above the Milton Court Concert Hall, Guildhall School of Music and Dance. This building opened in September 2013. It replaced a public building, which was in the brutalist design of the Barbican and designed by Chamberlain Powell and Bon, It housed a fire station, Coroner’s Court, mortuary, office of weights and measures and a civil defence school, and was connected to the Barbican by a bridge at Podium level. This building was demolished in 2008, in the face of opposition from the Twentieth Century Society amongst others, and was replaced by the steel and glass tower. This new building has no bridge to the Barbican, which is a pity, in my view.

At the extreme right is City Point.

Here is work in progress:

This drawing took ages. I couldn’t get the steps right. After 30 minutes of drawing and rubbing out I restarted at 12:10 and finished 1hour30mins later.

Bastion House, London Wall

I hastened to draw the magnificent Bastion House, on London Wall. It is due for demolition.

In the foreground you see the balcony and privacy screen of the flat in Andrewes, whose leaseholder had kindly hosted me.

The line of red brick, and what looks like chimneys, in the foreground are the rooftops of a part of the Barbican, “The Postern”. Behind them is the Barber-Surgeons’ Hall on Monkwell Square, where I have been to give blood. The curved green building on the left is on the other side of London Wall. It is “One London Wall” near the Museum of London Rotunda: multi-use office space.

Bastion House is the huge monolith in the centre of the drawing. It reminds me of the monolith in the 1968 film “2001 – A Space Odyssey”, and indeed it dates from that period. It was proposed in 1955, and started in 1972, completed in 1976. The architect was Philip Powell of Powell and Moya. This practice also designed the Skylon for the 1951 South Bank Festival of Britain, and Churchill Gardens in Pimlico.

Here is drawing work in progress.

This drawing took me about 2 hours. This is my first drawing in a new sketchbook: the “Perfect Sketchbook” from Etchr. This will be Urban Sketching sketchbook number 6.

I have sketched Bastion House before:

St Giles and Bastion House

Today Urban Sketchers London held a “sketch crawl” in the Barbican. So I joined them. An astonishing number and diversity of people assembled inside the entrance of the Barbican Centre at the appointed time of 11am. I counted about 35 and then another dozen or so joined. All shapes and sizes of people, tall, short, … Continue reading “St Giles and Bastion House”

Marlow House, Hallfield Estate

The Hallfield Estate is a modernist estate in Bayswater, W2 6EH. It’s a short walk south from Royal Oak Station on the Hammersmith and City Line.

It was constructed in the 1950s, to a design of Berthhold Lubetkin. The construction was supervised by Lindsey Drake and Denys Lasdun. Now it’s Grade 2 listed. Here’s what the listing says:

Reasons for Designation

The fourteen blocks and laundry at Hallfield Estate are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

  • Architectural interest: a sophisticated and distinctive aesthetic approach to social housing, whereby the facades are treated like works of abstract art;

  • Planning: the estate fulfilled its brief to provide mass housing and open space in a crowded urban borough, in a plan inspired by Le Corbusier’s ‘Radiant City’

  • Authorship: designed by Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton, and constructed under the supervision of Lindsay Drake and Denys Lasdun, the estate is the work of some of the C20’s most significant architects;

  • Historic interest: a seminal post-war housing estate that was widely exhibited and published, and provoked divergent contemporary responses which illuminate post-war architectural theory.

Here is a sketch of Marlow House. I drew it standing on a strange hummock, a small hill, inside the estate near the Battle Bridge Road.

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“The estate presents a convincing riposte to criticism that postwar council housing is grey, drab and utilitarian. At Hallfield, the exteriors of each block are treated like works of abstract art – some are patterned with a chequerboard of blue and red brickwork; others have a zigzagging screen of white concrete panels. The estate now exists amongst an elite group of 16 listed post warhousing estates estate in London – estates that are successful as places to live and are cared for by their residents.” Hannah Parham, the English Heritage Designation Advisor (2011).

Shown in my picture is the “zigzagging screen of white concrete panels”.

The gardens were beautiful, and well maintained. The buildings themselves are showing signs of wear. Tiles are chipped and cracked at the edges, and staircases look covered in soot from a previous era. But it’s still a stately collection of buildings. The white tiling is a work of art. On Marlowe House, the frame of the building is covered in ivory tiles, in squares of 25 tiles arranged in 5×5 grids, which are themselves arranged in a grid. So the effect is that of graph paper. I was impressed that these tiles are carefully made, and the edge ones are shaped, with rounded edges.

I also enjoyed the pillar, in the lower left of my drawing. It is fluted.

IMG_0016
Fluted pillar. The lighting conductor rather mars the effect.

The stairwells are completely open. I could have gone up, but I didn’t. The postman did, however. While I was drawing I saw him doing his rounds, his black woollen hat moving along the balconies, passing behind the facade and down the stairs.

Here is a map and work in progress. Click to expand the picture.


Drawing took 1½ hours, drawn and coloured on location.

From the Barbican Lakeside Terrace

This is a drawing on one of those hot days last week.

I sat at one of the tables on the Barbican Lakeside Terrace and drew what I saw. The massive building is 125 London Wall, a multi-occupancy monolith. Behind, to the right is 88 Wood Street, designed by Richard Rogers (“Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners”). It’s a bit like the Lloyds Building, with transparent walls and lifts you can see going up and down. On the left is the new building at One London Wall Place.

In front of all that is the side of St Giles’ church, with its castellations. There was a celebration going on: Barbican@50.

IMG_3676

The banner you can see fastened to the railings says “SOSBarbican.com”. It is placed by objectors to the proposed extension of the Girls School.

1 hour 20.

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