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.

fullsizeoutput_32af

I sketched this standing on the side of the road in the sun, then retreated to sit on my case by a nearby wall to add the colour.

It must have looked as though I was sitting on the pavement. An elderly woman, pushing a shopping basket on wheels, stopped and asked me if I was alright. I said I was, and explained that I was drawing a picture. “Oh,” she said, “because I was going to say that if you needed a sit down, there a bench just around the corner here.”

I gestured to the building I was drawing. “Ah yes, you wouldn’t be able to see that if you went round the corner.” She told me she had wanted to be an artist. She always got the art prize at school. But then the schools closed. “We were blocked,” she said. I didn’t know what she meant. “I’m old,” she said, smiling at my blank expression, “the war.”

Because the school closed, she left at 14. “I wanted to go to the art school, St Martins, but that was closed because of the war.” So, she said she’d be a typist. Then the firm she worked for closed down because of the war. “So I went on War Work,” she declared. “Oh, I’ve had a good life. I’m 93. Although people say I don’t look it.” She certainly didn’t look it.

I suggested she take up art now.

“I can’t,” she said, “it’s the hands.” She held up her arms. Her hands were balls, in gloves. “Arthritis,” she said. “But I’m alright. I was ill. And I recovered. So now I think, well, I’ve got a new life. Get on with it.”

She waved her balled hands cheerfully and pushed her trolley on. She turned round. “I hope to see you again,” she said.

 

 

Barbican Towers in winter

Here is a sketch I made yesterday showing Shakespeare Tower, the middle one of the Barbican Towers.

fullsizeoutput_329d

I drew it sitting on a bench in Fortune Park.

fullsizeoutput_329aWhen I sat down, there was an agitated rustle under the bench, and a blackbird emerged onto the grass, looking rumpled. Another squawked among the leaves. I had the distinct impression that I had disturbed the creation of the next generation of blackbird. He, on the grass, squawked his annoyance at me.

I offered crumbs from the rock cake which I had bought from Big John on Whitecross Street market. The blackbird accepted the crumbs, fluttered a little way away to enjoy them, but was not appeased. His mate, having adjusted her make-up, hopped out, and asked for some rock cake too.

This picture took 1hr 15, drawn and coloured on location.


Here is a picture I’d done 2 days before, from an extremely cold and windy position on Chiswell Street. From left to right, Cromwell, Shakespeare, Lauderdale.

fullsizeoutput_329c

You see the infamous “Beech Street Tunnel”. This is an area of illegally high pollution levels, as the street is usually full of vehicles, and is covered. I haven’t shown the vehicles. Or the numerous pedestrians.

The odd circular tower type thing on the left of the tunnel is the vent to the car parks below. It is an architectural feature.

This was a much quicker picture as I was very cold and the location was busy and difficult to work in. 15 min on location and 15 min to do the colour at my desk.

fullsizeoutput_329b

Britannic House and Angel Court

Here is a view of Britannic House, 1 Finsbury Circus, from the back entrance of Moorgate Station.

IMG_1238

It was 5 degrees C. I was standing outside 45 Moorfields, at the junction with New Union Street.

Behind the blue hoardings is the Crossrail site. When the buildings above Crossrail are finished, this view will have gone.

As I was drawing, young people emerged at intervals from Moorgate Station, pointing their mobile phones like laser guns. They glanced up from the screen, and chose New Union Street. This is a poor choice. New Union Street doesn’t go anywhere you want to go. It joins Moor Lane about half way along Willoughby House in the Barbican. Then you have to turn either left or right. Either way is a long draughty walk.

Nobody asks for directions these days. Eventually a young woman hesitated. My curiosity overcame me. I asked if she needed directions. “No”, she said, “I’m just going to “Bad Egg”. It’s that way, isn’t it?” She pointed down New Union Street, no doubt following the advice of her phone. “Well, no,” I said, “You’re best off going this other way, and across the Piazza”. She looked doubtful, and glanced again at her phone as if asking it for permission. But she followed my instructions. She will get there ahead of the people in front who are walking three sides of a square. The phone doesn’t know about the Piazza in front of City Point, which is where “Bad Egg” is located. “Bad Egg” is a very noisy restaurant. I walk past it on the way to Moorgate.

I carried on drawing. More young people emerged and set off down New Union Street. I let them go. Then a woman emerged and walked in the other direction, pointing her phone at the Moorgate Crossrail site. She kept walking until she was right close to the hoardings, and then stopped. She looked accusingly at the hoardings. They should not be there. She should be able to walk south unimpeded. But there is a huge Crossrail site in the way. Evidently this feature was not apparent on the online map. She rotated gently, but still the reality on her phone refused to match the reality on the ground. She made an impatient gesture and walked out of sight, towards Moorgate.

After I finished the drawing I wondered what the tower was that is behind Britannic House. So I walked in that direction, and found it is “Angel Court Bank”, a multi-use office space.

It soars up, planted in a very ancient part of the city, near the Bank of England. Angel Court itself is an alley way which joins Copthall Avenue with Lothbury.

I liked the disjunction between the smooth modern architecture and the decorated banking halls on the other side of the alley. The black thing on the pavement is a hunk of black granite intended as a bench. It has slots cut in the side to stop skateboarders using it as a jump.

IMG_1236

In this picture you see the modern tower “angel court bank” on the left. It is also called “One Angel Court”. It slopes outwards, as you see, and is totally smooth, made of curved glass, which must have been really hard to assemble. On the other side of the street are old banking halls, once grand. Number 11 is the one which is ornate, in the centre of the picture. It is dilapidated, apparently empty. Its pillars really are green and white marble, albeit that one of them is held together with a rusty iron band. On the right of the picture is Numbers 9-10. I was surprised to see the bikes locked to its iron railings, as this practice is generally frowned on, and bikes are cut down. This building also looks empty, but a notice in the window declared that it was inhabited by “live-in guardians”. A note on the letter box instructed the Royal Mail where to put the post for residents. The bikes, evidently, belonged to the live-in guardians. They have great place to live, for the time being.

I was really cold by this time and my eyes were streaming. So I came home.

I have down Britannic House before:

1 Finsbury Circus, across the Crossrail site

 

Here’s a bit, from the “Open House” site, on Angel Court:

Original design
Fletcher Priest Architects, 2017
Refurbishment
Fletcher Priest Architects, 2017
Type
Restaurant/bar, Offices
Period
Contemporary
  • Overview

    Fletcher Priest has completed Angel Court for Mitsui Fudosan UK and development partner Stanhope. The last tower of the ‘first generation’ of tall buildings in the Bank of England Conservation Area, Angel Court is located at heart of the City’s financial district.

  • Refurbished

    Extensive studies were initially carried out to examine new-build, re-build and refurbishment options for the 1970s structure before it was decided to replace all but the core and foundations of this 25-storey building, increasing the net area by 60%. The new tower hovers above pedestrianised Angel Court, formerly a cut-through from Lothbury to Copthall Avenue, now improved to create 40% more public realm.

  • The Translucent Building

    The most noticeable aspect of the tower is its skin, which flows as a softly curved homogenous surface around the walls and roof of the original octagonal form. During the day, glimpsed through the close-knit grain of the City’s streets, its translucency gives it a distinctive, light presence. These effects come from a double frit, a ceramic dot baked onto the glass surface, which allows views from inside to out and offsets solar gain. The sculpted lower garden floor buildings with deep-set windows faced in rough-hewn Carlow Blue limestone sit comfortably in their context and contrast with the softly curved tower. At night, the tower transforms to reveal a simple square grid to match the lower buildings, unifying the whole composition.

 

 

 

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, studious-looking or flamboyant, quiet or talkative, smart or windblown, old or young, all were there. I knew I was at the right place because everyone had a very obvious “drawing bag” or rucksack, and some were sporting a neat red Urban Sketch London badge.

img_1150

A few words and then off we all dispersed. To my surprise I found a good place very quickly. A wall, at ground level, looking over the Lakeside Terrace and St Giles. I liked the way St Giles was surrounded by Bastion House, and framed by the massive concrete of Gilbert Bridge. I also thought I would be sheltered from the wind. I was wrong about that. In fact, the location seemed to be at the bottleneck of a wind-funnel, and at times the wind was painful, as well as being very inconvenient for my drawing materials, which shifted about and jumped down off the wall.

img_1149

Another Urban Sketcher came up and elected to draw the same view. She had an interesting concertina type sketch book, which she said was her “collage sketchbook”. The wind very soon got under that and unravelled the concertina right across the walkway. She got it under control though, and finished her sketch. She was doing a number of sketches in different locations. I did just the one.

I finished it at 12:50. By that time I was thoroughly cold, and glad to go back inside the Barbican Centre. All the levels were by now densely populated with people participating in all sorts of events. The Urban Sketchers, by some alchemy, found each other again and we put up our sketch books for everyone to see.

Everyone’s sketches were of interest. People had done very different things. I suppose that’s obvious, but it was startling how different they were. One person had made very precise and delicate engineering drawings of brackets. Another had a wonderful atmospheric wash of the church. Someone else had done the fountains and their environment, in firm black lines against a shadowy orange background with white water. Others had outline drawings in crayon, or detailed drawings in sepia ink, and someone had done a sketch on their iPad.

One of the organisers made a panoramic film of the drawings so I look forward to seeing them on the Urban Sketch London website.

It was a good experience and I’ll aim to go to another later in the year.

Great Arthur House from the Barbican Podium

Here is Great Arthur House from the podium ramp near Blake Tower. You can see Blake Tower on the left. At the bottom of the picture is the ramp that goes down into the Car Park at Bunyan Court.

Several stories below me, at ground level, there was an assortment of discarded furniture and paint tins, and a huge skip full of Christmas Trees being collected for recycling.

fullsizeoutput_31dd

 

It was really cold out there. I saw a black cat sliding in between the debris.

This picture done on Fabriano Artistico loose sheet,  8inches by 10 inches. About an hour, on location.

 

St Bartholomew the Less

St Bartholomew the Less is a Chapel of Ease in St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City. It’s just to the right of the main entrance from Smithfield.  You might not notice the door in the wall. Sometimes they put a board outside. I’ve been in a number of times. It’s a very peaceful, welcoming, place. Somehow, one feels the need to visit a place of prayer before, or after, a hospital visit.

I was invited to draw pictures of the church. The City Music Foundation, a charity, wants to use my pictures in its publicity. They are going to be based in St Bartholomew the Less. So the Managing Director of the Foundation, Clare Taylor, contacted me. She’d seen the pictures I’d done of The Charterhouse.

Here are the first two pictures of St Bartholomew the Less:

It was founded in 1123, by Rahere, a “courtier of Henry I“, according to the leaflet. The tower dates from the 15th century. “The three bells in the tower include one dating from 1380 and another from 1420” says the leaflet. I was interested in Rahere, because there is a Rahere St and a Rahere House which I have drawn.

Since the Foundation is a music foundation, I thought it would be a fun idea to draw the bells. By kind permission of the Parochial Church Council (PCC), whose representative efficiently produced a key, I was able to go up into the belfry. Bells, I found, are not so easy to draw as you might think. Like the human form, they have curves. And unless you get the curves exactly right, they look like a different character. Also, the belfry contained not only very ancient bells, but also 600 years of dust. It was indescribably dirty. But amazing. And very quiet inside, with all the noise going on outside. I wedged myself into the wooden frame, braced my back against a metal rod, and got started.

The platform into which I was wedged was not very big. I manoeuvred very slowly because I didn’t want to knock anything, such as a paintbrush, down into the depths. The best medium seemed to be black ink. Ink is a bit dodgy to manage at the best of times. But keeping it upright on an ancient wooden raft, in the semi-darkness, verged on the farcical. No-one was there to sympathise, except the bells, and they’d seen it all before.

 

 

Galway House

Galway House is one of the two Towers on the Pleydall Estate just North of Old Street. The other tower is Grayson.

IMG_0408

I drew this from behind Grayson House. There was a ferocious cold wind. I seemed to have picked the place where all the winds met. Here are maps showing the direction I was looking.

 


Version 2

Here are the blocks in the picture. It almost looks as though the Atlas Building continues the march of these majestic 1960s blocks. But it doesn’t, not really.

In the drawing you can see the scaffolding on the Atlas Building, and the external lift that was going up and down as I was drawing.

I was interested to see that the inhabitants of Galway Tower made use of their flower beds.

IMG_0399
Raised flower beds in Galway House, South side.

I’ve seen the same arrangement of raised flower beds next to the flats in Rahere House, where the beds were more exposed, and not used.

This whole area underwent huge changes in the twentieth century, although the street layout is unchanged.

From 1751, on Old Street, there was a huge hospital for the mentally ill: St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics.

St_Lukes_Hospital_for_Lunatics,_London.jpg
St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics on Old Street. The obelisk in St Luke’s Gardens is in the background. Image credit: Wikipedia

This hospital was closed in 1916 and the residents moved out. The building was acquired by the Bank of England and used for printing bank notes.

CTsnwiBXAAA0b_S
Bank of England Printing Works on Old Street, 1925, image credit: Bank of England Museum.

Here is the area in 1940: map from http://www.maps-of-london.com, click to enlarge.

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 14.36.42
The Pleydell Estate area, Finsbury, in 1940. Picture credit: http://www.maps-of-london.com

You see Galway Street on the crease of the map, in the centre about a quarter of the way down. Below it, to the right is the “Bank Printing Works”.

In 1959 the London County Council sought to purchase the Printing Works site and use it as an annexe to Covent Garden. This was opposed by Michael Cliffe, MP for Finsbury and Shoreditch, on the grounds that it would create unacceptable traffic congestion, especially at the Old Street Roundabout.

Mr Cliffe is quoted in Hansard:

“…London County Council (General Powers) Bill, …. The Council, through the Bill, sought powers to acquire and redevelop St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe of Covent Garden Market….. I would ask the Minister what is the point of spending millions of pounds in trying to solve the problem of congestion in Central London if we are to convert the St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe to Covent Garden in an area where we know it must inevitably cause the kind of congestion that we are trying to avoid and which we are discussing every day. As the number of vehicles increases, further problems will have to be solved. Surely we do not want to create further difficulties after our experience gained in the past?” [Hansard: HC Deb 17 December 1959 vol 615 cc1738-47]

Mr Cliffe must have prevailed. I feel an affinity with him because earlier this week I drew Michael Cliffe House.

The Printing Works building was demolished in 1963. At around that time Finsbury Council was building council houses, including the 4 tower blocks in the area: Gambier House, Grayson House, Godfrey House and Galway House. So somehow the Council must have acquired the Print Works site. I can’t find the history online so I’m going to visit the London Metropolitan Archives and the Islington Museum.

The Towers also were allocated to different Estates: Galway is in the “St Luke’s Estate” which includes the Printing works Site, Gambier is in the City Road Estate and Grayson and Galway are in the Pleydell Estate.

From “Streets with a story, The book of Islington” (1986) by Eric A Willats FLA I learn that: “Messrs. Emberton, Franck & Tardrew were the architects of Galway House (Pleydell Estate)”.

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 15.30.41.png
From a map sent to Mr I Agar in 2010 in response to a Freedom of Information request [FOI 340742.pdf]
IMG_0398
The Pleydell Estate, Galway House in the Background.