Horizon panorama

Some time ago, I was given a Japanese sketchbook, which was in the form of a concertina of doubled paper. In the last few days I drew the world outside, as seen from the windows of this flat. It’s about a 270 degree view, mostly over West and North London.

During these days of indoor confinement, the weather outside has been beautiful. Stunning blue skies. So I put that in using Phthalocyanine Turquoise watercolour.

Then I made a videos. The first one, with the pointer, has an audio commentary. It’s quite quiet, you may need to turn the sound up. The second one is silent. This is the first time I’ve put videos on this site. Let me know if it works.

I added written captions also, as you see in the second video.

Here are still pictures from the panorama with captions.

70 St Mary Axe, and Finsbury Circus

I have wanted to draw this building for a long time. It has the most wonderful shape.

70 St Mary Axe, from the park by St Botolphs, 110 Bishopsgate is the tall building in the background.

It seemed like today was a good day: empty streets and sun. I found a view, and stood sketching with the sun on my back.

Three things happened.

  • A group of skateboarders chose the particular wide pavement on which I was standing to practise their sport.
  • People started to accumulate in the park nearby, with beer cans and music.
  • The sun moved, and I was in shade.

The skateboarders were skilful, and avoided me, but were a worry and distraction. The groups of people were definitely contravening current regulations on social distancing and made me uneasy. And then I was getting cold.

So I packed up my sketch, and moved on. The result is a rather dashed sketch, but somehow captures the mood, and is not unpleasing. What do you think?

There are more curves in this view than I normally encounter in an urban sketch. As well as the marvellous building, you can see the wiggle of the road called Bevis Marks, at the bottom of the sketch. That sinuous line is usually totally lost in the buses and parked cars. But it was visible today.

70 St Marys Axe is by Foggo Architects. It was finished last year. The interior design is also a sight to behold. I peered in through the glass.

I walked back through the deserted city and came to Finsbury Circus. Here was the most wonderful tranquil air and a feeling of light. I realised this was because a huge and tall Crossrail construction, which has been at the centre of Finsbury Circus for months, has now gone. The sky has reappeared. I could look back and see the buildings of the city though a fine mesh of branches and spring leaves. It was beautiful. I sat on the steps of 1 Finsbury Circus and drew it.

Phthalo turquoise (W&N), Burnt Umber (DS) and Perylene Maroon (DS), with some Mars Yellow (DS)

St Pauls and Bastion House

I am sketching the views out of the window.

Left to right: St Pauls, an office block on London Wall, Bastion House, tower in Vauxhall, South Bank Tower.

Just visible over the top of Bastion House is the top of “OneBlackfriars”. In the foreground: Mountjoy House, Barbican, on the right. Along the bottom is the Barbican Highwalk which joins Mountjoy House and Wallside.

I have drawn Bastion House before:

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 … Continue reading “Bastion House, London Wall”

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”

This drawing took rather a long time as I stopped a couple of times. As a result, by the time I finished, the lights were coming on in the office buildings, and the sky was dark.

Click here to see my drawing of St Paul’s last year

HYLO Building under construction

Here is the “HYLO” Building on Bunhill Row.

HYLO, on the site of the Finsbury Tower.

It will be “premium office and retail space over 29 floors”. The developer is “CIT”:

Steve Riddell, Managing Director Developments, CIT, says [on the CIT website]: “As the line between corporate and creative becomes more integrated, our aim is to provide a workplace solution that offers flexible spaces that embrace collaboration and connectivity at the same time. We are excited for HYLO to become the defining destination in the Old Street district.”

The drawing also shows buildings associated with St Joseph’s Catholic Church, these are in front of HYLO, and dwarfed by it. The cube behind HYLO on the left is “White Collar Factory” and mixed-use office space on Old Street Roundabout. Offices on Lambs Passage are on the right. In the front, at the bottom of the drawing, are the extensive air conditioning ducts and roof apparatus on a building of Lloyds Bank. On the lower left is a YMCA, being rebuilt as accommodation for young homeless people. Here’s a map and an annotated drawing.

HYLO is on the site of the former Finsbury Tower. Here is what it looked like before:

Finsbury Tower 3rd August 2016
Finsbury Tower on Bunhill Row above Peabody Estate buildings. Finsbury Tower was a 1960s office building now undergoing extensive renovation. According to the planning application, the renovation will add 12 storeys to the existing 16, doubling the building’s height. 

Here are some other drawings in this area:

Lamb’s Buildings EC1

St Joseph’s Bunhill Row on right. From the church notice board: “A small chapel in the basement of a former school 1901”. Contains windows from St Mary Moorfields 1820. Remodelled 1993 by Anthony Delarue “in a vaguely Florentine Renaissance manner”. The crib is there until Feb 2nd, and the church is open Fridays 12noon to … Continue reading “Lamb’s Buildings EC1”

YMCA site, Errol St EC1

This site is a few minutes walk from where I live. There will be a “new home for young homeless Londoners”. “146 beds, 10 000 lives, 60 years”, says the text on the hoarding. There will be 146 en-suite rooms, an “affordable gym for the whole community” and a “social enterprise unit”. You can see … Continue reading “YMCA site, Errol St EC1”

South Bank, London

Here’s the South Bank seen from the Victoria Embankment on the North Bank.

South Bank near Blackfriars Bridge – Tate Modern, The Shard, One Blackfriars, South Bank Tower

Here you see the modern blocks, with the older wharves in front. The low red building towards the right is Oxo Tower Wharf, formerly a factory making OXO cubes, now a place with workshops for jewellers, a restaurant and various cafés. The building was designed for the Liebig Extract of Meat Company by Albert Moore in the 1920s. It was derelict in the 1970s. In the 1980s the Coin Street Community Builders saved it from demolition and with great determination gradually renovated it in stages over the next twenty years.

The tall tower on the right is the South Bank Tower, a residential block. Its height was increased recently, adding about a third on top. You can see the “seam” on the building, and I have shown it in the drawing on the right of the tower. One Blackfrairs is the asymmetrical tower in the middle, mostly residential, and completed last year.

Here is work in progress.

Here’s a map.

Street map. The arrow shows the sightline of the drawing.

There is a building to the South West of Blackfriars Bridge, labelled “HM Customs” on the map. This is next to Oxo Tower Wharf, on the river front in the centre of the drawing.

HM Customs and Excise were there from 1987, when the building was called “New Kings Beam House”. In an early part of my career they were a client of mine. This was the 1980s. I remember stepping over mud in my nice business shoes, and picking my way between derelict buildings with my briefcase, feeling rather conspicuous. After this hazardous journey, I was always glad to see the uniformed commissionaire at the door of New Kings Beam House. He was, of course, in full Customs uniform, with a white shirt and gold buttons. The entrance was from Upper Ground then. The meetings were in bright offices overlooking the river, fully carpeted and quite unlike the offices of any other of my government clients. HM Customs and Excise merged with the Inland Revenue in 2005 to form “Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs” (HMRC). They must have moved out of the building around then. It was refurbished in 2011, and is now called “Sea Containers House”, with a hotel and the offices of media and marketing companies.

This drawing took about an hour drawn leaning on a stone pillar on the Victoria Embankment. Phthalo Blue (W&N), Burnt Umber (DS) and a bit of Mars Yellow (DS) and Perinone Orange (DS).

I put more information about Sea Containers House in this post: From Oxo Tower Wharf. In the 1980s there were the gold spheres on top of the pillars facing the river. These have since vanished from the riverside façade.

Sea Containers House about 2010, showing the golden spheres. Note also the height of the Tower behind, which is now much higher, and is called South Bank Tower.

When I was sketching, I thought I could see one of them, hidden at the back. You can see it in the drawing, between the Oxo tower and South Bank Tower. Intrigued, I went looking for it later, and found a view of it from Upper Ground. It’s very odd that they kept that one, and discarded all the others.

Gloucester Cathedral

This is Gloucester Cathedral Tower from the cloisters.

It’s an amazing place. Inside there are huge Norman pillars from 1089. They seem so solid and magnificent that you’d think no-one would ever want to change them. But someone did. At the East End, there are a few pairs of pillars in a totally different style: the “perpendicular” style, which means they are fluted, like vertical clusters of pipes. This remodelling project was started in around 1330, but didn’t get far. Our guide, Rebecca, offered several explanations for why this project was stopped. There was a war with France, the start of the “Hundred Years War”. France invaded Dover and Folkestone in 1339 . And on the north border, English armies were attempting to stop Scotland from going independent. So there was a lot going on, and remodelling a cathedral might have gone down the list of economic priorities. Then, to cap it all, there was the Plague in 1347-51 which must have depleted the workforce and caused economic disruption. So best leave the Norman pillars as they are.

Here are some sketches as we toured the cathedral. Thank you to Rebecca, who was a brilliant guide: patient with our questions and interruptions, and extremely knowledgeable.

It’s 1hr45mins from Paddington to Gloucester. Here are some drawings done on the train.

The drawing of the Tower was a quick pen and ink sketch, coloured later. The pen and ink took about 45 minutes. The colours are: Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Mars Yellow (DS) and Perinone Orange (DS). Here is work in progress, including some of the drawing on the train.

Map of Gloucester Cathedral (1900):

Footnote: Concerning things that were going on in the 1330s: the Butchers Guild was granted the right to regulate the meat trade in London in 1331. See this post for a picture of the Butchers Hall:

Barts Square, Butchers’ Hall

Continuing my exploration of Barts Square, EC1, today I drew Butchers’ Hall. Butchers’ Hall is the building with the arched windows, in the centre left of the picture. It is the headquarters of The Worshipful Company of Butchers. This livery company is very old, the Arms were granted in 1540 and the charter by James … Continue reading “Barts Square, Butchers’ Hall”

Senate House, unfinished courtyard

The original plan, by the architect Charles Holden in 1931, proposed University of London buildings which extended all the way up Malet Street, with 17 courtyards and two huge towers. This plan was revised a number of times, becoming less magnificent with each revision. We are left with just three of the original 17 courtyards, and just one of the towers. What I find interesting is that evidently one of these downward revisions of the magnificence must have occurred rather suddenly, while building was in progress. Here are maps:

An unfinished fourth courtyard is evident in the fabric of the building, shown in the drawing below. Strange parts of walls just out like ragged lego bricks from the clean white facades. I imagine the construction workers being suddenly told “Stop! We’ve changed our minds about that next courtyard.” And the workers climbed down the ladders and downed their tools, there and then. Eventually grass covered what would have been the courtyard.

The wonderful Senate House library tower is top right. Centre of the picture, either side of the fire escape, are strange unfinished walls, in brick. The grass, dull green in the picture, front centre, is where the courtyard would have been.

I learned about Charles Holden from a walking tour on 5th October 2019, led by Chris Rogers. The title of the walk was “Best Laid Plans….Uncompleted London 1925-1995”. Chris Rogers is a writer and speaker on architecture, film, and on architecture in film. His website is here: http://www.chrismrogers.net. It was Chris Rogers who led us to the place where I made this drawing. He drew my attention to the startling unfinished walls in this otherwise polished building. My thanks to him and to the Twentieth Century Society for organising the walk.

Holden’s plan for the site was abandoned in 1937. The main tower is 210 feet high “at that time [1937] the tallest building in the capital after St Paul’s” comments Chris Rogers. He also points out that the upper floors of the tower were for the book stacks of the library “the London Building Act forbidding permanent occupation of any part of a building over 100 feet in height for fire safety reasons.” The laws were first initiated after the Great Fire of London, and subsequently modified, with sections being repealed, modified and replaced with Building Regulations.

If you want to, you can walk right underneath the tower, West-East from Malet St to Russell Square. Although it looks private, it is a public route. No-one stopped me as I wandered through with my backpack, looking for this vista to draw. It’s worth going through, as you catch a glimpse of the interior.

As I was drawing the picture, two construction workers stopped and admired the picture. Given their trade, I thought they might be interested in the reason why I was drawing here and the story of the unfinished courtyard. They knew it already. Yes, they said, there was going to be two towers. We agreed it was still a magnificent building. “But inside, ” they told me, “it’s all been ripped out.” I was interested. “Yes,” they continued, “all the sinks and taps, all taken out.” With a hand gesture, they conveyed the former beauty of the Art Deco bathroom fittings, marble floors, decorated tiles. “It’s like an airport terminal in there now,” they said, with resignation and sadness. I knew exactly what they meant.

The drawing took 2 hours. Here are some photos of work in progress, and the lettering from the top of the drainpipe.