Here is the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, seen from across the Barbican Lake. I drew this sitting on a ventilator grille in an alcove of the residential flats in Andrewes House.
The Tower in the distance is Cromwell Tower. The sloping glass roof is the Barbican Conservatory. Gilbert House is the residential block on the left. In the foreground is the magical sunken garden, a planted area whose walkways are below the level of the lake.
As I drew, I was watched with interest by mallard ducks. One settled at my feet, in a proprietorial way.
I had not noticed before that the Guildhall School is built as a series of blocks, rather like a container park. The top row and the bottom row don’t quite match. The second row has a series of upright concrete beams, which I’ve shown, between the blocks.
I saw that the windows are angled. The inhabitants of one block must be able to see, in a sideways sort of way, into the next block. I’ve never been inside the School, so I don’t know how this works out in practice. But after all, this is a school of performing arts, so it’s rather good if you can see your fellow students through a window: every window a stage.
However the angling of the windows meant that from outside I couldn’t see inside. I have to wait until the performers are ready to present their pieces on a public stage. Still, from time to time I heard a flight of notes on a saxophone. Perhaps they had opened the window of one of the practice rooms.
About 2 hours, including a chat to a fellow resident who stopped by.
Predominantly just two colours: Perinone Orange and Prussian Blue, with a tiny bit of Mars Yellow in the rushes.
Here is a picture of someone looking across the Barbican Lake. Their mobile phone is telling them that the Barbican Arts Centre, the Lakeside Restaurant, the Art Gallery and the Cinemas are all over there in the sunlight. Such delights! But how do I get there? In between here and there is some murky water, and a big drop down.
What they need to do is to turn their back on where they want to go, walk, go up an obscure staircase that looks private, and then proceed across Gilbert Bridge which is high up to their right and invisible from where they are standing. I would have told them all this, but they obviously worked it all out for themselves before I could put my paintbrush down and descend from the tiled stone monument where I was sitting. Perhaps the mobile phone app is, by now, educated on the Barbican geography.
The tower in the picture is Cromwell Tower, and the glass building is part of the Barbican Conservatory.
Today there are banners outside some of the flats in Mountjoy House in the Barbican. They are there to draw attention to the proposal by the City of London School for Girls to build an extension, including kitchens, right underneath these flats. I have drawn pictures to illustrate the proposal, and to show why many of us object. See this link: Under Mountjoy House, Barbican
Information about the campaign is here: Objection to CLSG expansion. If you appreciate the Barbican architecture, please consider signing the petition.
Here is St Giles Church from the Lakeside Terrace of the Barbican. While I drew this, three men were shovelling mud from the bottom of the lake. The mud is black and viscous and the men were remarkably cheerful in their task. They would have made good subjects for a drawing too. But for now, here’s the church:
The church features in some of my “Tower” sketches:
Today I found another view of the view under Mountjoy. This is from the high walk that goes north from the Museum of London, looking East.
Under the Mountjoy Highwalk there are a number of “framed” pictures. The old London Wall fortification is visible. The sun reflected from the lake and threw patterns onto the old stone. I couldn’t get all that in the picture so you have to take my word for it.
A group of tourists stopped on the “Wallside” highwalk. You can see them in the centre right of the picture.
These “windows” will all be obliterated by the proposed City of London School for Girls expansion.
This view is from the place where the north bound highwalk turns abruptly left (click map to expand it).
This picture took about an hour. I tried hard not to overdo it.
At the top of the picture are the flats of Mountjoy House, with their impressive window boxes.
This is the view that will be lost if the City of London School for Girls expansion proposal goes ahead.
I spent time today paying attention to this view, because that is what I need to do, to draw it. The pillars are reflected in the water. The enormous flight of steps is like that in a fairy story, so wide and grand. There’s a massive three-dimensional sculpture of concrete, of light and dark. Flat spaces and lines don’t quite join up but are nonetheless connected, like rhythmic music. Framed by the 20th century brutalist columns you see an older more ornamented building, and trees. You can even see right through to the other side of Aldersgate. This is a magnificent view.
The interesting blotchy effect on the pillars is rain falling on the picture. I started this picture at 09:30. Then it started to rain. The fine rain speckled my picture. Bigger drops diluted the paint in the palette and made the paints shift about. Then it started pouring down with menace. I scrabbled my things together and dashed into St Giles’ Church which was behind me. Inside the church, people moved purposefully about, and all was calm. And it was dry. I took a deep breath and kept my drawing horizontal. There was a table next to the door. A woman looked at me over the table. I felt the need to explain. “I’m sheltering from the rain,” I told her.
Her response was calm and logical, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“I would,” I said. Her companion at the table offered me a biscuit. Grateful to the Royal Society of Organists for their hospitality, I sat on a wooden bench and let my drawing dry off. Experimental short tunes from the organ floated quizzically in the air.
Then I went out again. I wanted to finish my picture. I stood in the porch of the church and looked at the rain. “Every decision is a moral decision.” I believe that. Should I pack up the drawing and go home? I could use the time before the Planning Meeting to do the supermarket shop, deal with the plumbing problem, and process the sourdough.
Or should I continue the drawing?
What principles are at stake here? I finish drawings that I start. I don’t mind the rain. My ink and watercolour does mind the rain, though. So I’ll draw the picture under an umbrella.
This was surprisingly effective. I managed to get all the ink drawn before 10:45, when I packed up again, to go to the Planning Meeting. During this time I was approached by a flustered gentleman in a smart suit, who wanted to “get across the lake”. He was hopelessly disoriented, pointing South-West, when he should have been heading North-East. I re-directed him and he dashed off towards the Barbican Hall.
The Planning Committee Meeting at 11am was the City of London Planning and Transportation Committee. This was their July meeting. In their September meeting, if things go according to the plan put forward by the School, this same Committee is due to approve a plan for a building which will totally block out the view I have drawn. The proposed new structure would cover the steps, build round the pillars, and put in an industrial kitchen. Residents in Mountjoy House, directly above my picture, are understandably dismayed. The Barbican Association, representing Barbican residents, is leading a campaign to prevent to save the view, and stop the expansion. Here is their postcard/flyer.
On the way back from the planning meeting, I went back to the view, and put the colour.
Spending time looking at this view, these pillars, these shapes, I realise how magnificent it is, and how talented the architects were. This view is worth fighting for.
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.
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.
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.