From the Rooftop at Morelands

This was an event organised by RIBA* and Phil Dean a.k.a “Shoreditch Sketcher”.  Morelands is a modern office block on Old St.

I looked south, and drew Cromwell Tower and Great Arthur House. This sketch took about 45 minutes, as darkness fell.

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The “brise soleil” on top of Great Arthur House must be one of the most difficult things to draw. That, and the dome of St Pauls. Because it’s curved, and the curve needs to be right.

Earlier, I did a sketch of the “brise soleil” on its own. I had not noticed before that there is a sort of balcony.

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I’ve sketched Great Arthur House before:

Great Arthur House from the Barbican Podium

Welsh Church and Great Arthur House

Eglwys Jewin from Fortune Park

Update: Later, the Shoreditch Sketcher posted on Instagram. I think that might be me in the middle…..

*Royal Institute of British Architects

More views of Mountjoy House

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.IMG_3087

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.

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These “windows” will all be obliterated by the proposed City of London School for Girls expansion.

Effect of CLSG extension (view from West)

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.

 

Under Mountjoy House, Barbican

This is the view that will be lost if the City of London School for Girls expansion proposal goes ahead.

UPDATE (2020): the proposal has been shelved, and alternatives are sought. But we must remain vigilant. The article below was written in August 2019, when the threatened development looked as though it would go ahead. Widespread protest ensued.

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The view that will be lost if the CLSG expansion goes ahead. See “SOSBarbican.com”

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 current proposal to extend the Girls’ School will eradicate this view, which is Grade II* listed.  The proposal is being resisted by Barbican residents. See the website “SOSBarbican”. Please consider signing our petition.

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.

IMG_3049This 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.

Here is the effect that the extension will have, based on an architect’s drawing in the Architects Journal, 28 May 2019.

Drawing done in 3 attempts: 15 mins, 10mins, half an hour. In Jackson watercolour sketchbook, using watercolour box 3.

Here’s another sketch done from a different angle on a different day:

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I also did a drawing from the other side, see this post:

More views of Mountjoy House

The Eastern Cluster from the Barbican Podium

From the Barbican Podium underneath Willoughby House you can look East across the Crossrail site. Soon this view will be obliterated by the tall building on top of the Moorgate Crossrail station. But just now, this is what you can see:

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I drew this picture with just three colours:

  • IMG_1990Cadmium Red (Rembrandt)
  • Cobalt Blue (Jacksons)
  • Indian Yellow (Jacksons)

This was following the advice of Teoh Yi Chie of Parkablogs, in one of his Youtube posts, called “How I choose which colours to use”. He advises limiting the number of colours, and choosing just one red, one yellow and one blue for a picture. As you see, it is possible to create a wide range of colours from just three, including all the greys you see in the picture.

I was particularly pleased with the sheen on The Gherkin, which happened as the colours granulated and dried out.

The Towers in the picture are part of the emerging “Eastern Cluster”. This is a region of skyscrapers in the City of London. More will be added, according to the Eastern Cluster Strategy (try this link: City of London Eastern Cluster Strategy).

Here are the ones I could identify:

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Here are photos of the picture being drawn:

 

About 1½ hours, drawn and coloured standing on the podium, leaning the sketchbook on the concrete of the podium. Warm breeze. Sun. I needed the sunhat.

 

From Lauderdale Place: Eastern Cluster

It is amazing how many buildings you can see from Lauderdale Place. Lauderdale is the Westernmost of the three Barbican Towers. I am standing beside it, looking South-East, over Lambert Jones Mews.

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The towers are members of the so-called “Eastern Cluster”. The new building, 22 Bishopsgate, with its 60 floors, makes the former “NatWest Tower” look small. The NatWest Tower used to be the tallest tower block in the City. It is a mere 42 floors, and is now called “Tower 42”. Perhaps that is because of the number of floors. I never thought of that before.

You can just glimpse “the Scalpel”, the pointed crystalline building on Lime St, near the Lloyds building. In the picture it is between 22 Bishopsgate and St Giles’ Church.

I have annotated all the buildings here:

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Here is work in progress:

We think of the Barbican as concrete, but in fact there is quite a lot of brick. I studied the brickwork on Lambert Jones Mews carefully, and then found it was more difficult to draw than I expected. The pattern is very particular: long-short-long-short.

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The drawing took 1hr45min, drawn in bright sunlight and a light breeze. I finished it at 12:15pm. Then I went home and had a Hot Cross Bun which I had bought from St John’s Bakery. The bag was standing beside me while I was drawing, smelling spicy.

 

St Alphege Gardens, flowering tree

This tree is in blossom. It’s by the old London Wall.

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I cannot do it justice. You should go and look at it. Everyone should. It’s a miracle, in amongst the buildings.

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Barbican Towers in winter

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Alphege, London Wall

St Alphege (“Ælfheah”) was a Bishop of Winchester, later Archbishop of Canterbury. He was captured by Viking raiders in 1011 and killed by them the following year after refusing to allow himself to be ransomed. Alphege was canonised as a saint in 1078.

The church was built around then, according to Wikipedia:  “The first church was built adjoining the London Wall, with the wall forming its northern side.The churchyard lay to the north of the wall.The earliest mention of this church dates to c. 1108–25, though it is said that it was established before 1068.”

The ruins of the Church have recently been made beautiful, and accessible, by the wonderful new public space around One London Wall Place. Here is is a sketch done from one of the wooden benches close to the church:

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You see the marvellous new high walks, which curve in the sky.

Until I started drawing them, I had not realised that the walls of the highwalk vary in height. The highwalk is made of some material which rusts, to give this bright orange colour.

On the right of the picture is the red brick of the old London Wall. The building in the background is Roman House, on Wood Street, a residential block.

The architects of One London Wall are MAKE architects.

About 2 hours, drawn and coloured on location, in Jackson’s watercolour sketchbook.

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