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 The laws were first initiated after the Great Fire of London, and subsequently modified, with sections being repealed, modified and replaced with Building Regulations.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.

Coal Drops Yard N1C from the Skip Garden

Here is the view from high up in the marvellous Skip Garden at Kings Cross. Coal Drops Yard roofs are in the background, behind the crane.

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I did this picture with just three colours: cobalt blue, yellow ochre, and alizarin crimson. The yellow ochre and cobalt blue refused to make green. They made grey.

Here is the picture under construction.

IMG_2060On the way to Kings Cross I passed through Duncan Terrace Gardens, in Islington, where there is an extraordinary “bird hotel” in one of the gigantic trees. It was made by “London Field Works” and consists of 300 specially made bird boxes, all different sizes, fitted round the tree.

A nearby notice assured me: “The method of installation has been designed in close consultation with the Forestry Commission and the borough’s ecology dept to enable the tree to continue to grow and expand.”

Shoreditch skyline

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This is a view on an intriguing house which is on Clere Street in Shoreditch. A sort of greenhouse has been built on top of an older Victorian house. Very modern. As far as I can work out it is 17-18 Clere Street. There are various names on the door bell, and the top one is labelled “Nucco Brain”. Nucco Brain is a “visual storytelling company”. They make videos. But this may not be the glass structure, as that looks residential. Hard to tell.

The view is from the corner of Leonard Street and Tabernacle Street, EC2. In the foreground is a sunken bar, and then, amazingly, a bomb site used as a car park. The bomb site and the warehouse building on the left of the drawing are “EMA textiles”, with Acme bar in “EMA House” on the ground floor.

EMA Textiles, based on the edge of Shoreditch and the City of London is a large specialist babywear and childrenswear fashion importer. We have been established for 60 years and successfully supply many high street retailers with a full range of products” (LinkedIn)

Towers East and Towers West

I continue to work on my “Towers Project”. The idea is to document the towers of Finsbury, Islington and Camden, or at least the ones I can see from my window.

I did a “Skyline” previously which you can see on this link.

Here are two smaller etchings, Towers East and Towers West, both 10.5cm by 15cm. I finished Towers West yesterday.

 

These two together form a panorama. I used Towers East in a Chine Collé course. See this link.

The two prominent towers at the front are part of a Peabody Estate, the “Roscoe Estate” on Roscoe Street. The one on the left is “Peabody Tower” and the one on the right is “St Mary’s Tower”. The low house at the very front on the left is Fortune House, on Fortune Street. I have drawn Peabody Tower in an urban sketch, see this link.

These etchings are aquatint on copper. Here is work in progress on “Towers West”.

 

I drew the picture in hard ground using an etching spike, then etched it in acid called “Edinburgh Etch” for 20minutes. The resulting print is shown above on the right.

Then I put resin dust, called Aquatint, on the plate, and set it with a gas burner. I paint varnish on top of the Aquatint, to make the shapes, then dip in acid, then paint more, then dip. Towers West is 6 dips. The sky is a technique called “spit bite”: I just paint the acid on, wait 20 seconds, and wash it off.

Here’s the copper plate for Towers West:

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Towers West, copper plate

Towers of North London

I have a project to draw all the towers I can see from my window. These are the towers of Finsbury, Hackney and Camden in North London.

To identify the Towers, I made an etching of the sky line. This is the view from my window. I look North.

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This is an aquatint, made at East London Printmakers. Later I am going to put all the names on.

Here’s an earlier stage of the same picture.  This is the hard ground etching.

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This is Charbonnel Doux printing ink on Fabriano Unica Printing Paper from Great Art. Copper plate etched in Edinburgh etch for 25 minutes.