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.
Here is the view from Graham St Garden, Finsbury, on the way to Kings Cross.
I sat on a bench dedicated to the memory of someone called Rick Clarke. It was a new bench, in a lovely position. May Rick Clarke rest in peace. I am grateful to those who knew him for putting the bench there.
Graham St is the extension of Central St northwards, and I was on my way north to Kings Cross to meet someone at the Skip Garden. But the Skip Garden was closed on Mondays, and my friend was waiting outside. We adjourned to the marvellous new development “Coal Drops Yard”. This is a 21st century adaptation of old coal sheds. The old sheds are turned into two levels of shops and restaurants, but in the modern way, old brickwork and chunks of Victorian cast iron are retained. Most spectacular is the roof.
The architects were Heatherwick Studio. On the right of the drawing people were experimenting with strange rotating chairs, also designed by Heatherwick Studio, and other people were watching them.
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)”.
Here is Michael Cliffe House, in the Finsbury Estate, from Tysoe Street.
The lower level block in the low centre of the picture is Joseph Trotter Close, also part of the Finsbury Estate.
While I was drawing the picture a man came and told me that he had seen the original architect’s drawing of this low level block. In the architect’s vision it was “sleek and wonderful”. But the man said the reality was very different. The concrete had worn badly and the building had not succeeded, in his opinion.
Earlier a woman came when I was at the pen-and-ink stage. She said that her 11 year old grandson had started painting, which pleased her very much. She bought paints for him. I asked if she painted too. She said no, but she was inspired by her grandson and might now have a go herself. “After all,” she said, ” he just paints anything, and I could do that too!”. I agreed.
The drawing took two hours. After I finished I went to have a look at Joseph Trotter Close. I saw a low-level set of bungalows, all very much inhabited, with children’s play things and outdoor chairs on the lawn. It may not be sleek, but it looked as though people enjoyed living there.
The entrance to Michael Cliffe House was cramped and congested, with cars manoeuvring awkwardly and a dark, obscured, entrance. Lovely typeface though.
The real surprise was inside the entrance. There, uncelebrated in the underpass, were some amazing mosaics of dancers.
Michael Cliffe (1903-1964) was a Labour councillor for Finsbury, Mayor of Finsbury (1956-7), and an active Labour MP (1958-64).
The Finsbury Estate was built by Finsbury Borough Council in 1965. The architects were Emberton, Franck & Tardrew. Finsbury Borough council was absorbed by Islington.
Later note (7th Feb 2019): There is detailed information on the Finsbury Estate on “British History online” – try this link, which starts with a history of Spa Green, and goes on to describe the Finsbury Estate.
On the right is Godfrey House, Bath Street, Islington, part of the St Luke’s Estate managed by the London Borough of Islington. It’s former “council housing” built in 1965. Today many of the flats are privately owned, as is evident from the number listed for sale.
On the left is the Atlas Building, on City Road, nearing completion. Atlas is taller than Godfrey House, but further away. Atlas Building is 52 floors, of which 38 are residential, Godfrey House is 21 floors.
“Atlas epitomises luxury-living in an exciting and vibrant urban landscape. Standing tall with 38 residential floors of exquisite apartments, Atlas stretches across London’s prominent skyline” (from the Atlas Building website)
In the foreground is the roof of Saint Luke’s Church of England School.
I drew this picture sitting on a stone in Radnor Street Gardens, off Lizard Street. After a while I noticed that the place smelt of dog excrement. It has rained recently, after a dry spell.
At 6pm a personal training session started behind me. A large man was training a slim woman. They were doing kick-boxing. Between rounds, she told him about government procedures to find out about your earned income, and thus check your tax payments. They can access your bank accounts, she warned him. He laughed and said, “Hey, that’s not making me feel good. I thought you’d have some good news for me.”
“Tower Block UKis a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, bringing together public engagement and an openly-licensed image archive in an attempt to emphasise the social and architectural importance of tower blocks, and to frame multi-storey social housing as a coherent and accessible nationwide heritage.”
Here is a link to a Freedom of Information request which gives a very detailed map of the estates in Islington (2010): FOI request from Mr I Agar
I discover from the amazing “Streets with a story, The book of Islington” by Eric A Willats FLA, that “Grayson House (1961)” was ” named after Frederick George Grayson, a superintendent of Radnor Street Sunday Schools and Mission, formerly in Radnor Street.”
Mr Willats’ book lists streets and some buildings in Islington, including as he says “what has come to my notice up to the early summer of 1986.” It is in the Islington Museum.
At 27 stories, Peregrine House and Michael Cliffe House are the two tallest towers owned by Islington Council. This sketch shows Peregrine House, an Islington Council residential tower, visible from my window. It is on Hall St, just off the Goswell Road. The view is looking North towards Peregrine House. I was standing in the Kings Square Estate, another Islington Council Estate, next to Rahere House.
Peregrine House was finished in 1969. It is part of the City Road Estate, together with Kestrel Tower. I have drawn Kestrel Tower previously, see this link: Towers of Finsbury – Rahere and Kestrel. See the different brick colours on Peregrine Tower: the more yellow brick for most of the balconies, and the more red-coloured brick for the balconies across the top and around the sides.
The solid neo-Georgian block in front of Peregrine House is “Level 3 communications” a data centre and communications hub. In 2011 they applied to Islington Council for permission to install 5 steel flues. The permission was granted and the flues are on the back (north) of the building, not shown in the sketch. As part of the consideration of the permission, the building is described as “1930s”. I haven’t yet found out what it was before it was a data centre. It looks like a telephone exchange or electricity substation. (Update: 6 February 2019 – it was a Gordon’s Gin Factory – see comments below) I drew the back of this building in the Kestrel Tower sketch: Towers of Finsbury – Rahere and Kestrel
Level 3 also applied for permission to install 4 satellite dishes on the south side of the building. The application is undated, and no indication is given of the outcome. This application was “retrospective”. Link to their application is here: Level 3 Application for Satellite Dishes
I was looking at the South face of the Level 3 building and I couldn’t see any satellite dishes.
In the foreground, right, of my sketch, is the blank end-wall of 6 Moreland Street, an Arhag Housing Association residential building, which looks like a late 1970s development.
In the foreground on the left, work is in progress on “Kings Square Phase 2” which a hoarding informed me was “93 new homes”, which are “51 council homes and 42 for private ownership”. Completion is due in 2020, and they’ve already got the concrete frame up. The construction workers were working hard and calling to each other while I sketched, issuing instructions and shouting warnings in several languages, including English. The contract was awarded to Higgins Construction plc in February 2017: £30 million.
The sketch took 90 minutes: half an hour each for pencil, pen and watercolour. Done in Jackson Watercolour sketch book, 8 by 10 inches.
If the lighting looks flat and there is a complete absence of shadows, that’s because the lighting was flat and there was a complete absence of shadows. It was that kind of a day.
I saw the satellite dishes on the Level 3 building, they are high up on the roof and not visible from ground level.
This sketch shows St Mary’s Tower, in the Roscoe Street Estate. Prior Weston School is in front, with its first floor playing pitches festooned in black net. The pinnacle of St Luke’s is just to the right of St Mary’s Tower, followed by “Cannaletto” the black and white striped modern tower block, then Coltash Court, the tower block at the north end of Whitecross Street . The south of Whitecross St is to the far right of the picture. The tower block in the background on the right is Godfrey House.
Sketch annotated to show names of blocks
St Mary’s Tower, sketch
St Mary’s Tower was built on church land by the Peabody Trust. It was completed in 1957. The architect was John Grey and Partner.
St Mary’s Church was built in 1868, but was then demolished having been badly damaged in the Second World War.
The Tower now forms part of the Roscoe Street Estate, managed by Islington.
This is a drawing from outside Godfrey House in Islington. Godfrey House was built in the 1960s, as part of the St Luke’s Estate. Drawn and coloured on location, about 45 minutes. It was very cold and windy.
The pointed building is “M by Montcalm” on the City Road. It is a hotel finished in 2015. On the left is Eagle Point, a recent residential development by Terry Farrell & Partners.
M by Montcalm is exceptionally hard to draw. It has no right angles. Also its outside is a strange irregular diagonal tessellation. I have tried hard to capture the ” triple glazed skin enlivened with differing patterns of transparency, opacity and solidity to convey diagonal slopes breaking across an underlying vertical structure.” [Squire and Partners website]
The traditional building in front of it, on Peerless Street, provides a reassuring brick-built contrast.
“Squire and Partners’ concept for the M by Montcalm hotel in Shoreditch was delivered in collaboration with Executive Architects 5 Plus, and completed in summer 2015. The site – opposite Moorfields Eye Hospital on City Road – provided inspiration for a striking facade which expresses the idea of the optical and the visual. Responding to the Moorfields Eye Hospital opposite, and taking inspiration from the 1980′s artworks of Bridget Riley, the facade is expressed as a triple glazed skin enlivened with differing patterns of transparency, opacity and solidity to convey diagonal slopes breaking across an underlying vertical structure. Manipulation and modulation of light, both internally and externally, give the facade richness and an ever-changing face on this prominent site, as well as assisting solar performance to create a sustainable development. The conjunction of the vertical and the diagonal create a visual effect of depth and movement, and express the activities taking place within the building. At the upper levels the facade openings become larger to express the more social uses and exploit the panoramic views. At ground and lower ground floors, the building skin ‘lifts’ on the diagonal to reveal the hotel lobby, public bar and restaurant, all clearly visible.”
[Squire and Partners website]