On a beautiful autumn day I went out to do a local sketch. I only had an hour, before I was due at the gym.
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:
Here is an etching of the view out of my study window. It is part of my “Towers Project”, to draw and research the towers I can see.
Aquatint on copper plate.
I have been trying to find good views of Rahere and Kestral Houses, two Towers of Finsbury which I can see from my window.
Rahere is in the King Square Estate. This estate was built by Islington Council in 1959-61. The architects were Emberton, Franck and Tardew. Franck had worked for Tecton, the firm who designed the Spa Green Estate. King Square Estate is currently subject of improvements including addition of new dwellings.In between all the blocks is St Clements Church.
Rahere House is just visible to the left. The new tower, Lexicon, is above it on the left. Carerra House, of the 250 City Road development, is under construction, visible to the right of the spire.
I couldn’t find a distant view of Rahere House, so here is a close-up.
This is one of the back doors. The architects thoughtfully provided lead-lined troughs, at waist height, for flower pots, I assume. One of these is shown in the drawing, to the right of the door. Off the picture to the left, these continue as long boxes, like water-troughs. None of them are used, presumably because the council don’t do flowers and the temptation for vandals is too great.
Instead, residents have their own plants, inside their windows and out on the balcony. See also the feral plant, growing out of the concrete above the door, top left.
Turnpike House is on the same King Square estate. Turnpike I have drawn before.
To the North of Rahere is Kestrel House. This tower is on Moreland Street and City Road. It is currently surrounded by building work associated with the Bunhill Heat and Power. This scheme takes energy from braking Tube trains and uses it to heat local houses and schools.
Kestrel House is on the “City Road Estate”. I found a view of of it from Hall Street: it’s the rectangular tower block in the middle. The Lexicon, otherwise known as “Chronicle Tower”, a new development by “Mount Anvil” is the sloping building behind.
The building which dominates this drawing, on the right, is the premises of “Level(3)”. I walked round the block a couple of times to see what it was. The windows on the street side are high, and there are serious steel shutters over every entrance. Note the huge ventilation shafts. It looks somehow as though it’s ventilating a larger volume than the building, as though it goes down a number of stories below ground. The business of Level(3), according to a web search, is “Connecting and Protecting the Networked World”.
The red-brick building straight ahead was previously “St Marks Hospital Nurses Home”. This is cast into the stone work above a former door on Pickard Street. The door is no longer in use, and fenced off. “Founded 1835, Erected 1853”. The main entrance now is on City Road. It looks disused. Fallen leaves clutter the steps, the grass wafts unmown. But there is a car park, so perhaps there’s another entrance from there that I couldn’t see. It’s “300 City Road”, which appears online as Citidines Serviced apartments.
Behind me when I drew this was Peregrine House, another tower, very high.
Later I went back to try to get views of Peregrine House.
I forgot to take my drawing book.
I’ll have another go at these towers.
The drawing shows the lovely brick building, now called “Chequer Court”, with Braithwaite House behind.
I drew the picture from Whitecross Estate East, in a quiet courtyard off Chequer Street. A record three people came to talk to me. Arabella was tending her garden flowers in pots and crumbling wooden boxes, on the other side of the courtyard. She came over and told me that the brick building used to be the community centre. She had done oil painting there. Previous to that, it had been a school. She described the marvellous high windows, and large rooms. There was a café.
She said, “Do you like the buildings?”, indicating the Peabody buildings surrounding us. When I said that I did, she said they were “like prisons”. “They are all different inside, of course.” she added. She explained that there were going to be changes, they were going to build another block on top of the low-level office in front of us. “So you should come back,” she said, “This is a historic view.”
She said that underneath the square was all hollowed out, for bomb shelters. Construction work was going on behind us. “They have demolished the pram sheds”. Arabella was irritated that, in doing so, they had strewn rubble over the planted boxes.
Another woman approached me much later. She also remembered the community centre. She did yoga there. “It was only 20 years ago.” She was concerned lest I was the harbinger of “another plan”.
“No,” I said, “Not another plan. Just a drawing.” I showed her the drawing, to reassure her.
As I packed up my things, a third woman came to say hello. She wanted to see the drawing, and said it was very good. Her small white dog tugged at her and slowed her up as we walked. Eventually he stopped her altogether and I walked on.
Later, online, I found the plan to which the second woman referred. There is a plan by Islington dated March 2017 to improve the public areas of the West and East Whitecross Estates.
The brick building was indeed a school. It seems to have been known as Northampton Secondary Technical School, which was in existence in 1924, and certainly up to the early 1960s. Searching online I found references to a “Bunhill Row Chequer Street Council School” whose records, 1928-1933 are in the National Archive, Kew ref ED 21/34646, but no further details. In 1998 “negotiation was completed for the sale of the Bunhill Row site for £22 million” according to “City and Islington College, the First 20 years” by Tom Jupp and Andrew Morris. Now it is luxury flats, and is called Chequer Court.
About 2hr 15min, including conversations. Drawn and coloured on location.
I drew this from the Rotunda restaurant in Kings Place, looking across Battlebridge Basin. The low building in the middle with the pointed roof is the London Canal Museum.
The coffee was excellent, and we were made very welcome by the restaurant manager Mark.
After this, we went for a walk around the new Kings Cross developments on the other side of York Way.
Braithwaite House, on the left, is having its cladding removed. Here’s the quote from Islington Council website (viewed today, 2 July 2017):
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “As a landlord, safety is our number one priority and we will do whatever it takes to ensure people are safe in our estates.
“Last night (Thurs June 22) we received results of tests on cladding on the side of Braithwaite House, and they have confirmed the presence of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM).
“We’re arranging to have the cladding, which is only on the sides of the building, removed as soon as we possibly can by a specialist contractor.
“We’re also stepping up safety measures in the block immediately, with fire safety patrols taking place day and night from today until the panels are removed.
“Our housing staff were at Braithwaite House last night to carry out fire checks and clear any obstructions in communal areas. We’re also taking advice from London Fire Brigade and will follow all their recommendations.
In the background, the other side of Bunhill Row is “The Featherstone”. The notice says:
“Hill are working with Southern Housing to create 65 new homes for affordable rent, shared ownership and private sale on the former Moorfields School Site.”
In the distance, the building with round windows is “White Collar Factory” on the Old Street Roundabout. No notice on the outside and a bit dark on the inside and it was unclear if you can just walk in. It was a Sunday and I didn’t feel like being challenged, so I didn’t walk in. Their website is hard to decipher. What are they exactly? The bit I understood says:
When it opens at the end of 2016, White Collar Factory will house one of London’s most exciting and diverse working communities.
So they are a shared occupancy building. It looked to me like there might be a café in there too.
Drawn and coloured on location, in the shade until the sun came around. 1hr 30min roughly. Kids playing in the paygound, trying to get a ball somewhere, perhaps in a net. They called “concrete”, or “stone” which was perhaps the intended destination of the ball. One kid called out “Hey, you hurt my eye”. The other kid said “No!”. Then he remembered himself and said, in a clear and respectful tone, “Did I? I’m sorry. Are you OK?”