Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Willing House, Gray's Inn Road WC1

Here's a funny thing: sculpture in the style of the Ancient Greeks but glorifying that most modern activity, Advertising.
Willing House at the top end of the Gray's Inn Road was built in 1910 for Willing Advertising. The architects were Hart & Waterhouse, who covered the entrance block with symbols of the black art of promotion.
Standing on a spire at the top is a figure of Mercury, the god of communication, designed by A. Stanley Young.
Over the front entrance is a rather charming frieze by William Aumonier.

From left to right, a guy blows his own trumpet; a young man launches a carrier pigeon; an old man demonstrates the world-wide reach of advertising by pointing at a globe; a couple of cherubs sit in front of what look like telephone wires; and another cherub with a telescope stands on the dock as his ship comes in.
A pair of magnificent winged lions guard the door - and of course the winged lion is the symbol of St Mark the Evangelist.
The building is a budget hotel these days, so the symbolism doesn't work as well. Perhaps the panel should be replaced with a frieze of Classical hoteliers such as Procrustes and his bed or Circe and her swine.

No comments: