Wednesday, 16 December 2009

St Paul's House, Warwick Lane EC4

The publishers Hodder and Stoughton had their headquarters near St Pauls Cathedral, partly because it was a traditional area for publishers (many had run their businesses from the aisles of Old St Pauls before it burnt down in the Great Fire), partly because it is close to Stationers' Hall and partly because it specialises in religious books.
Their old HQ was in Warwick Lane, built in 1961 by Victor Heal and featuring an 'apron' under the principal windows carved by Alan Collins.
The apron is a stylised chessboard. inspired by Hodder's logo of four chess pieces. They don't stand in neat rows, though, but are jumbled up, some upside down, some inside out, to create a uniform texture that contrasts but does not compete with the dark plum bricks.
Pevsner describes the stone as Portland, but interestingly it may have come all the way from Malta. His biographical notes say:
As an art student in London, England, I developed a love for sculpture through the availability of Malta limestone that had been used as ballast in supply-ships returning from the island garrison at the end of WWII. The off- loaded blocks were free-for-the-asking, and the excitement generated by this fine carving stone, and the instruction of Freda Skinner, a past student of Henry Moore directed me toward sculpture as a career.
Bainbridge Copnall scoured London's blitz ruins for suitable carving stone, and the war revitalised the flagging market for war memorials. Say what you like about the death, starvation and suffering: the War was good for sculpture.
PS: I wish to make it very clear that I am not advocating total war as a mechanism for stimulating the arts. Probably. You decide.

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