Sunday, 14 February 2010

Royal Institute of British Architects, Portland Place W1

The side elevation of the RIBA on Weymouth Street is enlivened by Sir Christopher Wren surrounded by representative figures of the Artisan, the Painter, the Sculptor and the Mechanic. They were carved by Bainbridge Copnall.
The Artisan

The Painter
The arrangement is an unconscious revelation of the way architecture works.
The Great Man is surrounded by his backup team, unnamed even when they are great artists in their own right. This has got out of hand recently, with 'starchitects' hogging the media with their team lost in obscurity.
The Mechanic
The Sculptor

Funnily enough, though, Wren himself has been suffering from the reverse effect recently with a nasty tendency for attention-seeking critics to claim that his assistant Hawksmoor was a finer architect but has been ignored by history because of his working class origins. This is pure snobbery, enabling the critic to show his superior taste by dismissing the architect everyone knows in favour of one that a tiny minority has even heard of. And it is nonsense.

1 comment:

Hels said...

Funny :) I suppose it depends who commissions the sculptures. If the architect does the commissioning, I suppose the architect-figure will be bigger and more central than the other figures, especially on the Royal Institute of Architects. On the silver vaults, the order of importance may be different :)

Something just occurred to me. Look at the relative size and importance the various professions and trades in Depression Murals in the USA of the same date (early 1930s).