Friday, 25 February 2011

108 Cannon Street EC4

The names alone are enough to induce deep gloom: Seifert and Tsereteli. Possibly the worst architect in London, and one of the worst sculptors in the world, working on the same building.
Siefert's building is one of his usual cheapo horrors, clad in wafer-thin marble and glazed in tinted glass. On the corner is a niche containing a bronze statue by Zurab Tsereteli, self-styled 'People's Artist of the USSR.'
A muscly nude male has burst through a crucifix-shaped hole in a wall, holding his hands aloft in triumph.Two angels hold hands above.
Dating from 1990, the clunking symbolism is about the fall of the Berlin Wall just a few months before.
We can be thankful that the work is tiny by Tsereteli standards. His widely-mocked monument to Peter the Great in Moscow is the eighth tallest statue in the world, and according to a World Tourist poll, the tenth ugliest. Tsereteli's close friendship with former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov resulted in his work being installed all over the city. We cannot sneer however - we still have the Victoria Memorial.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Debenham and Freebody, Wigmore Street W1

Soon after the commission for the Savoy Hotel in 1903, Doulton landed another prominent job for its Carrara Ware white glazed tiles. In 1907 they were specified for Debenham and Freebody's new West End store.
Sir Ernest Debenham was a fan of glazed tiles, which were plastered all over his remarkable home in Addison Road. It is a pity he didn't use the same architect, Halsey Ricardo, on the shop. It would have had a lot more bite than the conventional Edwardian bombast served by William Wallace and J.S Gibson.
The grand curved pediment in front of the central tower displays the Royal Arms and a pair of voluptuous ladies, one with laurel wreaths and another holding a scroll and a pen. I imagine they symbolise Victory and Peace, though they could just as easily represent Value and Customer Service.
I do like the cartouche with the pair of delightful putti over the front door, however. Very lively.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Dolphyn Court, Great Turnstile WC2

As you approach the dreary alleyway dignified by the name Great Turnstile, wondering vaguely about the risk of being mugged, it is easy to miss the lovely bronze dolphin springing into the air in front of the dull grey facade of Dolphyn Court (built in 1986 by Michael Aukett Associates, designers of many a Tesco).
It's when you pass beneath and it is sillouetted against the sky that its beauty becomes apparent, especially if the sky is bright and blue.
A stone plaque records that it is the work of Annabel Richter Pentncy, and was added in 1989.

This uplifting piece has inexplicably disappeared, leaving only a small mark on the wall where the support pad was. The Mary Ward Settlement, which now owns the building, did not respond to a request for information about the dolphin's fate. Does anybody know where it went?