Friday, 5 February 2016

St Clements Building, Clare Market WC2

It's hard to believe, but this anodyne mosaic provoked a furious reaction when it was unveiled, with calls from both extremes of the political spectrum for its removal.
It was created by glass artist Harry Warren Wilson when the building was modernised for the London School of Economics in 1959-61. Originally constructed in 1898 as a print works for the Financial Times and a publication called Votes for Women, the conversion involved stripping it back to its steel frame and adding a clean, modern but boring new facade.
Wilson's mural is the only decorative touch, illustrating the Thames from Woolwich to Battersea in vitreous mosaic. Aluminium cutouts represent the various academic fields of interest of the LSE, From the top, they are a clipper ship for commerce; a plane for transport; the Royal Exchange for finance; Justicia for the law; the Houses of Parliament for government and Battersea Power Station for industry.
Sue Donnelly, the LSE's archivist, tells me that the mosaic was so unpopular a motion requesting its removal was presented to the Academic Board.
"I think the argument about removing the mosaic was a reflection of the artistic conservatism of the academic body – indeed it is a debate that finds political opponents Kenneth Minogue and Ralph Milliband in agreement – which must have been a first. Interestingly today people either like the mosaic or are indifferent – it doesn’t appear to arouse great passions," Sue writes.
Indeed, a cause that united arch-conservative Minogue and foaming radical Milliband must have been passionately held.
Fortunately, the Board managed to work out that the cost of ripping it off and replacing it with windows was prohibitive.

1 comment:

Awang Goneng said...

Thank you for this insight. I went to the LSE, saw this mosaic almost every day and thought no more of it. I didn't know that it brought together Ken Minogue and the Dad of the Milliband boys. But the Dad did move to some nebulous poly later where he stirred further unrest, didn't he?