Tuesday 29 April 2008

68 Vincent Square

The ramshackle old buildings of the old Rochester Row police station have been replaced by brand-new ramshackle buildings designed by neo-Classicist architect John Simpson, and in front is an intriguing image of the god Priapus by Alexander Stoddart.

It is in the form of a herma, a rectangular block with the head of the god on top. In ancient Greece, hermae usually represented the god Hermes, and had the god's genitals carved on it low down where passers-by could stroke them for luck. Whether the luck was with the passer-by or the god is not recorded.

The Priapus herma, and the associated two large bronze roundels with the heads of Thyrsis and Corydon, illustrate a section of Virgil's Eclogue VII.

Unfortunately, Westminster planning department declined to allow the artist to provide Priapus with his endowments, so he is represented as the god of gardening, complete with garden shears. "Now we have raised thee Priapus of bronze, such as the times admit" reads the inscription.
Stoddart's drawing is from his website. My picture was taken at totally the wrong time of day. Next time I pass in the morning I will try and get a better photo.

65 Vincent Square

65 Vincent Square, Westminster, is a Mies-inspired office block built 1958-60 by A.V.Farrier and recently restored. Being Mies-inspired, the facade is all thin vertical sections with bright blue ceramic panels between. It is all very plain and formfollowsfunctional. But a little carved panel above the door lends genuine delight, simply by being something Mies would have disapproved of. It shows a Roman homestead with farmers hoiking great big jars about, fruit trees behind being picked by a buxom Roman nudist fruit-picker, and a woman seated on a throne inspecting a chicken. Below her, a basket of eggs. The motto reads Deus hanc domum secundet, which I think means 'God be in this house' but if anyone knows better, tell me.