Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Congress House, Great Russell Street WC1

Congress House was one of the first major modernist buildings projected for postwar London - David Aberdeen's design won a competition in 1948 even though construction was only completed in 1957.
The bronze group perched rather precariously on a stand next to the entrance is called The Spirit of Brotherhood and was created by Bernard Meadows, a great talent who was totally overshadowed as the assistant and friend of Henry Moore and teacher of Elizabeth Frink.
Unfortunately, Spirit of Brotherhood is not his finest work. It is deeply sentimental. A working man dressed in an inately noble but unspecific labourer's costume helping his fallen brother off the deck with a heave and a heartfelt "Aye up, chum, get thee t'union and thas'll be champion." It is a great composition - look at the way the men's interlocked arms and the whirl of the costume spiral optimistically upwards - but for the fact that you cannot look at it from the street without peeking up the fraternal unionists' demarcations .

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