Thursday 16 October 2008

New Adelphi, WC2

I have always averted my eyes when passing the New Adelphi, having a delicate stomach. The thing is not only hideous in its toadly grandiosity and expensive flashiness, it is a continuing reminder of the fact that London had one of the Adam brothers' greatest works and destroyed it out of greed.
The original Adelphi was built by the Robert, James and John Adam (adelphoi is greek for brothers) in 1768. The river frontage was called Adelphi Terrace, possibly the first time the word terrace was used for a row of houses. Unfortunately the development failed commercially, and the area declined into a warren of offices and factories. Charles Dickens was employed as a child in a boot blacking factory quite close by. In 1936 the whole central block was demolished and replaced by an Art Deco monster by Stanley Hamp. If you think it wouldn't happen today, consider that in 1993 there was an opportunity to demolish the bloody thing - so they added two storeys instead.
If you can block out the building, however, there is some excellent sculpture added by the developers to try and deflect just criticism.
Four giant statues are carved into the riverside frontage, the work of four of the best sculptors working in London at the time. I will post each individually over the next few days.
The easternmost figure is by Bainbridge Copnall, a man gazing upwards and seemingly about to be borne aloft by seagulls.

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