Friday 2 October 2009

Croydon College, Park Lane CR0

It is difficult to believe that Fairfield Halls and Croydon College were built within ten years of each other by the same firm of architects. Fairfield Halls (1960) is entirely modernistic, the characteristic 1960s concrete frame with primary colour infills. Croydon College (1953) is classically-proportioned, in brick and stone under copper roofs. But both were designed by Robert Atkinson and Partners.
Pevsner (in the latest edition by Bridget Cherry) is harsh on the College building. "Depressingly conventional," she says. About the Fairfield Halls she writes: "Infinitely more acceptable than the same architects' technical college."
But time has dealt vastly differently with the two buildings. Fairfield Halls today looks tired and tawdry. The College looks smart and loved, its brickwork bright and its stonework crisp.
Perhaps Croydon spends more money on education than entertainment, but it certainly looks as though traditional materials wear better over the long term.
Unfortunately, the pair of sculptures on the wing on either side of the facade may be bright and crisp but they are distinctly second-rate. They even resort to labelling the subjects in letters a mile high: MINERVA and VULCAN, representing the college's twin foundations, Art and Technology.
Minerva is clad in full armour, as expected in the goddess of warriors, but her lower end is cased in a pair of slacks - very 1950s. She carries an olive branch.
Vulcan wears a warrior's helmet but is evidently hard at work at his forge, which makes him look as though he is wearing welder's mask. The flames seem to have got out of control too.


CarolineLD said...

Vulcan seems to have set fire to his own foot!

Chris Partridge said...

Liar, liar, pants on fire!