Friday 29 January 2010

Steel House, Tothill Street SW1

I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to make of Steel House. When I first saw it I mentally wrote it off as a cheaply-built 1970s government department that had been clad in stone at the insistence of the planners, but in fact is was designed in 1936 by the respected firm of Burnet, Lorne & Tait. When you look, you see the uprights between the windows are recessed and moulded in a very 1930s way.
The facade is sprinkled with figures of Greek gods in stone, which gives a very rich impression but when you look harder you notice that there are only three designs. Was that in the interests of economy or was it some sort of statement?

The figures are of Vulcan, god of fire, appropriately for Steel House, Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders and Hercules killing the two-headed snake Lados (thanks to Capability Bowes for that identification).
I have drawn a complete blank over the maker, however. They are, frankly, not terribly good anyway.


Capability Bowes said...

It is in fact Hercules fulfilling a different Labour - that of stealing the golden apples of immortality from the Hesperides, who were the three daughters of Hesperus, the Evening Star. The apples grew on a tree in a remote land at the western edge of the world where the sun chariot dipped into the sea at the end of each day. The tree was guarded by the three women and, for extra security, a two-headed snake called Lados. Hercules slew the snake, romanced the three sisters and made off with the golden apples, only to drop one as he escaped. It was picked up by Eris, Goddess of Discord,who was on her way to the wedding of King Peleaus and Thetis, a sea nymph. She threw the apple onto a table at which sat Juno, Aphrodite and Athena and said that the apple rightly belonged to the most beautiful. Cue the Judgement of Paris and all the brouhaha with Helen of Troy....

Chris Partridge said...

Thanks Russell - I would never have got that. I still think Hercules should have his club with him, otherwise it ain't fair.

Hels said...

I think they are terrific! I mean who would have chosen three naked Greek gods doing unspeakable things with weapons for the middle of 1930s SW1?

I just wish they stood out a bit more clearly from the building's facade.