Tuesday 15 March 2011

Globe House, Temple Place EC4

Globe House is a typical 1990s post-modern affair by GMW Partnership, with classical references and faced in Portland stone, and they had the good taste to retain a couple of lovely statues from the previous building on the site, Electra House by Sir Herbert Baker, built in 1933.
The life-size bronze figures of Mercury are by Sir Charles Wheeler. They stand gracefully on columns, each brandishing his snakey stick or caduceus with elegant insoucience. The model was a musician, artist and body-builder called Charles Assirati, cousin of the famous champion all-in wrestler Bert Assirati. Wheeler also used Assirati's torso for the merman in the Jellicoe fountain in Trafalgar Square.
As I was taking the photographs from the public pavement, a rather nice lady receptionist came across and told me that I must stop because it was 'against company policy'. I politely explained that the law of the land overrode company policy. Then a less nice security man said I had to stop, and fiddled threateningly with his radio. A member of the public backed me up, describing the company position as 'outrageous'. Then I took the rest of the pictures I wanted and we all left in anger.
Outrageous is the word. Even the police have stopped hassling photographers going about their legitimate business. If London's bloggers descended on the Globe House one fine day and held a mass snap-in just to get up the noses of the security men, it would serve them right.


Anonymous said...

We were photographing the sculpted faces on No 1 Finsbury Circus (that seems to be its only name) from the public highway when a security man came out and asked us why we were taking photos, saying "It's a security issue".

We explained that we were taking photos because we liked the building. Conversation was amiable and we were offered brochures on the building which we accepted. We parted on good terms but I do not know what would have happened if we had started taking photos again.

Many more examples could be quoted. I think a combination of paranoia, over-possessiveness and self-importance leads to these stupid displays, though the police are not exempt, either, and still stop you if they feel like it, citing ridiculous reasons. Photographers may secure apologies afterwards but that doesn't restore the lost photos.

You are less likely to be hassled if you use a phone camera or a small compact than if you have a larger camera that is quickly, if incorrectly, identified as a "professional" camera. Tourists can pop away happily while the man with a "proper" camera in banned.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Chris - I'm glad you were able to stand up to this opposition long enough to take your photographs. These attempts to prevent the taking of photographs seem all too common, and it is not just private security firms but also the police who are involved. (I do also resent the steady encroachment of private security firms on to our streets as councils sell of more and more of our town centres to private developers, but that is another story.) I hope you are able to continue entertaining and educating us with examples of architectural sculpture.

columnist said...

The reaction from these corporates does does overzealous, but I suppose they are wary of the damage inflicted by protesters, and the security manual tells them that your innocuous activity could be subversive. All seems a bit potty to me.

The Devoted Classicist said...

I would have loved to have seen these fabulous figures on just a cylinder pier without the ugly Post-Modern capital. The "security" issue sounds ridiculous but I don't know what goes on in that building.

Chris Partridge said...

The building belongs to a purely commercial organisation. The 'security concern' is that a lot of people find their business practices distasteful. It is the HQ of British American Tobacco.

Ron Combo said...

Give 'em a uniform/hi-vis jacket/walkie-talkie/laminated badge and there's no stopping them. God help us.