Wednesday 21 November 2012

Allington House, 150 Victoria Street SW1

The old Allington House was a dull commercial office block enlivened by these endangered species by San Francisco-based Barry Baldwin, so it was very ironic when they came near to extinction themselves when it was demolished by developer Land Securities.
The excellent Peter Berthoud, London guide and blogger, mounted a campaign to save them and at the last minute the developer decided to remove them for future use rather than just prizing them off the wall and dumping them in a skip.
The building was only put up in 1997. I have to confess that I'm not a big fan of Baldwin's work. It is a bit coarse and literal and poorly-composed for me. But it is good they are saved.
Baldwin's only other work in London is the series of heads and an arch with more animals at Grand Buildings in Trafalgar Square. And who commissioned Barry to execute them? Land Securities!

Thursday 8 November 2012

Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall SW1

The Royal Automobile Club is the last and the largest of the clubs in Pall Mall, built in 1908 by Mewes and Davis, architects of Ritz hotels around the world and many ocean liners. Clearly, clubs were moving away from being meeting places for like-minded men to luxury accommodation for the loaded.
The pediment over the grand entrance of the RAC contains a charming group by the French sculptor Ferdinand Faivre, a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
At the centre, a motherly figure holds a torch aloft to light the way for a winged cherub at the wheel of a motor car. Pevsner rather sniffily dismisses it as 'primitive' but in 1908 it would have been fairly state of the art. The Ford Model T was launched in that year, after all.
Three cherubic motor mechanics play with parts and tools on either side. It looks as though the motor is broken down in the woods somewhere (note the oak tree behind the lady). This would have been a very familiar occurrence in 1908, when very few journeys were completed without a puncture at the very least.
It would not, however, have been acceptable for ladies, however allegorical, to bare their all at the side of the road or for chauffeurs, however cherubic, to wave their willies from the driving seat.