Mad about Models: Building Blog 3 Orchids to Oysters and Opera

Mad about Models: Building Blog 3 Orchids to Oysters and Opera

In my first two building blogs I featured iconic London buildings that have been demolished: in the case of Temple Bar, dismantled and relocated twice, in the case of Euston Arch demolished, drowned and a candidate for restoration.

In this third blog we look at the Floral Hall at London’s Royal Opera House, the first of two examples of how buildings learn to survive. As always these buildings live on in the wonderful models made by Timothy Richards. In the next blog we will look at the Hoover Building on Western Avenue, London.

Orchids to Opera

In central London the exodus of the Fruit and Veg market from London left an almost vacant space and buildings needing a new life.  Unlike Les Halles in Paris, we have retained most of the buildings, which I prefer to the way Paris has struggled with the space. Despite the crowds, sometimes Covent Garden seems rather soulless, a tourist attraction with restaurants of all kinds and some street entertainers.  One building that could easily have been demolished was the Flower Market building next to the Royal Opera House.

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The Floral Market 1913  Picture source: Historic England Archive

Oysters and Opera

The Floral Hall retains a sense of history though it was completely rebuilt when being made part of the Royal Opera House.  In the words of Historic England it is designated a Grade 2 building “As a fine example of Victorian technological innovation despite its dismantling and re-erection in the 1990s; For the high quality of its design and decorative elements; As an example of the work of the eminent Victorian architect EM Barry; For group value with the same architect’s Grade I listed Royal Opera House, which it was originally designed to complement”.  In truth from the outset the Floral Hall was part of the Royal Opera experience, in that not only was it designed by the same architect, E.M.Barry, the third son of Charles Barry of Houses of Parliament fame etc, when redesigned the Opera House itself, but also the occasional ball was held in the Hall.

The Floral Hall now provides entertaining space for the Opera House, with its oyster bar and other dining areas, and a roof terrace overlooking the Covent Garden piazza when you need a breath of fresh air in the interval.

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Floral Hall set to party

Tim’s model focuses well on the Hall’s Victorian 1870s ironwork and glass facade, the light shining through. It pairs up well with his second model of the Opera House itself.

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Floral Hall on the left, Royal Opera House on the right

Echo-chamber and informal performance space

One downside, inside, is that despite the high ceiling it is a really noisy space.  I’ve never actually stopped for oysters but have watched the crowd briefly as I glide upwards on the escalator to the bar upstairs.  In this first video the echo-chamber effect makes it sound more like a railway station than a genteel watering hole for opera.

In the second video a flashmob seems to quieten it down.

Vilar to Hamlyn

What I also rather like is the name on my particular model, the Vilar Floral Hall. Many of our buildings are now advertising boards for their sponsors. The rescued Floral Hall was originally named after the arts sponsor Alberto Vilar who pledged funds to many musical ventures around the world – but this was not the only one where he fell short of delivering on his full pledge. Convicted of fraud, money laundering amongst other things I believe he is still serving his sentence in the US. I like to think my out-of-date model is a bit of a collector’s item, like stamps that have been wrongly printed. It is now the Paul Hamlyn Hall, following a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (founded by the late publisher) for education and community activities at the Royal Opera House.

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Collector’s piece

Windows maketh a building

The glory of the building is not only in the sweeping ironwork curves in their windows – and doubtless were key features is preventing destruction. There is value in windows- no wonder they were once taxed. It’s probably irrelevant, but I note the window tax was finally abolished in 1851, less than a decade before the Floral Hall was built in 1858/9.

How buildings learn

All this leads to the question of how buildings adapt, or, in the phrase of Stewart Brand, how they “learn”.  For a longer discourse on how buildings learn to survive I do recommend looking at Stewart’s  1997 BBC programme “How buildings learn” with music by Brian Eno. The programme, based on Stewart’s book of the same name, was also innovative by being filmed entirely, I believe, with handheld cameras, doubtless cutting filming costs!

Also changing to survive……

Next week, from Hoover to Tesco, a look at the one of the classic industrial buildings built alongside the arterial roads running out of London, the Hoover Building.

Previous Building Blogs

  1. Temple Bar and the End of Geography
  2. Euston Arch: A Hub of Controversy
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Mad about models: Building Blog 2 Euston Arch: a hub of controversy

Mad about models: Building Blog 2 Euston Arch: a hub of controversy

This is the second of my blogs about iconic London buildings of which I have models made by the talented Timothy Richards.  Last week I looked at Temple Bar, which was dismantled, taken out to a countryside park and more than a century later returned to London, albeit in a new location.  This week I look at Euston Arch, made by Tim in support of the campaign to return the old Euston Arch to London.  It already looks good at home!

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In the way of progress

The demolition of Euston Arch in 1961 was a cause célébre and for many a low point with respect to the preservation of architecture in London.  Ok, I know that when it was demolished it wasn’t universally loved: all the pictures show it rather dirty and shabby cramped into the maze of roads and buildings around the station. Like Temple Bar it was big and grimy and in the way of progress.

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Big and grimy in the way of progress

The likes of Betjeman, Pevsner et al were unable to stop its destruction. Its loss indeed was a “catalyst for a new phase in heritage campaigning, research and practice” according to Dr Ruth Adams of King’s College London.

Demolition of our railway infrastructure

It was also in the era when the railways themselves were facing wholesale demolition as part of the Beeching plans.  I was then living in a village near my birthplace town of Banbury, and even the brand new concrete Banbury Station nearly got the chop.But the newly built was saved. Indeed the process is now underway to reinstate some of the lost railway links in the region including the so-called Varsity line between Oxford and Cambridge.

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Banbury Station escaped the axe

One thing that attracts me to Tim Richards’ model is that Banbury is included in the little list of station names running along the bottom of the model. Those station names can still to be seen today on the two lodges, on the Marylebone Road, the last vestiges of the old Euston Doric grandeur, one hosting one of London’s most popular pubs, the Euston Tap.  The proposal is to rebuild the Arch between the two lodges.  Some disagree with the whole idea, including the Londonist article – whose tag line “We might not be entirely serious” I do like – but I don’t think the need to remodel the popular Euston Tap pub is enough of reason not to stop the return of the Arch: after all, the Tap benefits from being housed in a wonderful old Doric lodge instead of being a charmless bar in the modern station.

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Smart pub eh?

A watery grave

Unlike Temple Bar, featured in my Building Blog 1, on demolition Euston Arch was not re-erected in some country park (though it was considered) but was dumped in the demolition contractor’s back garden or in East London in a feeder river to the river Lea – which is where historian Dan Cruickshank found it in 1994.  Witness his excitement just before the 6th minute of the video as a chunk or Doric column is raised from the deep to appropriately monumental music!  60% of the stonework still exists, which would make a sizeable contribution to a reconstructed Arch. The ironwork gates are at the National Railway Museum in York.

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‘ello ‘ello what have we here?
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Stones exhibited in 2015 by Euston Station

The new Euston: to be or not to be?

It’s taking a while to get the Arch back on its feet – though my model has brought it alive at home. Controversy is back because Euston is slated to be the terminus for HS2 – though I understand they’ve picked the wrong place for the HS2 to come into London and Sadiq Khan is pushing to terminate HS2 elsewhere. But Euston will certainly be revamped as part of the new Crossrail, so lots of plans to demolish the dreadful jumble of tower blocks and coffee chains cluttering up the front of the station. I’m looking forward to seeing how they juxtapose the Arch against the new modern idea (as has been done pretty well at Kings Cross).

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How’s that for style?

HS2 creates news in the villages around Banbury too. Like all mega projects (from basements to transport networks) it’s not just the end result that arouses the ire of many, it’s the megahassle and disruption of having things built – the lorries, the noise, the dirt – and the huge uncertainty as plans rumble on and off. So it’s probably just as well that we moved from our village home in 1959 because the HS2 lorries are slated to rumble along the road at the bottom of the garden.  Great foresight Mum and Dad.  We moved to the next valley which was lovely and peaceful.  Mind you the family finally upped sticks from there in the 1990s not long after the new M40 was rumbling half a mile across the fields: we noticed the sound, like a permanent wind, more than the change in the view.

Only the future will tell

But back to Euston Arch.  Not a fussy piece of architecture, straightforward Doric columns, imposing, pretty impractical, but creating a sense of place.  Like Temple Bar, if restored I’m sure only people will pass beneath it.  They are planning a basement for it too, so I hope it is well supported!

Adapt or die

More next week, when we’ll look at my Timothy Richards model of Covent Garden’s Floral Hall, the first of two buildings which have been saved from destruction by changing their use.

Meanwhile, if you are wondering about how many other great buildings have disappeared then enjoy this video accompanied by some great spiritual singing: presumably if you can’t depend on Bejteman to save you then you need to call for higher assistance…

 

From 2 Opt-outs to 4+ Opt-ins

From 2 Opt-outs to 4+ Opt-ins

Theresa May has set out clearly our new relationship with Europe, from being an EU member with two hard won opt-outs – from the Euro and Schengen –  towards non-membership negotiating 4+ Opt-ins – on access to the EU market via some form of customs and tariff deals and tariff, on travel arrangements within Ireland, on security, and on the status of British citizens in the EU and vice versa.

We can’t have our cake and eat it, we won’t be able to choose from the full a la carte menu, we may have to go for the plat du jour whatever may be offered.

Which of the four Opt-ins are most important to us?  Will we have give and take a bit between those ambitions to work out the best combination we can get?  Which of these are the most important to us?  And what else will we find we’d like to opt-in on again?

Reality I suppose will be a gradual accumulation of deals, issue by issue, market by market, special case by special case, whether it be the City, farming, Ireland, grades of jobs…..

Here we go then.

 

Mad about models: Building Blog 1 Temple Bar and the end of geography

Mad about models: Building Blog 1 Temple Bar and the end of geography

This is the first of five blogs on five iconic buildings of London, one which has been relocated and then returned to London, one which has been demolished but may be rebuilt (Euston Arch) one which has been demolished for ever, and two which have changed their role in order to survive. They are all still alive in my own little collection of Timothy Richards models.

First, Temple Bar. This Timothy Richards model celebrates the return of the old Temple Bar to London. For me it has a little story attached. In my little book published 25 years ago, Global Financial Integration: the End of Geography I was trying to draw attention to the ways in which geography was often being eroded by revolutions in technology and the whole globalisation process. The title alone spurred many in the world of geography to champion the cause of geography, so I like to think it at least gingered up a profession that was a little dusty.

What is very clear is that so many of our rules and regulations are governed by geography. But so many rules now cross borders – though that isn’t stopping some to work against the flow and “get their country back”.

A symbol of who’s in charge

Temple Bar was a great historical symbol of the role of place in regulation. It was at Temple Bar where our monarchs had to stop and acknowledge that they were now entering the realm in part governed by the City of London. The monarch still has to pause on entering the City of London on official occasions – albeit for the Lord Mayor to present a sword in acknowledgement of royal authority.

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The Queen stops to receive the ceremonial sword from the Lord Mayor on entering the City

 

Removal to a country retreat

 

 

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Traffic jam or early traffic calming barrier?

 

When Temple Bar was restored to London after its long walk in the park – more than a century in Theobalds Park, near Chesham in Hertfordshire – it couldn’t return to Fleet Street.  It had been removed from there in 1878 because it got in the way of the traffic. Instead it became a grand archway to the new Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral.

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Country exile

 

Return to guard the private space

Not long after this phoenix-like return, Temple Bar, curiously and inadvertently, resumed its role as guardian of the financial realm of the City when the Occupy protesters planned their sit-in outside the London Stock Exchange after the 2007 crash.

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God not Mammon: The Occupation of St Paul’s instead of the Stock Exchange

 

Whilst the new offices of the London Stock Exchange are indeed now in Paternoster Square, the stock exchange as you would think of it isn’t really there. The trading floors of the exchange now exist in the banks across the City: there is no physical floor at the Exchange itself.  Indeed when the Stock Exchange wishes to make a ceremonial announcement now it rings a bell at the top of the stairs in the lobby, a rather low key exercise. You won’t find many financiers there.

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Relocation to a traffic free private zone

 

Ha, I thought, see how the end of geography is happening! There is no “there there”. However the dance between geography and regulation revealed another more recent twist: the camp did not end up outside the Stock Exchange because by now Paternoster Square was no longer a public space: another public space had gone into private ownership. As a result protesters in the Square were more easily removed by the police. So they had to decamp to protest at the foot of the steps of St Paul’s. The blame for the crash was not being placed at the feet of St Paul and his team, but they felt the shock waves. There were no resignations at the Stock Exchange but the Dean and the canon chancellor of St Paul’s resigned in the wake of the occupation, after having closed the Cathedral to try to keep control of unfolding events. Collateral damage you might say.

Gates and walls, the last bastions of geography

So Temple Bar is back, no longer a gateway to the City but a gateway within the City to a private part of the City. In our era of globalisation we have been tearing down walls and barriers – in Berlin, across Europe, in South Africa.  Yet in an era of rising inequality we have also been erecting new gates – such as around gated residential areas.  And there are leaders who want to start putting up new walls. You know who.

Believe it or not, my grandmother was there.....

There is a final personal footnote: in 1878 my grandmother, at 16, may well have witnessed the removal of the gateway, her own birthplace already demolished to make way for the Royal Courts of Justice, as the Victorians steadily cleared the slums of inner London.

As they used to say in my boyhood comics, More Next Week…… on a model of another gateway that is hoping to return from ignominious exile  –  the Euston Arch.

The Season for Storytelling

The Season for Storytelling

Storyteller storyteller and Sleep baby of mine: two songs for the season for storytelling by the fire, and bedtime stories, from my albums Anguneau sunset and I know a little place

Escape into stories!

“Storyteller tell me, what I want to hear

Put a spin upon the news, make trouble disappear”

 

“Storyteller take me to where I want to be

I prefer to dream a dream, sail the wide blue sea”

Lullaby, lullaby

“I used to tell a story to my little girl

about the wizard who lived on the hill”

“None of these stories ever come to an end. Bedtime stories never do.

Children fall asleep and enter their dreams. That’s where the stories come true.”  

Have a great holiday!

Richard

 

Three Love Songs

Three Love Songs

As we run into the festive season let me present my three love songs through life, two of them duets with my wife.  Sugar and spice and all things nice.

Young love

yes

We begin on Soundcloud with our first duet about young love, She said yes, a short (less than a minute!) and sweet song from my first album I know a little place. He’s so overwhelmed with getting the answer Yes! he can’t remember the question….. but who cares…..

Off to the future, here we go
Always say yes, never say no
It’s great, whatever the question

Marriage

Then it gets a little more serious in a Musical marriage, the opener from my second album, Anguneau sunset. Lovers meet at the taxi rank, as they crash out from their respective classical and heavy metal concerts in the rain. This was first written for the Valentine’s Day Love Eclectic concert in Highbury, North London.

Do they listen to music in bed?

And then the reminiscences

…. and our final duet the schmaltzy heart beating Overtime, the accordion stepping up the pulse as we reminiscence on the very first kiss, the holding of hands, and you’ll love the animals and birds in this video – also from Anguneau sunset.

Happy listening.

Brexit: Now for the thorny bit

Brexit: Now for the thorny bit

Remainers and Brexiters are united in one thing: how on earth to manage their way through the thorny issues of Brexit?  As the tactical manoeuvering speeds up over who decides what and when, we are inevitably getting closer to the time when someone will have to decide what is the best deal to drive for and to accept.  And on the other side of the Channel the EU itself is having to get its ideas into shape as to what they might or might not offer. The acceleration of the timetable by EU negotiator Michel Barnier reflects the growing realisation as to what it will take for the EU itself to agree to its own deal.

1. The EU’s hard or soft dilemma

Before looking at the UK side, what interests me is how far the outcome may reshape the future EU. The long practice of insisting that that being a member of the EU means everyone adheres to all the key principles, especially the four freedoms of movement for goods, services, people and money, is under strain (ok it always has been – hence opt-outs and the like).  And we know that there is a great fear that any sign of weakness towards the ever-recalcitrant UK could open up the floodgates to more countries wanting a special deal. So the question is, for the EU to survive would it be better off relaxing some of its hard line, one size fits all approach or should it recognise that multi-tiers / flexibility etc could be preferable in the long run.  I don’t know the answer – and of course no-one does for sure. The more the UK can accept something that makes the EU feel they are not undermining their own future, the more likely the UK will get what it wants.

2. So what do we want?

We don’t know how specific the Prime Minister will be when she unveils her plan but this will start to warm up the debate as to what do we want.  I’ve googled to find out what Labour’s proposal for Brexit is but can’t find one – and it seems there isn’t one. Tactically Labour has been pushing for the Government to reveal its hand, an approach which has now succeeded – subject to seeing just what Mrs May comes up with.  The LibDems do have a wish list at least even if it doesn’t fix the tough issues of the single market and free movement. The time for hiding behind metaphorical colours – Grey, Red, White Blue or degrees of hardness or softness – will soon be gone.

3. Single market, people mobility, and money: is that it?

The issues up for debate that have so far emerged in the headlines have been the trade deal (customs union, single markets, free trade area etc etc) and the critical issue of migration / movement of people. Labour stresses rights of workers and other forms of social protection. Security doesn’t arouse as much public passion (you’d forget that one of the original motivations for setting up the EU was to stop the next war).  If a deal was struck tomorrow it would probably be focused on limiting some of the freedom of movement of people without losing too much of the access to the EU market. That will mean still conforming to EU regulations to facilitate easy cross-border standardisation of products – and accepting mythical straight bananas – and probably paying something on top for the privilege. The money will be the least of the problems politically, in that who really knows what price to put on access to the market and to limits on the movement of people.

3. Making it work

It’s one thing to strike a deal, it’s another to make it work properly.  If you look at the faultlines in our society today it’s not for the want of having laws and institutions, it’s that they don’t work properly. We have an immigration policy that could work but it doesn’t – hence crowded detention centres, inhumane treatment, and a hopeless process that can make it nigh impossible for those who do come to integrate into our economy (let alone into our society).  It’s the same problem with other key public services – overcrowded prisons and a struggling health service, deteriorating transport services and a more not less socially divisive education system.  EU membership neither helps nor hinders getting our services back on the road in the public interest – though clearly Mr Corbyn is concerned that some areas such as worker protection will be worse after Brexit – i.e. the UK will become more free market than ever.  Which of course probably suits many of UKIP’s elite very well thank you. If we could seriously could “have our country back” will we run it well?

4. Rebuild public services

Which brings me to the next task for the Government and all of us: rebuilding our public services. Apparently many people in the country voted against the free market power of globalisation.  And I suspect many voted against austerity and the deterioration of our public services and the public goods “glue” that hold an unequal society together. If we had a referendum tomorrow about whether or not to have a strong public sector I would wager it would be a massive YES. So to borrow a slogan from Mr Trump, let’s make Britain great again – i.e. revive our public services, which can do what private services cannot – deliver a service where the priority is benefiting the public need, not feeding the private purse. Because if we don’t then the clear divisions in our society – another big message from the Referendum – will widen not heal.

6. Give Parliament a say   …. and engage!

Hopefully the Government will lose its Supreme Court Appeal so that we can get on and use Parliament for one of its time honoured roles as a place when tough issues can be debated.  We can’t have our country governed just by a small group at the top and a media dominated “discussion”. Remainers and Brexiters will all have something to contribute to the debate, as they try to represent the multiple views expressed by “the people” in the Referendum.  Obviously we don’t want to make it harder for our “negotiators” to negotiate, but it’s not a game of poker. How this deal is done has not only got to work but also has to be supported and understood, as far as it can in a divided country – by the electorate. And in that Parliamentary debate our MPs also need to be coherent and constructive.

If the Government wins in the Supreme Court, it still must engage with all stakeholders – MPs, business, civil society  – to achieve the best deal possible and one that has the support of the electorate.  And we can just hope that the energies spent on deciding who decides doesn’t distract too much from working out what we want.