The maquette for John Piper’s baptistery window for Coventry Cathedral in the V and A’s ‘British Design 1948-2012’ exhibition last year inspired a visit to see the real thing.
After the 14th Century cathedral was bombed in World War 2, Basil Spence was selected as the architect for a new Cathedral following a competition. The ‘new’ cathedral, begun in 1956 completed in 1962, sits next to the ruins of the old; the ruins are also clearly framed by the ‘Great West Window’, the ‘Screen of Saints & Angles’ by John Hutton.
The building was constructed in the same sandstone as the ruined building and its exterior seems massive and impressive in the way that such a building should be, however it is the interior which for me was a complete revelation. The nave space is immense with seven pairs of elegant pillars drawing the eye vertically, but the real genius is the way in which the decorative elements are completely integral to the whole. The John Piper window is fantastic, but equally beautiful are the narrow stained glass windows which line the nave by Lawrence Lee. The choir stalls designed by Spence himself sit comfortably in their environment and every element that you look at seems to have been so carefully considered and beautifully realised – the ‘Coventry Cathedral Chairs’ by Dick Russell (Gordon Russell), the wonderful Hans Copper candle sticks, the High Altar Cross designed by Geoffrey Clarke………I can heartily recommend a visit, for anyone with even a passing interest in 20th century design it will both inspire and inform.
One so often hears Birmingham put down for its lack of culture that it is refreshing to be able to post something positive. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is part of the University Campus and houses a surprisingly rich collection of painting and sculpture in a building which itself is of interest.
Founded in 1932 by Dame Martha Constance Hattie Barber in memory of her husband, Sir William Henry. Housed in a Grade II listed Art Deco building designed by Robert Atkinson, it was officially opened by Queen Mary in 1939. The Institute has a concert hall/theatre with a programme of concerts throughout the year and is notable for it’s beautifully craftsmen-finished interior.
Described by the Observer as “one of the finest small galleries in Europe” the collection includes Monet, Manet, and Magritte; Renoir, Rubens, Rossetti and Rodin; Degas, Delacroix and van Dyck — not to mention Botticelli, Poussin, Turner, Gainsborough, Gauguin, van Gogh, Picasso, Hodgkin… and stages touring exhibitions with many of the national galleries.
Call in before 24th June you will see “Pugin, Durer and the Gothic” and pick up a Pugin Bicentenary trail leaflet and follow a walking tour of Birmingham’s High Victorian Gothic Architecture.
If you are travelling by train, get off at University – close to the Botanic Gardens too. A lovely day out suggests itself……
Birmingham – more culture than is generally acknowledged!
Peasant Woman Digging by Van Gogh – part of the collection at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts
For our ‘St judes at Tinsmiths’ exhibition, Ed Kluz has produced this enigmatic collage ‘Hope End’. Ed’s work is often related to architecture & of late Ed has become fascinated with lost houses & their stories. ‘Hope End’, the site of which is a couple of miles outside of Ledbury has a particularly interesting & romantic history.
John Claudius Loudon would appear to be the mind behind the marvel, a polymath whose interests included botany and whose work included designs for cemeteries and gardens. Loudon completed his remodeling of the Old Queen Ann house between in 1815.
In 1809 the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning moved to Hope End with her family. It is often said this residence was what inspired so many of her works, including the wonderful ‘Aurora Leigh’
‘Green the land is where my daily steps
In jocund childhood played,
Dimpled close with hill and valley,
Dappled very close with shade’
-An extract from ‘The Last Bower’
Published in 1844
The Loudon version of the main house was mostly demolished in 1873 and a new house was built on a different part of the estate. It would seem there have been as many as 5 homes built on the site all called Hope End, over the years. Most recently Hope End House has been popular as a smart bed and breakfast.
When you come to visit us at Tinsmiths, consider including a visit to nearby Hellens (as featured in this weekend’s telegraph colour supplement). Hellens is one of Herefordshire’s treasures, an ancient “lived-in” private house that has been valiantly fighting the ravages of time without loosing its charm and becoming “pickled”. From monastic dwelling to finery of Georgian life the house has some stories to tell and a variety of architectural styles as well. Visit it from Easter Sunday to September mid-week on Wednesday and Thursday or Sunday, Bank Holidays and Monday afternoons.
Artist and printmaker, Ed Kluz visited Ledbury a couple of days ago in preparation for his part in our next Printmaking exhibition in the Spring (St. Judes at Tinsmiths, April 2012). Ed is very interested in art history and architecture. He is an active member of SPAB – The Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings whose stated purpose is to be involved in all aspects of the survival of buildings which are old and interesting. The body’s principal concern is the nature of their “restoration” or “repair”, because misguided work can be extremely destructive. During his stay in Ledbury, Ed was fascinated to see the footprint and remnants of Stoke Park at Stoke Edith, a grand 17th century house, lost in a devastating fire in 1920′s.
Stoke Park is just one of many grand houses lost during the depression following the first world war. For many, an accident such as a fire, meant they were extremely unlikely to be rebuilt. What often remains is a fascinating landscape of the “big house” – parkland, stable blocks, remnants of the building itself. Now and again, as with the textiles which once decorated the walls of Stoke Park, something of the interior of these houses are held in national collections, giving us a chance to imagine the past complete.
Ed takes the romance of these losses into his work, many of his compositions include elements from these landscapes, architectural features left behind. We are hoping that something of his visit will inspire the work we hang next Easter.
Above: The Mausoleum at Mellerstain House, Scotland by Ed Kluz.
Following in a long tradition of meaningful three dimensional signs, we have just put in place our new High Street sign. Before everyone could read and write, people relied on such signs to indicate trades. Tinsmiths originally had a very large kettle (now in Ledbury Folk Museum) hanging above its door – to indicate that pots and pans etc could be repaired and bought here. The shears were designed by Alex Clive in stainless steel (ditto the roof of the fabulous showroom up the alley) and made, by hand, locally. This sort of thing doesn’t happen overnight and so today we can feel we’ve really arrived on the High Street – although we actually enjoy being tucked away in the calm of Tinsmiths’ Alley. I’m afraid we will have to disappoint anyone with trailing locks looking for a haircut – personally I’d be rather alarmed if my hairdresser came at me wielding shears!
COVER - THE BLDG BLOG BOOK
Something new on our shelf this week is Geoff Manaugh’s BLDG BLOG. Geoff has put into print some of the most outstanding items from the building blog that he began in 2004 http://bldgblog.blogspot.com. The blog or the book is great to dip into – the book’s structure makes it easy just to browse and pick out a different topics or interviews for a few moments or a few hours and this isn’t a straight book about architecture, it negotiates spacial design from lots of angles – as Geoff says the blog was ”almost literally from day one it was full of archeology,astronomy and underground cities: Gothic cathedrals and Celtic burial mounds; Mars, green roofs and translucent concrete. Somewhere between science fiction and architectural theory, JG Ballard rubs shoulders with HG Wells, WG Seebald and HP Lovercraft; there were London Floods, Earthquakes and William Blake and James Bond. Ruins, climate change and apocalypse. Cape Canaveral. Hadrian’s Wall. Homer. Anything that could, in however a distant way, be related back to Architecture, in its broadest and most interesting conception“. The BldgBlog Book is much more like a lively conversation, – so far, and there’s a lot more dipping in to go yet, the interview with games designer Daniel Dociu about the influences in the architecture of his games, the earth trumpets of the Andes and the shipbreakers of Bangladesh and the Mole Man of Hackney have been memorable. A really good book for getting you to see the world differently……..