Colonial architecture and churches in Kochi

St Francis fort Kochi

St Francis Church

 

I love architecture and I am particularly fascinated by colonial style architecture. In Fort Kochi, you are likely to encounter numerous built in Dutch and Portuguese styles, including many beautiful Portuguese churches and cathedral.

Heritage hotels

I chose to spend the first night at a mid-range 3-star heritage hotel by the Chinese fishing nets called The Tower House. The hotel is on the site of a 17th century lighthouse, but there is no sight of the lighthouse now. I love the colonial style interiors and furnishings here, but I do think it needs to be updated and better maintained.

 

The Tower House

The tower house

The Tower House

The Tower House

The Tower House

The Tower House

The tower house

The Tower House

The Tower House

 

There are many mid-range heritage hotels and guesthouses in Kochi, as well as some more upmarket ones like Forte Kochi, Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel, Brunton Boatyard, The Malabar House, and Ginger House Museum Hotel etc.

 

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Forte Kochi Hotel  Forte Kochi Hotel

Forte Kochi Hotel

 

Brunton Boatyard fort kochi

Brunton Boatyard

 

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ginger house

ginger house

Ginger House Museum Hotel

 

Churches

I have lost count of the numbers of churches I saw in Kochi – you are bound to pass by one in every corner. One of the most famous one is Saint Francis CSI Church, originally built in 1503 by the Portuguese, it is the first European church built in India. The original church structure was made of wood, but rebuilt with bricks in 1516 and dedicated to St. Antony. Over the next few centuries, the church was restored by the Dutch in 1779, then another extensive restoration was carried out by the British between 1886-87. After that, the British/Anglicans dedicated the church to St. Francis.

The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died in Kochi in 1524 on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church, but after fourteen years his remains were moved to Lisbon by his son, Padre da Silva de Gama. Though the gravestone of Vasco da Gama can still be seen at the church.

I really like the calm ambience and exterior – which reminds me so much of Portugal. It just felt a bit surreal to see this Portuguese style church in India.

 

St Francis CSI Church

St. Francis CSI Church

St. Francis CSI Church

St. Francis CSI Church

St Francis CSI Church

 

Not far from the St. Francis Church is The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, one of the eight Basilicas in India. This basilica serves as the cathedral church of the Diocese of Cochin, the second oldest Diocese of India. The history of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica also dates back to the sixteenth century and its foundation stone was laid on May 3, 1505, the feast day of the ‘Invention of the Holy Cross’, hence the church was named Santa Cruz. However, the original Portuguese structure was later destroyed by the British, and the current structure was consecrated in 1905.

This Basilicas is more imposing and grander than most of the churches in Kochi, featuring a main altar decorated by the famous Italian painter Fr Antonio Moscheni, S.J., and his disciple De Gama of Mangalore. There are also columns decorated with frescoes and murals, seven large canvas paintings on the passion and death on the Cross, large stained glass windows and paintings on the ceiling.

 

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

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Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

 

St. Andrews Parish Hall

St. Andrews Parish Hall

St. Andrews Parish Hall

 

Other sights

A tranquil sight hidden from the main street is the Bishop’s House, which was originally built as the residence of the Portuguese Governor in 1506. After that, it became the possession of the Dutch, then the British, and in 1888, Dom Jos Gomes Ferreira, the 27th bishop of the diocese of Kochi acquired it and made it the Bishop’s House.

My intention was to visit the Indo Portuguese Museum located within the grounds of the Bishop’s House, but I found myself being enchanted by the tropical garden and plants, the colonial architecture and peaceful setting.

 

Bishop's House at Fort Kochi

Bishop's House at Fort Kochi

Bishop's House at Fort Kochi

Bishop's House at Fort Kochi Bishop's House at Fort Kochi

Bishop's House at Fort Kochi  Bishop's House at Fort Kochi

Bishop's House at Fort Kochi

Bishop’s House

 

After lingering around the garden for a while, I walked towards the museum at the back. At the ticket office, the ticketing staff started to talk about the history of the museum and he just went on and on… I was listening to him for about 10-15 mins and decided to get away as I realised that he could go on for hours. Oddly enough, there was no one at the museum during my visit, and it didn’t take me too long to finish the ‘grand’ tour of the museum.

I was a bit disappointed with this museum and it wasn’t because of its small size or contents. There are some interesting Catholic and Portuguese artefacts at the museum, but there is not enough written information and history about these items. Without a guide, it is hard to understand the significance of these items, and I think a small leaflet would also be helpful if they want to attract more visitors here.

One intriguing fact I did learn from the talkative staff is that there is supposed to be an underground tunnel that connects the building to the old fort by the sea. But since the cellars are constantly flooded, no one is allowed to go into the tunnel now. Howvever, I couldn’t find any information online about this… Fact or fiction? It is up to you to decide.

 

portuguese museum fort kochi

Portuguese museum Fort Koch

Portuguese museum Fort Kochi

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Portuguese museum Fort Koch

Portuguese museum Fort Koch  Portuguese museum Fort Koch

Indo Portuguese Museum

 

Personally, one of my favourite places in town is David Hall Art Cafe. After seeing so many Portuguese architecture, it is refreshing to see a beautiful Dutch bungalow. Built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company, it was the residence of the renowned Dutch governor, Hendrick Adrian Van Rheede tot Drakestein. However, the building gets its name from a later occupant, a Jewish businessman called David Koder.

The building hasn’t been altered much over the centuries, and you can still see the the wooden roof which is made of flat face rafters. I love the wooden beams and high ceiling inside the building, as well as the relaxing garden. The premise now runs as a contemporary art gallery, cultural venue & café, and I would definitely want to spend more time here on my next viist.

 

david hall Fort Kochi

david hall Fort Kochi

david hall Fort Kochi

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david hall Fort Kochi

david hall Fort Kochi

david hall Fort Kochi

David Hall Art Cafe CGH Earth

 

Since I didn’t have many days here, I only briefly visited the historic Mattancherry area, where it is known for 16th-century Mattancherry Palace built by the Portuguese in traditional Keralan style. I didn’t have enough time to visit the palace, but I did pay a visit to the nearby Paradesi Synagogue located in Jew Town.

Constructed in 1568, it is one of seven synagogues of the Malabar Yehudan or Yehudan Mappila people or Cochin Jewish community in the Kingdom of Cochin. The interior of the divine hall is quite dazzling as it is filled with glass chandeliers and lamps that date back to the 19th century imported from Belgium. The room is also filled with hand-painted blue willow patterned tiles. It is worth a visit if you are in the area, but no photography is allowed inside.

 

Mattancherry Palace

Paradesi Synagogue  Paradesi Synagogue

Mattancherry Palace & Paradesi Synagogue

 

There are many beautiful and unusual colonial and modernist houses and buildings in Fort Kochi, and I think you can see more on foot. If you love architecture, you would love wandering around here. My advice is to go early or late afternoon, otherwise, it would be too hot and humid.

 

Fort Kochi

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fort kochi

Fort Kochi

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fort kochi

Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi   Fort Kochi

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fort kochi

 

Modernist

 

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Fort Kochi Modernist

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Fort Kochi Modernist

Fort Kochi

 

Doors and windows

 

Fort Kochi

fort kochi

fort kochi

fort kochi

Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi

windows

 

 

Mumbai’s art deco and modern architecture

Indian Merchants Chamber

Indian Merchants Chamber was designed by Master, Sathe, and Bhuta and built in 1939

 

Before my trip to Mumbai, I was not aware of that the city has the second largest number of art deco buildings in the world, after Miami. In 2018, the Oval Maidan precinct which showcases 94 heritage buildings in Victorian Neo Gothic and Art Deco styles was lised as an Unesco World Heritage Site. This new status confirms the importance of these historic buildings officially, and subsequently ensures that they will be preserved in the future.

Originally, I had signed up for an Art deco architecture tour led by the team behind the non-profit organisation Art Deco Mumbai, but the tour was cancelled a few days beforehand, so I opted to ramble on my own.

Mumbai (or Bombay) became a global trading centre in the second half of the 19th century, which led to the construction of ensembles of public buildings around the Oval Maidan open space as part of the new urban planning project. The Art Deco movement came to Mumbai in the 1930s and continued up to 1940s. The first generation Indian architects were drawn to its futuristic & modern look, but they added some distinctive Indian design elements which resulted in a style that is referred to as IndoDeco.

 

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Regal cinema

 

There are two conspicuous Art Deco cinemas in this area: Regal and Eros. The Regal cinema was built in 1933 and designed by Charles Stevens, the son of the famous architect F. W. Stevens (who built the Victoria Terminus). The cinema was the first air conditioned cinema in India, so it probably was the ‘in’ place to go for the English expats living in Bombay at the time. Designed by Shorabji Bhedwar, the streamline Modern Eros Cinema opened a few years later, in 1938, and has a seating capacity of 1,204 people.

 

Eros Cinema mumbai

Eros Cinema

 

When you walk down Esplanade Rd, you would come across some magnificent buildings (though many are likely to be blocked by the constructions of the new metro system) and one of them is the New India Assurance Building. This monumental concrete office building was designed by architects Master, Sarhe and Bhuta, with assistance from artistic designer N.G. Parsare in 1936. This Art Deco style building is clearly influenced by Egyptian and Classical art ( since Egyptian themes became fashionable after King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922) and features some remarkable carved reliefs on its facade.

New India Assurance Building

mumbai art deco

New India Assurance Building

 

Further up the road, I tried to take some photos of the HSBC building but was stopped by the security guard and only managed to take one at the front entrance. This colossal building built in 1942 was designed by Australian architect John Ritchie and assisted by L Palfi combining both Art Deco and Classical styles. The building originally housed the Mercantile Bank of India established in 1853, but it was later acquired by Hong kong & Shanghai Bank in 1959 and now it has become the Head Office of HSBC in India.

 

mumbai art deco

HSBC building

 

The Industrial Assurance Building

The Industrial Assurance Building on Churchgate Street was also designed by Master, Sathe, and Bhuta.

United India Building

United India Building

United India Building was designed by Iyengar & Menezes.

mumbai K R Cama Oriental Institute

K R Cama Oriental Institute



mumbai art deco

Designed by Gregson, Batley & King in 1935, Dhunraj Mahal in Cobala was the former palace of the Raja Dhanrajgir of Hyderabad. The prodigious building was the most expensive residential development of its time.

 

Hornby View mumbai

Hornby View building

 

mumbai art deco

art deco mumbai

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art deco mumbai

art deco mumbai  mumbai art deco architecture

 

There are quite a few books on Mumbai’s Art Deco architecture, but I came across an illustrated book called Bombay Deco published by Storycity and I bought it because of its colourful and detailed illustrations. The book is a visual celebration of Mumbai’s heritage and architecture, while showcasing the talents of the book’s Indian illustrator, Tanushka Karad.

 

Bombay Deco

Bombay Deco

 

Besides Victorian and Art deco heritage buildings, there is a mishmesh of interesting buildings wherever you look in Mumbai. The incoherent styles make the city look more diverse and beguiling.

 

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mumbai architecture

mumbai

mumbai architecture

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mumbai

 mumbai

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mumbai

 

Patterns

 

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patterns mumbai

mumbai architecture

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mumbai gate

Mumbai International airport

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai

 

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The architecture of Kanazawa

kanazawa station Tsuzumimon   kanazawa station Tsuzumimon

Tsuzumimon at Kanazawa station

 

As soon as you arrive at Kanazawa train station, the “Motenashi Dome” (Welcome Dome) made up of 3,019 glass panels is likely to catch your eye. This train station is thought to be one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, and it is designed by Ryuzo Shiroe. And when you walk out of the conservatory-like space through the eastern part of the station, you would encounter the stunning and gigantic wooden structure called Tsuzumimon (drum gate). This 13.7 meter-high gate is supported by two twisted pillars, and the design resembles the tsuzumi, the drums featured in Noh theatre and Kaga Hosho (the style of Noh traditionally performed in Ishikawa prefecture) performances.

Walking around Kanazawa, it is hard not to notice the mix of old and new architecture, and since it was spared from the air raids during the war, I think the architecture here is more varied and interesting than many other cities in Japan.

 

kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

Kanazawa

Traditional houses

 

Although I did not have time to visit many sights, I did enjoy wandering around the city while stumbling upon some interesting buildings. There is a conspicuous Western style red brick building at the bottom of the castle that really intrigued me, and it is The Shiinoki Cultural Complex, a government building built in 1924. While the front of the building has kept its original facade, the back of the building has a modern glassed facade. There are two amazing-looking 300 year old Chinquapin trees standing symmetrically in front of the main entrance and they are designated as Japan’s National Natural Monuments.

 

kanazawa The Shiinoki Cultural Complex

Kanazawa The Shiinoki Cultural Complex

kanazawa The Shiinoki Cultural Complex

kanazawa

kanazawa The Shiinoki Cultural Complex

kanazawa

The Shiinoki Cultural Complex

 

The Owari-cho area not far from the Omi-cho Market used to be a bustling merchant district during the Edo period, and so you can find many fascinating Edo period architecture here.

One of them is Gallery Mita, an art gallery housed in a Western-style building constructed in 1930, which has been designated as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property because of its rarity. The gallery sells mainly ceramics dishes, and it has a cafe next door. I especially love the stained glass designs here.

 

kanazawa

Kanazawa

kanazawa  kanazawa

kanazawa  Kanazawa

kanazawa

 

When I took a route away from the main street, I came across a derelict building/house in an alley that has many art deco elements and seems to be from that period. Even though the house has fallen into disrepair, you can still see the architectural details and appreciate the fine design elements like the railings and tiles. It is a shame to see that it has been abandoned.

 

kanazawa   kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

 

As for contemporary architecture, The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and D. T. Suzuki Museum (see my other posts) are good examples, but there is also the Kanazawa Umimirai Library designed by Kazumi Kudo and Hiroshi Horiba in 2011, which I didn’t get to visit.

If you want to learn more about the architecture of Kanazawa, there are some suggested walking/cycling routes that encourage visitors to explore the city’s diverse architecture:

https://www.kanazawa-kankoukyoukai.or.jp/course/architect/web/en/

 

kanazawa   kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

 

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Bruno Taut’s only architecture in Japan: Kyu Hyuga Bettei

atami

 

After traveling through the Kansai and Chubu regions during the first half of the trip, I finally reached the Kanto region, where I spent time the rest of stay in Tokyo and Kanagawa. From Tokyo, I took a train to the well-known hot spring seaside resort, Atami, which is less than an hour from the city.

My first stop was a lesser-known but important cultural property, Kyu Hyuga Bettei; it is in fact the only architecture designed by the prolific German Bauhaus architect, Bruno Taut (1880-1938). I did not know of the villa’s existence until I was doing some research on where to visit in Atami, and I had to book a slot via an online form through Atami City Hall prior to my visit (N.B. the villa is only open in the weekends and public holidays). It was lucky that I made the trip because the villa is now going through a major restoration works, and it will not reopen to the public until 2022.

 

atami  atami

atami

 

Hidden up on the cliff of Kasugacho not far from Atami train station, Kyu-Hyuga-Bettei is a 2-storey villa that belonged to a successful businessman Rihee Hyuga (1874-1939). The building was built between 1934-6 by Japanese architect, Jin Watanabe (1887-1973), known for the Wako Building in Ginza and the The National Museum of Art in Ueno.

The villa was built on a slope with the main entrance on the top floor, and a garden overlooking the Sagami Bay. In 1936, Hyuga commissioned Bruno Taut (who had to flee Germany due to the Nazis) to design the basement of the villa. The project was a collaboration between Taut and architects Tetsuro Yoshida, Kahei Sasaki, and Mihara Yoshiyuki (Taut’s only Japanese student).

 

Kyu Hyuga Bettei

Kyu Hyuga Bettei

 

On the day of my visit, I was the only non-Japanese visitor and was only given some English information on paper, while the Japanese enjoyed a more detailed guided tour. Nonetheless, it was still worth the visit as the annex is a true masterpiece that combines nature, Japanese and Western elements together harmoniously. Consisted of three rooms (no photography is allowed inside the building), Taut named the rooms: Beethoven, Mozart and Bach.

The first room (Beethoven) is a bright parlour surrounded by bamboo and paulownia; the second is a western room (Mozart) featuring red walls, a rasied platform with stairs and views of the ocean; and the last room is a Japanese twelve-mat tatami room (Bach), with a raised four-and-a-half-mat raised platform, and a five-and-a-half-mat room behind it.

The furniture and furnishings in the rooms are detailed and beautifully designed, and as I walked through the rooms, I could feel a sense of tranquility. Unfortunately, Hyuga only enjoyed this annex for a few years (he died here in 1939), but to die in such a tranquil setting perhaps was not a bad way to go.

 

Kyu Hyuga Bettei

 

Taut also died two years after he left Japan to accept a Professor position in Istanbul. Hence, this villa was the only architecture that he built in Japan during his short stay there. It is one of a kind, and it epitomises the best qualities of Japanese and Modernist architecture. Hopefully, the restoration works will enchance the beauty of the villa and let this masterful design shine even more.

 

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Open House 2017: Highgate

omved gardens

Highgate’s hidden gem – Omved gardens

 

Honestly, I am finding it harder to enjoy London these days, and it is partly due to the city being overcrowded. The worst time is June and July when tourists and school children from abroad flock over here – it is a nightmare. September used to be pleasant, but not anymore. Once upon a time, the Open House weekend used to be a well-kept secret, but now it has become a major event in London where every ticketed events are sold out weeks in advance.

Hence I decided to focus on neighbourhoods outside of zone 1, hoping that I would not have to spend hours queuing or being turned away when I arrive. On day one, I headed up to Highgate village to visit a well-hidden and delightful Omved gardens, which is not normally open to the public.

 

omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens

 

A few years ago, the sloping site of a former garden centre was bought by developer Omved International hoping to convert the site into luxury homes, but locals protested and the council later rejected the plans (thank god!). Later, London-based architectural firm Hasa Architects was hired to transform the six derelict glasshouses into a multi-functional events venue.

This garden project aims to explore the possibilities of a forgotten piece of land, and how it could be rejuvenated. It was a collaboration between architects, structural engineers, landscape architects, artists, artisans and craftsmen; and the result is very impressive. Besides the glasshouses, the community garden is lovely as well, and it offers a nice view of the local area.

 

omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens  omved gardens

A temporary exhibition at the Omved garden focusing on the architecture in Highgate and the planning and building process of the garden

 

Built in only 6 weeks, the architects have retained the frame and construction of the original building. They used birch plywood panels for the platforms, joinery and walls for the space, as well as sliding doors, while the original metal frames and glazing of the structures have been restored.

The truth is that London actually has a lot of derelict buildings and lands, but instead of regenerating these wastelands, the local councils and property developers are constantly gentrifying areas in London that do not require it. I think London desperately needs more innovative projects like these rather than the current social cleansing projects that are ruining the city and pushing out poor Londoners from their homes.

 

highgate school

The nearby Highgate School

 

My second destination was 8 Stoneleigh Terrace in Highgate New Town, a social housing estate that I have always been curious about every time I passed by it. In recent years, I became interested in London’s post-war social housing, and I have visited several estates at the Open House in the past like the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, Golden Lane estate and Balfron Tower. If we could ignore the grim and untended concrete exterior, we would pleasantly surprised by the functional and thoughtful layout and designs of these buildings. Do not judge a book by its cover. I think the demise of the English social housing scheme (and NHS) is quite tragic because some of the architects and planners behind these projects were visionaries and pioneers who made a difference during the difficult post-war period.

 

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  retcar place

stoneleigh terrace

 

Located next to Highgate Cemetery, 8 Stone Terrace – within the grade II listed Whittington Estate – was designed in the 1970s by the architect Peter Tabori (who used to work for Ernö Goldfinger) during Camden Council’s ‘golden age’ of progressive social-housing development under Borough architect Sydney Cook. Inspired by architect Neave Brown‘s designs for Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, and has a similar ziggurat-style exterior.

The estate is also know as Highgate New Town stage 1, and like most housing estate at the time, concrete was used as the main material. There are 273 dwellings, varying from one-bedroom two-person flats to six-bedroom eight-person houses. Due to overspending (4 times the original estimate) at this estate, therefore the houses at Stage 2 and 3 of the estates nearby were assigned to Bill Forest and Oscar Palacio with less flattering exteriors.

 

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

 

Our host/resident at the estate gave us a tour around the estate and provided us with fascinating history and information about it. Being a musician, his home is filled with Scandinavian mid-century furniture and decor that look harmonious with the modernist style flat. Interestingly, the entrance leads to first floor where the living room, kitchen and terrace are situated, while the bedroom, study and another terrace are located downstairs on ground/road level. Although the flat is not very big, the heedful layout and design created a space that is livable, functional and very cosy. It is no wonder why flats like this from this estate has become very fought-after by modernist lovers in recent years.

 

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

 

My last stop of the day was another Grade II listed building – Acland Burghley School – in Tufnell Park. The comprehensive school was built in 1963-7 and designed by the foremost post-war architectural practices at the time: Howell Killick Partridge & Amis (behind the Young Vic theatre).

The Brutalist style school was listed in 2016 for the following principal reasons: “the design’s bold elevational treatment and skillful handling of precast concrete components and their finishes confer a strong aesthetic while respecting the wider Victorian townscape. The jewel-like, top-lit assembly hall is a particularly notable feature where the use of timber and concrete gives a rich texture. Plan-form: the innovative plan, comprising three towers radiating from a central administration core with the linked assembly hall, remains relevant and fit for purpose, affording permeability and appropriate levels of accessibility combined with practical and humane functioning spaces.”

 

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

 

Although inspired by the ideas of the iconic French architect Le Corbusier, the school’s Brutalist gloomy concrete exterior is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. But inside, the departments are divided by a clever colour scheme with spacious public area and bright classrooms due to natural light from the large and roof windows. The school’s emphasis on the arts can also be seen from the art work on the walls throughout the school.

I was particularly impressed by the former hexagonal assembly hall which had been refurbished in 2010 by Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects into an experimental teaching/learning laboratory. The 490m2 floor space can be used as a a large classroom or as a theatre with raised platforms and seating area. The new lighting scheme of vertical and horizontal strip lights are also highly innovative.

 

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

A former assembly hall has been transformed into a Superclass by Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects

 

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Intriguing wall mural near Tufnell Park

 

The doors of Paris

Petit Palais façade door 

paris door  paris door

Top: Petit Palais’ Beaux-art façade designed by Charles Girault

 

This post is dedicated to all the beautiful, magnificent, elegant, quirky, stylish, and unconventional doors in Paris. If you haven’t noticed the doors in Paris, then start looking when you are in the city next time. Here is a collection that I have taken over the last few years across different parts of the city.

 

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Decorative iron & handles

 

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There is a vast array of styles including Beaux Arts, Neo-Classicism, Art Nouveau and Art Deco… Some of them are masterpieces that feature outstanding craftsmanship like the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, but personally, I love the Art Nouveau and Art deco ones.

 

ecole de garcons ville de paris  paris

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Art nouveau

 

 rue Campagne-Première by André Arfvidson   rue Campagne-Première André Arfvidson

Céramic Hôtel door

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paris door  img_1033-min

Top: Artists’ atelier at rue Campagne-Première by André Arfvidson; 2nd row: Facade of the Céramic Hôtel, covered with ceramic decoration and sculpture by Camille Alaphilippe

 

36-38 rue Greuze by Hector Guimard  s8004723-min

p1000313-min  8 rue Jasmin

Follot's house

Top left: 36-38 rue Greuze by Hector Guimard; 2nd right: Former central telephone office at 8 rue Jasmin by Paul Guadet; Bottom: Follot’s house at 5 rue Schoelcher by Paul Follot

 

Art Deco

 

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Cool door/gates

 

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Wooden doors

 

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Arabic

 

The Grande Mosquée de Paris  The Grande Mosquée de Paris 

The Grande Mosquée de Paris

 

Street art

 

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A tour of the endangered Hornsey Town Hall

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hornsey town hall

The Art Deco Hornsey Town Hall is a landmark building in Crounch End

 

Recently, the Grade II* listed 1930s Art Deco building Hornsey town hall in Crouch End has received much media attention due to Haringey council’s plans to turn part of the building into a boutique luxury hotel developed by a Hong Kong-based property and hotel developer. There has been a public outcry against this and an online petition has been set up by the Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society to urge the council to reconsider the decision.

 

hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall exterior  hornsey town hall 

hornsey town hall

 

The first time I passed by Crouch End on a bus en route to visit a friend who lives nearby, I was struck by this remarkable modernist building, and I was eager to find out more about it.

Designed by New Zealand born architect Reginald Uren in 1933-5 after winning the competition to design the new town hall, the building was influenced by the striking Hilversum town hall designed by Willem Marinus Dudok in the Netherlands built between 1928-31. The building was awarded a bronze medal for the best London building upon its completion by the Royal Institute of British Architects, and it served as Hornsey Borough Council’s headquarters until 1966.

After Hornsey, Tottenham and Wood Green Councils merged to become Haringey Council in 1965, the Council moved its office to Wood Green, causing the building to fall into disrepair. Since 2007, the council has been working in partnership with the local Creative Trust to provide educational activities and events at the site, and it was turned into an art centre in 2014. It is also often used as the backdrop for many British films and TV.

 

hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall foyer

hornsey town hall model  hornsey town hall logo

hornsey town hall foyer

hornsey town hall  hornsey town hall foyer

hornsey town hall grand staircase

hornsey town hall signage  hornsey town hall art centre

hornsey town hall  hornsey town hall   hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall   hornsey town hall floor

The ground floor: 2nd, 4th & 5th right – the foyer features classic curved lighting and marble panelling, nickel plated doors and the streamlined wall/counter; 6th row: grand staircase with bespoke brass finished handrails; 7th right: Ply gallery; 8th left: cafe; last row: original wooden panels and floor tile design

 

One day, I found out that the town hall offers a monthly guided tour of the building, and without hesitation, I signed up for it. The 50-60 min tour of the building offers visitors a rare opportunity to see the original architectural features of the building. Although the building has not been refurbished for decades, some of its interior – like the grand staircase – still look splendid thanks to the high quality material and attention to detail craftsmanship.

 

hornsey town hall signage  hornsey town hall ballroom window

hornsey town hall ballroom

hornsey town hall

The Main Hall features elongated windows that allows light into the room

 

However, the room that is in need for restoration is the dilapidated Main Hall. Water leakage from the worn and damaged roof meant that the hall was off limits for decades. Some repair works have been done to fix the roof and the drainage system in recent years, hence we were able to visit this once-magnificent hall which features elongated windows and original curtains. Once you step inside, you can almost imagine how grand it must have looked decades back; it is a relic from a bygone era.

 

hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall stairs  hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall  hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall The Committee Rooms

hornsey town hall The Committee Rooms

hornsey town hall The Committee Rooms  hornsey town hall  hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall  hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall

hornsey town hall

3th-5th row: the landing area of the 1st floor; 6th-8th row: The Committee Rooms; 9th left, 10th & 11th row: The Council Chamber

 

Visitors can see the names of the past Mayors from the Hornsey Council once they arrive at the landing of the first floor. We first visited the bright and airy committee rooms which showcases ceiling to floor French walnut panels and windows that offer a fantastic vistas of the town square and fountain. Then we were lead to the stunning Council Chamber with crescentiform seating and French-polished panels. Again, there are ceiling to floor windows and roof windows that provide maximum light from outside.

I wandered and lingered for longer after the tour because I was quite mesmerised by this marvelous but rather understated building. I also like the fact that it has not been fully refurbished, which reveals the original designs and authentic state. Like the locals, conservationists and other modernist architecture fans, I would hate to see this historical architectural gem being turned into a luxury boutique hotel. Please sign the petition to help and stop this from becoming a reality. We were able to save Smithfield market before, so let’s try to stop this, too.

 

former hornsey gas company showrooms

Arthur Ayres panels

Arthur Ayres panels

The former Hornsey Gas Company showrooms (now Barclays) feature panels carved by Arthur Ayres

 

On the southern site of the Town Hall stands another conspicuous 1930s building due to the sculptural decorative panels on its facade created by Arthur Ayres depicting the glories of gas. The former Hornsey Gas Company showrooms were eventually converted into Barclays Bank in 1998. And on the north of the town hall, a rival electricity showroom and additional council offices were built by Reginald Uren from 1937-9.

 

crouch end clock tower  crouch end

crouch end clock tower

crouch end victorian buildings

crouch end victorian buildings

Crouch end’s prominent clock tower and Victorian architecture

 

Walking around the centre of the bustling Crouch End today, one can still appreciate its village-like setting and vibe. Its landmark is a red-brick clock tower erected by public subscription in 1895 honouring Henry Reader Williams (1822-97), who was the Chairman of the Hornsey Local Board for ten years. Back then, Crouch End was a prosperous middle-class suburb, but post-war social housing in the area lowered the property prices and the area was populated by students from the nearby Mountview and Hornsey Art College until the 1980s. Gentrification changed the social profile and demographics, and now it has been reverted back to a middle-class residential area.

 

crouch end  crouch end

The queens crouch end

The queens crouch end

crouch end  crouch end

crouch end art house

crouch end picture house

Top left, 2nd & 3rd row: The Queens (formerly known as the Queens Hotel) is a Grade II* listed public house was built in 1899–1901 by the architect and developer John Cathles Hill. 5th row: Art House cinema; 6th row: Picturehouse cinema

 

Aside from Hornsey Town Hall, there are some other notable architectural gems here like the beautiful Grade II* listed The Queens; the unconventional ArtHouse cinema (a former Salvation Army Hall), and another Grade II* listed modernist Hornsey Library built in 1965 by F.Ley & G.F.S. Jarvis.

 

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Brighton Festival 2016

Brighton rail station

brighton

Top: Brighton railway station, built in 1840; Bottom: Brighton from the train

 

It has been a while since I have visited Brighton, and the annual Brighton Festival (6th – 28th May) gave me a perfect excuse to revisit this popular coastal city.

The trick to train travel in the UK is to book as early as you can – which was what I did – and I got a bargain for my day return ticket from London. I also managed to book ‘The Encounter’, a play by Simon McBurney/ Complicite which was sold out for weeks at the Barbican in London.

These days, it is almost impossible to book tickets for popular performances and activities in London; it is a sign that the city is getting over-populated. Thus, if you really want to see a sold-out performance/ concert, check to see if they are performing in other cities, chances are you are more like to find tickets (and cheaper) outside of London.

 

brighton   brighton

brighton

brighton   brighton

brighton   brighton

brighton shop  bookshop

brighton signage

brighton signage  brighton signage

The city of Brighton

 

Arriving in the morning gave me some time to wander around the city centre, and the famous seafront. The weather forecast predicted an overcast day, which turned out to be wrong (again); and although I was pleased to see the sun, I felt as if I was taking a sauna underneath my several layers of clothing!

 

brighton seafront

brighton seafront

brighton seafront

brighton seafront

Brighton seafront

 

brighton

brighton dome

brighton dome

brighton dome  brighton dome

Top: The Royal Pavilion; the rest: the exterior and interior of Brighton Dome

 

At the 50th Brighton Festival this year, American avant-garde artist, musician, film director and wife of the legendary Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson was invited to be the guest director. And one of the highlights of this year’s festival is ‘Lou Reed Drones’ at the The Spire in St Mark’s Chapel.

 

the spire brighton

lou reed drones

Lou Reed Drones at The Spire, St Mark’s Chapel

 

Visitors are provided with earplugs before entering the chapel, and they are warned about the loud noise level of the installation. Inside the chapel, the religious space is transformed into a place of worship for rock music and Lou Reed fans!

The installation comprises guitars and amplifiers owned by Lou Reed, and a feedback loop is created with each guitar and its respective amplifier. The loud guitar drone sound aims to give visitors a visceral, emotional and spiritual experience in a setting that is not usually associated with rock music.

 

the lighthouse brighton  brighton festival

the lighthouse brighton

Top left & bottom: The Sprawl (Propaganda about propaganda) at Lighthouse

 

At the Lighthouse, award-winning Dutch artists and filmmakers Metahaven presents an immersive video installation The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda). Working with cinematographer Remko Schnorr and electronic musician Kuedo, they take ‘a deeper, stranger look’ at how the internet has opened the floodgates for multiple interpretations of truth, as influenced by aesthetics, convention, and agenda.

 

attenborough centre for the creative arts

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts

 

After an alfresco lunch in the city, I headed to the campus of University of Sussex by train to see matinee performance of ‘The Encounter’. Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the newly renovated and Grade II listed Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, designed by Sir Basil Spence. The building was closed in 2007 for refurbishment, and only reopened last year. The public performance programme was launched this spring, and so I was lucky to enjoy the state-of-the-art auditorium for an immersive sound-focused show.

Despite the hype, I was slightly disappointed with Simon McBurney’s solo show, and I overheard similar complaints while queuing inside the washroom after the show. Technically speaking, it is almost faultless; and it is accompanied by a thought-provoking narrative and accomplished acting. However, the show is more than 2 hours long (with no interval), and the last 30 minutes just dragged on… this is a real shame because the show would have been perfect if it is not as long!

 

The Grand Hotel Brighton

brighton

Top row: The Victorian Grand Hotel, Bottom row: Hilton Metropole Hotel

 

After the show, I headed back to Brighton and walked along the seafront towards Hove to see the next performance that I had booked earlier. As I was walking along, I couldn’t help but admire the stunning architecture en route. Aside from the magnificent Grand Hotel, designed by architect John Whichcord Jr. in 1864; there are also many intriguing modernist architecture nearby.

 

bedford hotel

odeon kingwest brighton

Embassy Court Brighton

Van Alen Building brighton

brighton seafront art deco

Top row: Bedford Hotel (Holiday Inn); 2nd row: Odeon Kingswest; 3th row: Embassy Court; 5th row: Van Alen Building – a neo art deco style flats completed in 2001; Bottom row: the art deco style Alfresco restaurant

 

One of them is the 17-storey Bedford Hotel (Holiday Inn) designed by Swiss-British architect, R. Seifert and Partners (who also designed the Centrepoint in London) in 1967. The brutalist style building is probably enjoying a revival now as brutalism is back in the spotlight in recent years. And not far from it is another brutalist structure – Odeon Kingswest, designed by architects Russell Diplock & Associates in 1973, as part of a larger redevelopment plan. Many locals think this building is hideous, but I find it quite enthralling, especially the pointy pyramidal/ geometrical castellations on the roof edge. It looks so out of place and intrusive, but it carries a notion with cultural significance in the city’s history.

Further down the seafront is the Grade II listed Embassy Court designed by Wells Coates in 1935. The 11-storey Modernist apartment block has features associated with the movement including curved corner, recessed upper storeys and concrete framing. Originally designed as a luxury flats, the building’s high-class status declined from the 1970s, and it was close to being demolished until Sir Terence Conran‘s architectural practice was hired in 2004-5 to restore it back to its former glory.

 

P1160864-compressed  P1160877-compressed

hove seafront

P1160873-compressed  P1160867-compressed

hove seafront

Brighton and Hove seafront

 

Walking towards Hove, the landscape becomes dominated by Regency architecture. It is hard to miss the conspicuous Grade II listed Adelaide Crescent. Building work of the 250-acre estate started in 1830, but construction work was stopped and the original design was modified, and it was eventually completed in the mid-1860s.

 

hove regency architecture

hove

Adelaide Mansions

hove

hove

Top row: Adelaide Crescent; 3rd row: Adelaide Mansions is a Grade II listed residential building designed by Thomas Lainson and built in 1873; 4th & 5th rows: The Grade II listed Kings House was built in 1871-1874 by James Knowles.

 

I knew very little about the show that I was going to see – except that it is an outdoor performance about belonging, migration and the fleeting nature of what surrounds us.

Belonging(s) is a creation by artistic director and choreographer, Maresa von Stockert from Tilted Productions. The performance combines contemporary dance, physical theatre and a lot of props like vinyls and cardboard boxes. The show features 9 main performers, and incorporates more than twenty local participants who duck in and out of the action.

The show is ambitious, playful, spontaneous and experimental. However, it is also over-long (theme of the day), confusing, and a bit amateurish. At times, the audience was unsure of where to go or who to follow after each act, and there were many awkward transitional moments.

There is no narrative to the performance, so it is not a piece that requires the intellect. Yet the piece fails to deliver all the complex messages that the director wishes to convey, despite the imaginative use of props and some interesting dance choreography.

 

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions  Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions  IMG_4776-compressed

Top four rows: Belonging(s) – an outdoor dance and theatre performance by Tilted productions

 

I particularly liked the last seafront location of the performance, but it was getting windy and cold (finally, I was glad to have brought a coat), and I had lost my interest by then. As the group moved further down the seafront, I decided to quietly move towards the opposite direction and head back to the centre.

 

hove seafront

hove seafront

 

On the train back home, I felt completely exhausted. In some ways, I wish I had stayed overnight because I felt like there was much more to do and see. But I thoroughly enjoyed my fun and slightly jam-packed day out in Brighton, and I would most certainly return again in the future.

 

The Nordic House by Alvar Aalto

the nordic house  the nordic house

the nordic house

 

I am a big fan of Finnish Modernist architect Alvar Aalto‘s work ( you can read my previous entry on him here). Although most of Aalto‘s buildings are located in Finland, he did build a few outside of Finland in his later years, and The Nordic House in Reykjavik is one of them.

Opened in 1968 by the Nordic Council of Ministers, The Nordic House is a cultural institution that supports cultural connections and activities between Iceland and the other Nordic countries.

The unadorned white building has a slanted wooden roof that resembles the mountain row in the background. And once inside, you can see Aalto‘s signature traits everywhere as all the furnishings, lamps and furniture were designed by him. The extensive use of wood can be seen throughout the building, and every design detail was well-thought-out by the designer.

 

the nordic house

the nordic house  the nordic house

the nordic house  the nordic house  the nordic house

the nordic house  the nordic house

 

The institution houses a shop, a bistro, an exhibition space, auditoriums and a library with over 30,000 items in 7 Nordic languages (though not in Icelandic). I think the building’s most notable feature is the bright and spacious library. The large windows above the bookshelves and the skylight windows enable natural light to penetrate inside, while at the same time reaches the split/lower level in the middle. What a marvellous design!

 

the nordic house  the nordic house

the nordic house

the nordic house

the nordic house  the nordic house

the nordic house

The interior of the library and bistro overlooking the wetland

 

The acclaimed Aalto bistro serves fresh, local and healthy produce in a cool setting overlooking the wetland with a pond and mountain backdrop. There is even a binoculus by the window where you can enjoy the view and observe the ducks swimming in the pond.

 

The Nordic House is located at Sturlugata 5, 101 Reykjavík.

Modernist architecture in Reykjavik

Háteigskirkja Church  Háteigskirkja Church

Háteigskirkja Church

Háteigskirkja Church

Háteigskirkja Church

 

Reykjavik has a vast array of modern architecture, and the Nordic design style is discernible. Walking is the ideal way to explore the city’s architecture, and I was grateful to have brought my warm snow boots.

 

Churches

The designs of the Icelandic churches are intriguing, and I wished that I had more time to visit more. Aside from the landmark Hallgrimskirkja church, I stumbled upon the Háteigskirkja church – an unconventional pristine white church with 2 tall steeples at the front. The church was designed by architect Halldór H. Jónsson in 1957, and it looked especially majestic against the blue sky and white snow.

 

filadelfia church reykjavik

filadelfia church reykjavik

Filadelfia church

 

Another one that caught my eye was the minimalist Filadelfia church, an evangelical church was founded in 1936. And the most striking feature of its facade is the sans serif font on top of the entrance!

 

Museums

Einars Jónssonar Museum

Einars Jónssonar Museum  Einars Jónssonar Museum

Einars Jónssonar Museum

 

Opposite the Hallgrimskirkja church is the Einars Jónssonar Museum, which houses the works by Iceland’s first sculptor Einar Jónsson. The museum was built according to a plan by the artist in collaboration with architect Einar Erlendsson, and it officially opened in 1923. The design style has been classified as eclecticism, i.e. it drew ideas from a variety of different sources. The slightly stern-looking structure complements the Hallgrimskirkja church nearby, and I highly recommend a visit to this museum because Jónsson‘s sculptures are simply extraordinary!

 

Reykjavík national museum of iceland

Reykjavík national museum of iceland

Reykjavík national museum of iceland  Reykjavík national museum of iceland

Reykjavík national museum of iceland  Reykjavík national museum of iceland

The National Museum of Iceland was established in 1863, but opened its doors at its current location Suðurgata in 1950. The museum underwent extensive refurbishments and reopened in 2004 with modern facilities.

 

Hafnarhús Reykjavik Art Museum

Reykjavik Art Museum

Reykjavik Art Museum  Reykjavik Art Museum

Reykjavik Art Museum: Hafnarhús, designed by Icelandic architect Sigurður Guðmundsson with harbour master Þórarinn Kristjánsson from 1933-39. The museum was renovated by the architect office Studio Granda in 1998-2000.

 

Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum

Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum

Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum

Ásmundarsafn (part of the Reykjavik Art Museum)

 

Arriving at Ásmundarsafn museum, I thought I had walked onto a Star Wars film set! The idiosyncratic former home of Icelandic sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson looked particularly surreal being surrounded by 30 large scale sculptures in its snow-covered sculpture garden.

The original part (the dome) of the building was designed by the artist himself in the years 1942-59. The architect Mannfreð Vilhjálmsson later designed the extension connecting the main building and the curved building. The concepts of the house were inspired by the Mediterranean, the round houses of the Arab world and Egypt’s pyramids.

It takes about 20 minutes to walk from city centre to the museum, but it is definitely worth visiting. Aside from the unique architecture, the serene sculpture garden, the museum also has temporary sculpture exhibitions and permanent works by Sveinsson.

 

reykjavik Kjarvalsstaðir

reykjavik Kjarvalsstaðir

reykjavik Kjarvalsstaðir

Kjarvalsstaðir (part of the Reykjavik Art Museum)

 

Kjarvalsstaðir is located in the Miklatún park, and it was designed by Hannes Kr. Davíðsson and inaugurated in 1973. The museum is dedicated to the Icelandic painter Jóhannes Kjarval, and it exhibits the artist’s large collection of works.

The design of the building was influenced by Japanese-inspiration to Nordic modernism, with emphasis on raw natural building materials, a quality of lightness, and simplified lines throughout. Unfortunately, the museum was closed when I visited, so I did not get to see the interior of the building.

 

Multi-storey buildings

Valhöll

Valhöll

Reykjavík modernist architecture

  reykjavik hotel leifur eirikssonReykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík modernist architecture  Reykjavík modernist architecture

Interesting Modernist buildings can be seen everywhere in the city, I especially like the Valhöll building (top two rows)

 

Go green

Reykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík modernist architecture

i.o.o.f reykjavik

i.o.o.f reykjavik

Reykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík architecture  Reykjavík architecture

Reykjavik is full of colourful buildings, and green is on the top of their list

 

Private homes

Reykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík modernist architecture  Reykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík modernist architecture  Reykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík modernist architecture

Reykjavík architecture 

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Modernist houses