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.




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


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.



mumbai architecture


mumbai architecture











mumbai architecture


patterns mumbai

mumbai architecture



mumbai gate

mumbai gate

Mumbai International airport

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai



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.


paris door  paris door

img_4781-min  img_9841-min


Decorative iron & handles


paris door  paris


paris  img_1146-min

img_9508-min  img_9823-min


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



Art nouveau


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

Céramic Hôtel door

paris door  paris door

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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paris  img_1102-min

paris  img_5187-min

paris  img_1106-min

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Cool door/gates


paris  img_9414-min


Wooden doors




img_1091-min  paris






The Grande Mosquée de Paris  The Grande Mosquée de Paris 

The Grande Mosquée de Paris


Street art


img_5037-min  paris

dsc_0273-min  dsc_0124-min



A tour of the endangered Hornsey Town Hall

hornsey town hall

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.




East London Comics & Arts Festival 2016

round chapel

The Grade II listed Round Chapel, Hackney


Organised by London-based Nobrow Press, the fifth annual East London Comics Art Festival (ELCAF) took place over three days at the Round Chapel and MKII gallery in Hackney.

The festival is designed to showcase some of the most exciting works in comics and illustrations, and it features independent publishers and illustrators from UK and internationally. It also include talks, masterclasses, and workshops for adults and children. Together with Pick me up Graphics Arts Festival at Somerset House (which has become too commercial) and the London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery, this show has become the leading festivals of its kind in the UK.


East London Comic Arts Festival

East London Comic Arts Festival

East London Comic Arts Festival  East London Comic Arts Festival

Bottom row: The lovely mid-century inspired illustrated books and cards at Design for Today’s stall


It was my first visit to the festival, and I was delighted to see a variety of illustrated books, zines and prints available at affordable prices. It also enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk to the illustrators and publishers about their works. At the show, I discovered many impressive works by the London-based Design For Today, Otto Press, Peow Studio, Day Job, and I like the comic zines by British illustrator John Cei Douglas.

Exhibitors from outside of the UK were equally captivating. I met and chatted to Singaporean illustrator Michal Ng and the Madrid-based Ruohong Wu about her books that are influenced by her architecture background.


Katsumi Komagata talk  Katsumi Komagata design

les trois ourses

Katsumi Komagata  Katsumi Komagata petit arbre

Katsumi Komagata

Top left: Nobrow founding partner Sam Arthur with Japanese graphic designer Katsumi Komagata at the Artist Talk by The Japan Foundation; Top right: Komagata’s design for children’s hospital ward in Japan; last 3 rows: Komagata’s books at Les Trois Ourses’ stall


Though the highlight of the festival for me was Les Trois Ourses – the French publisher that features graphical books by award-winning Japanese graphic designer Katsumi Komagata.

A few days before the festival, I attended The Japan Foundation‘s Artist Talk by Katsumi Komagata at Foyles. The talk was organised in conjunction with the festival, and Nobrow’s founding partner Sam Arthur was also present to join the conversation.

This was Komagata‘s first trip to the UK, and so it was a fantastic opportunity to hear the designer talk about the inspirations behind his works. Renowned in France, Komagata was less well-known in Japan until he started to design for hospitals children’s wards in Japan. He founded graphic design studio and later publishing press One Stroke in 1983, and started designing books for children after the birth of his daughter. In 1994, he started collaborating with Les Trois Ourses, and has published picture books for children with disabilities. Komagata‘s books have often been compared to the books designed by the great Italian designer/artist Bruno Munari, and Komagata acknowledged that Munari’s designs did inspire some of his works.

Unfortunately, I did not attend Komagata‘s workshop at the festival, but I did manage to chat to Alexis from Les Trois Ourses about Komagata‘s wonderful books like Petit Arbres and Aller-Retour – which I bought at the festival.


round chapel

East London Comic Arts Festival  East London Comic Arts Festival

Top & bottom left: The historical interior of the Round Chapel; Bottom right: comics and zines bought from the festival


I never expected to feel fulfilled after spending all the cash in my wallet, but I was! I think the festival was an inspiring event, and I especially liked the fact that it featured many non-mainstream illustrators and publishers that are hard to find in the city’s generic bookshops. Now I just need to save up for next year’s festival!


Strand Buildings in Clapton

Strand Buildings in Clapton  Strand Buildings in Clapton

Strand Buildings in Clapton

The Art deco Strand Buildings in Clapton


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IMG_5727-min  IMG_5725-min

The super cool Cine Real super 8 and 16mm film shop and club at 35 Lower Clapton Road



Brighton Festival 2016

Brighton rail station


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 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 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


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

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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


Adelaide Mansions



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.


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.



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!



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



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 


Modernist houses



Guðjón Samúelsson’s Modernist architecture in Reykjavik


Hallgrímskirkja church in the centre of Reykjavik


If you visit Reykjavik, then it is impossible to miss its prominent landmark church – Hallgrímskirkja. At 73 metres (244 ft), it is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland. Designed in 1937 by Guðjón Samúelsson (1887 – 1950), the State Architect of Iceland at the time, the construction work took 41 years to complete. Unfortunately, the architect did not live to see its completion, and the work was completed by succeeding architects Hörður Bjarnason and Garðar Halldórsson.

The controversial design of this church was said to be inspired by the Icelandic geology – the lava turned basalt columns at Svartifoss, and it is spectacular when you look up from the entrance. The interior of the church is fairly minimal, except for a gargantuan pipe organ desigAned and constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. You can also take the lift (there is an entrance fee) up to the top of the tower, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city.


Hallgrimskirkja  Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja Hallgrimskirkja Hallgrimskirkja


Samúelsson followed his father’s profession in architecture and received his education in Denmark. Influenced by modernism, his work feature an array of architectural styles including Art Deco, Neo-Classicalism, Functionalism and National Romanticism. Samúelsson was appointed as the State architect (the first and last person for this title) in 1924, and he was responsible for many buildings that can still be seen in the centre of Reykjavik today.


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The National Gallery of Iceland – A minimal neoclassical/modern style building built in 1916


Once the largest building in Reykjavik is now the Apotek Hotel (Austurstræti 16). Built in 1916/1917, it was influenced by Art Nouveau and Nationalist Romanticism and ornated with statues by Einar Jónsson. The building used to house the notable Reykjavíkurapótek (Reykjavik Apothecary) in 1930. Samúelsson also designed the building next door (Austurstræti 11) in 1924, which houses the Landsbankinn, and you can still admire the bank’s art deco interior today.


Reykjavík Austurstræti 11

Landsbankinn Austurstræti

Landsbankinn Austurstræti

Top: statues by Einar Jónsson at Austurstræti 16; Bottom two rows: Landsbankinn’s art deco interior


The National Theatre of Iceland

national theatre of iceland  The National Theatre of Iceland

The stunning art deco National theatre of Iceland was designed by Samúelsson in 1928, but only opened in 1950.


University of Iceland or Háskóli Íslands

University of Iceland or Háskóli Íslands

Another art deco building: The University of Iceland (1940)


Other notable Samúelsson architecture in the city centre include Hotel Borg (1930), Landakotskirkja (1929) and Swimming hall/ Sundhöllin (1937).



Open House London 2015

Over the years, I have witnessed how Open House London evolved from a relatively low-key architecture event to a major and extremely popular one. Although it is encouraging to see the public’s growing interests in architecture, it is also frustrating because advanced bookings are filled up quickly and long queues are common outside of popular buildings over the weekend.

My strategy this year was to stay away from the landmarks in order to avoid queues, yet many had the same idea as me, so I still had to wait and accept that queues were unavoidable!


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 Alexandra & Ainsworth estate


My first stop was the Grade II listed Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate in South Hampstead. I have read a lot about this estate before my visit, and I was keen to find out more about the most expensive social housing project ever built in this country. Designed by architect Neave Brown for Camden Council, the 6.47-hectare site (the size of 12 football pitches) ended up costing £20.9 million and was completed in 1978.

During the Thatcher years, the estate fell into disrepair and it took some time for dissatisfied residents to get the estate listed. Along with Golden Lane estate, Dunboyne Road estate (also designed by Neave Brown) and The Branch Hill Estate, this estate is now being regarded as one of the most important examples of social housing in Europe.

It is hard not to be impressed by Brown‘s design and vision as I walked along the pedestrian walkway (Rowley Way) with terraced maisonettes on both sides. Unlike Ernő Goldfinger‘s vision for high-rise social housing ( like Balfron and Trellick Towers), Brown‘s ziggurat style terraces provide a greener and more aesthetically pleasing exterior. There is a documentary about this estate called Rowley Way, and you can find out more about the architect’s ideas via this film.


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Alexandra Road park


Although there were guided tours of a flat and the park on the day, the waiting time for the flat was more than 1 hour and a half, and so I skipped it for the park tour instead (which was a shame).

The newly restored Alexandra Road Park was granted The Heritage Lottery funding in 2013, and our tour was lead by landscape architect Neil Davidson from J & L Gibsons, the studio responsible for the restoration work.

At the tour, we were informed that the park was previously a no-go area for kids, so the restoration of this 4 acres park is significant as it aims to create a relaxing multi-functional communal space for all ages. Now the contemporary and beautiful park has five playgrounds, circular lawn, meadow, rows of trees and benches that hopefully would benefit the residents of the estate in the long run.


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McCann Building


I have walked past the stunning streamline art deco McCann building near Russel Square countless times, and I have often wondered what its interior is like. Believe it or not, but this building was built for Daimler as a car hire garage back in 1931. Designed by Wallis Gibert (the architects behind Perivale’s Hoover building and the Victoria coach station), this garage was the inspiration for the Fisher Price garage toy. The Grade II listed building was refurbished in 1999 by PKS Architects and shortly after, advertising agency McCann moved in.


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 Interior of the building and W. Heath Robinson’s exhibition/ drawings from ‘How to Live in a Flat’


Unfortunately no photos were allowed beyond the main atrium (except for the roof top), but I can assure you that the interior of the building is as fascinating as the exterior esp. the circular corridors! The atrium’s decor of hanging laundry and balloons were inspired by the drawings from English cartoonist and illustrator William Heath Robinson‘s book ‘How to Live in a Flat’, which were part of the exhibition at the agency.


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Exterior of The Royal College of Physicians


Located next to Regent’s Park, The Royal College of Physicians is another building that has piqued my interest for years. Although the the Grade II listed building is normally open to the public, the guided tour on the day did provide insight into the history and design of the building.

Designed by architect Sir Denys Lasdun (who also designed the Royal National Theatre) and opened in 1964, this conspicuous white Modernist building was greatly influenced by Le Corbusier. Like Neave Brown‘s vision for social housing, Lasdun‘s vision to build a modern building for a centuries-old traditional body was considered to be quite radical at the time.


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 Interior of The Royal College of Physicians


Aside from the exterior, Le Corbusier‘s influence can also be seen inside esp. in the Lasdun Hall, where light floods the hall from the enormous windows. Yet Lasdun was also keen to merge traditions with modern values, hence he recreated the Censor’s Room, which is lined with original 17th century oak paneling from the College’s third home in Warwick Lane. Other notable architectural features include the stunning spiral staircase and stained glass window created by Keith New.


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The medical garden of the college


The Medical garden was created in 1965 and it contains 1,300 plants either used as medicines in the past 5000 years or which commemorate physicians. Each plant is labelled with its Latin name, plant family, and the regions of the world from which they come from. It is not only an oasis in central London, but also a fine complement to the impressive building.


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Superhome: 8 Belsize Court garages


A few years ago, I visited one of the Superhomes in Belsize Park ( 2a Belsize Park Gardens), and it was eye-opening to learn different energy-saving methods that can be applied to a traditional house. This year, I decided to visit another superhome nearby, which was converted from a Victorian coach and horses stables.

The 19th century mews house is now home to an award-winning architect’s studio and 4 bedroom upper maisonette. It was very interesting to meet the architects from Sanya Polescuk Architects and learned about how they have retained many of the original Victorian features like the wall tiles, ironwork and cobblestones while making many carbon-reducing improvements as possible.

One of the best things about the Open House event is getting the opportunity to visit private homes of Londoners and learn more about how to create sustainable housing through creative ideas and simple methods. This visit has definitely inspired me to visit more private homes next year, though I am not sure if the queuing time will be reduced. I wonder if the popularity of this event will turn it into a biennial one? I sincerely hope so.


Lisbon’s art deco & art nouveau architecture

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 Interior of Cais do Sodre station


Lisbon has a fantastic variety of architecture from different periods, including one of my favourites: Art Deco.

I was quite pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Lisbon’s Cais do Sodre station to catch a train towards Cascais. Opened in 1928 and designed by Pedro Botelho and Nuno Teotónio Pereira, the most notable feature of this Art Deco building is its beautiful foyer, with an emphasis on geometric patterns. I like the simple but impactful stained glass windows, and the use of zig zag lines and checked patterns throughout. There is a lot going on, but somehow it works harmoniously.


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Cais do Sodre station


In the centre near the Praça dos Restauradores stands one of Lisbon’s most beautiful Art Deco buildings: the former Teatro Eden. Opened in 1931 and designed by architects Cassiano Branco and Carlo Florencio Dias, it soon became one of the city’s most important cinemas. Unfortunately, the cinema closed in 1989 and was left neglected for years until it was converted into Orion Eden Hotel in 2001.

Not far from the old Teatro Eden is another former cinema, Condes Cinema. It was built in 1951 by architect Raul Tojal on top of the former Teatro da Rua dos Condes. The notable feature of this Art Moderne building is its streamline corner and a circular rooftop. Like the fate of Teatro Eden, the cinema closed in the late 1990s and was left in ruins for years until it was converted into Hard Rock Cafe in 2003. All the original fittings of the interior were demolished, leaving no trace of the old cinema.


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Top: Old Condes Cinema; 2nd left: Old Vitória hotel; the rest: Other modernist buildings with circular balconies


On Av. da Liberdade, the eye-catching Old Vitória hotel (170) was designed by Cassiano Branco in 1936-37. This marble-clad building was initially intended to be apartments, but opened as a hotel and is now the Communist Party of Portugal headquarters. It would be hard to miss this building from street level because of its distinguishable stacked circular balconies. The composition combines the clean solidity of Modernism with the lyrical playfulness of Art Deco. Apparently, German spies frequented its grand rooms during World War II.


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Cinema São Jorge


On the opposite side of the avenue, there is another bold building with a huge São Jorge sign on the top. This is Cinema São Jorge (175), which opened in 1950 as the largest cinema in Portugal. Designed by Fernando Silva, this elegant building reflected the glamour of Hollywood at the time. Unlike the two unfortunate cinemas mentioned above, this cinema was altered in1982 to incorporate two cinemas at balcony level, and was renovated in 2007 by the City of Lisbon. You can still see the two historical film projectors at the entrance of the cinema.

It is easy to be distracted by all the grandiose facades on Av. da Liberdade. Yet hidden behind these buildings lies an intriguing 1920s entertainment park/complex, Parque Mayer.


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Parque Mayer


I was only lead into this complex (now also used as a car park) because of the four white pillars with art deco lighting at the entrance. I was curious and decided to explore further.

Wandering around the complex, I was shocked by the state of these old art deco theatres and the area itself. They looked as if they had been left neglected for decades, even though there is a functioning restaurant at the back and some construction workers working on the site of a white building. On the wall of the Teatro Varidades, there are hangings of the theatre’s history since the 1920s. So I can’t help wondering to myself: what happened to this place?

The history of this entertainment park began when it was acquired by journalist, playwright and theatre impresario Luis Gallardo in 1921. Gallardo wanted to create a park or mini Broadway dedicated to theatres and entertainment, and so Parque Mayer was born in 1922. The first theatre that opened was Teatro Maria Victoria, named after the actress and singer Maria Victoria who died a few years earlier. Then others followed: Teatro Varidades (1926), Teatro Capitólio (1931) and Teatro ABC (1956).

Aside from theatre, there were also restaurants, carousels, fado houses, cinema and box fight. It was a bohemian place par excellence, and a magnet for Lisbon’s political elites, artists and intellectuals. I didn’t find much information on what exactly happened, but presumably like many other theatres and cinemas in Lisbon, it fell into decline at some point and eventually became a derelict site.

A new rehabilitation project of the park was proposed in the mid 2000s, but constant legal disputes and bureaucracies between BragaParques (the landowner) and the Council of Lisbon had barred the project from going ahead. Will we get to see a new entertainment park in the future? Let’s wait and see.


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Top two rows: Museu do Oriente; Last two rows: 2 other Art Deco buildings nearby


By the seafront in Alcãntara is the Museu do Oriente, which I mentioned in the previous entry. The restored 6-storey white conspicuous building was a former salted cod (bacalhau) processing factory. Originally designed by Portuguese architect João Simões Antunes in the 1940s, it was converted into the current museum in 2008 by Carrilho da Graça Arquitectos.

There are also some interesting art deco buildings nearby, probably built around the same period.


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Mercado Sao Bento

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Many derelict Art Deco buildings can be seen in the city


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Top two rows: Cascais; Bottom two rows: Estremoz


Besides art deco, art nouveau architecture can also be spotted in the city especially around the Estrella district.

Yet the most fascinating art nouveau architecture is located at 28 Av. Fontes Pereira de Melo, the Headquarters of Metropolitano de Lisboa, designed by Portuguese architect Manuel Joaquim Norte Júnior in 1912.

Informally nicknamed the ‘wedding cake’ for its exuberant decoration, the building was the recipient of the Prémio Valmor architecture award in 1914. Designed as a private residence, it has been the headquarters of Metropolitano de Lisboa  (the managing company of the Lisbon Metro) since the 1950s. The building is also listed as of Public Interest in 2002, and is considered a remarkable ‘museum’ of early 20th century decorative arts, given its lavish finishes and details.

Right next to it is the entrance to the Picoas subway station, a gift from the Paris Metro (RATP) known as Guimard access in 1995. (there is also one in Moscow at the Kievskaya station). This is a copy of the original designed by French Art Nouveau architect Hector Guimard to adorn the entrances of the Parisian Metro Stations that can still be widely seen in Paris today.


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Top 3 rows: Metropolitano de Lisboa; 4th left, 5th & 6th rows: Picaos metro station entrance; Bottom two rows: an Art Nouveau building in Estrella




Charles Holden goes west

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Sudbury Town understand station


Last year, I attended an architectural walk organised by London transport museum to explore English architect, Charles Holden‘s iconic art deco underground stations (click here to read the blog entry) on the north east end of the Piccadilly Line. This year, I attended another walk (which was also part of the London festival of architecture) that explored the north west end of the Piccadilly Line.

I love these walks not only because of the architecture and design, but it is immensely fascinating to learn about the history of London. When I visited these stations which were built almost a century ago, I felt like time has stood still and that I was transported to a different era. When you look at these photographs, you can see that good architecture and designs truly stand the test of time because every detail is well thought out and is still functional after all these years.


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Many original features including signage can be found ar Sudbury Town understand station; Bottom right: small garden at Rayners Lane station


Housing developments in the early 1920s around Richmond, Hounslow, Harrow and Ealing meant that the Piccadilly line had to be extended to replace some of the District Railway services. And three men who were in charge of this project were Charles Holden, Frank Pick and Stanley Heaps.

The tour started at the Grade II listed Sudbury Town station, the first tube station that Charles Holden designed for Frank Pick, built in 1929 and completed in 1931. Holden described this as “a brick box with a concrete lid”.

At the station, the station conductor was keen to provide us with his knowledge of the station and he even let us into the original ticket booth for a bonus tour! Like most other stations designed by Holden, this station is symmetrical, spacious, bright, with wide entrance and has no architectural ornament.

The original signage can still be seen at this station and the typefaces used are the standard London Underground ‘Johnston typeface’ with ‘petit-serif’, which was developed by Holden and Percy Delf Smith. I especially love the blue barometer on the wall, but sadly no longer works (there is an identical-looking clock on the opposite side of the hall). Now the barometer’s hand is stuck at ‘change’, which is very accurate of what our weather pattern these days.


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 Alperton tube station and bus garage


Our second station that we visited was Alperton station, which was built in 1931 and completed in 1933. The station is similar to Sudbury Town station and has a block-like ticket hall with high ceiling, large windows with plenty of natural light.

Next to this station is the Alperton bus garage, one of the very few built for Central Bus operation in the 1930s.


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Park Royal station


Although the Grade II listed Park Royal station was not designed by Charles Holden, it evidently influenced by him. The art deco station was designed by Felix. J. Lander from Welch & Lander in 1935 and was completed in 1936. I love the art deco exterior and the tower is a prominent feature that can be spotted from afar.


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 Hanger Hill estate – Top main: Hanger Court; Bottom left: Hanger Green/ Royal Hill Court; 2nd & bottom row right: Park Royal Hotel


Not far from the Park Royal station is the locally-conserved Hanger Hill estate, a ‘superior suburbia’ developed in the 1930s by Haymills Ltd. This was a large commercial development with houses, flats and public buildings, and the team of architects involved in the project included Welch & Lander and Cachemaille Day. Many art deco architectural elements can be seen in this area, but I found the derelict Park Royal Hotel especially intriguing. Originally I thought this was a theatre because of the unusual twisted brick columns on its facade, but when I did my research online, I was surprised to find out that it used to be a hotel. However, I could not find much more information on it, it is a pity that this fascinating-looking hotel is left neglected while thousands of cars drive past it everyday without even noticing that it is there!


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Hanger Lane station


After exploring the estate, we walked over to the nearby Hanger Lane station, which is situated in the middle of a roundabout on the busy (and rather gloomy) North Circular Road. Back in the days when I used to drive, I drove past this station many times as this is one of the most popular routes to get to Heathrow airport. Yet I never knew that in the underpass tunnel underneath the station there is a superb display of vintage Underground posters. Who would have thought that this underpass is actually a poster gallery for the Transport of London?


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 Acton Town station


Our last station of the walk was the Grade II listed Acton Town, an important example of Holden‘s mature work for an interchange station. Designed in 1931 and completed in 1933, all the Holden‘s signature style and materials are used here. The notable features include the art deco lighting in the ticket hall and brass railings that can be seen throughout the station.


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Mill Hill park estate


Our last optional tour was a visit to the nearby Mill Hill Park estate developed from the 1880s by William Willett and son. Many houses here are influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, which was at its height around the turn of the century. Each house here is unique and very well maintained, and like the Hanger Hill estate, this area is a local conservation area with special architectural or historic interest.

London is a city full of surprises and hidden gems, and once again, I have discovered something new about this city in just a few hours. Like Samuel Johnson said, “Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” I think the best bits about London are often hidden, and so if one is tired of the city, it is because they haven’t looked or dwelled deep enough.