Tuesday, June 12, 2007

National Grid



As seen in an unexpected place. Edwin Lutyens is an architect that postmodernists got very excited about in the 70s and 80s, an exemplar of a free classical tradition that was interrupted by the continental lefty funny accented emigres of the '30s, with their grids, their concrete and their politics. So naturally one has to oppose him and everything he stands for - something not too difficult, given the twee villas, pompous edwardian offices, mock castles and imperial fantasies that made up his output. Unfortunately he could do some really quite bafflingly original work when he could be bothered, and hence the inexplicable, brilliant Grosvenor Estate, on Page Street in Pimlico.



What we have here is a line of Zeilenbau blocks, locked into a grid plan, in a grid shape, modelled into a portland stone and brick grid, and probably the most advanced buildings in London for the time (late 20s), save perhaps Charles Holden's London Transport offices or Etchells' little High Holborn block. It's position, just by Westminster, the home office and surprisingly, a classic caff goldmine, make it even eerier - as does its continued use as social housing. Although they never gesture at the Italianate prettiness of Portmeirion, there's something very Prisoner about this place - a peculiar, regimented, somewhat dictatorial yet cute aesthetic that could only be English.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reference to The Prisoner comes into sharper focus as you realise that Thames House, MI5's HQ is at the top of Page Street.

1:33 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Aha! That I did not know

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Blogger david@viceuk.com said...

I grew up on that estate and always wondered about the design. Thank you for the information.

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