Tuesday, 27 July 2010

A privileged visit to the Church of St Lawrence Jewry next Guildhall

Records suggest there was first mention of a church on this site in 1136. The first recorded Vicar was John Lawrence in 1180. The name of the Church is derived from the that part of the City occupied by the Jews after the Norman invasion and for the period between 1066 and 1290. During the reign of Edward 1st  of England (known as Longshanks due to his height) AD 1272-1307 there was a building on the site.
Plans by Christopher Wren (1632-1723) in 1667 after the Great Fire showed only the east face of the building being decorated as this was the Street through which the Kings and Queens passed to get to the Guildhall from the river. The east wall of the building is not perpendicular to the rest of the building which is shown by the reveals of the two windows in the east wall.
The Spire is not square to the tower, and there are two views as to why this might be. Did Wren want the Spire to be facing the Nave or was it to face the orientation of Gresham Street on the west front? The St Lawrence Jewry fountain is now installed at St Pauls.
 Those pictured in the stained glass are St Catherine, St Paul, Thomas Moore (who delivered major lectures at the Church) Mary Magdalene, St Michael, St Lawrence and William Grocyn a 14th Century Scholar who taught Greek.
The painting behind the altar shows the story of Saint Lawrence AD 225-258. After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom. According to lore, among the treasure of the Roman church entrusted to Lawrence for safe-keeping was the Holy Chalice, the cup from which Jesus and the Apostles drank at the Last Supper. Lawrence was able to spirit this away to Huesca, in present day Aragon, with a letter and a supposed inventory, where it lay hidden and unregarded for centuries. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain.
The Sir Christopher Wren church was gutted by fire during the Blitz and was completely restored and re-consecrated in 1957. The Commonwealth Chapel windows show the crests of the eight Commonwealth countries in 1954. The Church is owned by the City Corporation and the Rector is appointed by them and not the Church. 
 Those attending were welcomed by the Rector David Parrott who gave a brief talk about the Chuch and its history and artifacts. We were invited to view the six secret corners of the building, the Organ loft, the Tower, the Vault, the Boiler room, the Gallery and the Vicarage. The Vicarage stand on the North side of the building and if you look up from Guildhall Yard you can see the net curtains of the Sitting room and at roof level is the terrace (with a personalised view of the Gherkin) where we were royally entertained. The Rector says it is the 2nd best Council flat in London (after the Mansion House).

The members of the Company and their guests enjoyed a few glasses of wine and canapés on the terrace whilst trying to dodge the shower under the brollies.
Michael Wilkey – Renter Warden

Monday, 19 July 2010

Election Court Dinner

The annual Election Court Dinner of the Company seems to be the occasion on which the Master spends much of the time allocated to him by the Clerk giving things away. After what was thought to be an excellent meal in the atmospheric surroundings of Armourers' Hall the Master welcomed a number of guests.

Guests included four fellow Masters - representing the Tylers' and Bricklayers' Company (Julyan Gordon), the Masons' (Richard Woodman-Bailey), the Paviors' (Tom Barton) and the Furniture Makers' (Peter Head) and their ladies. The City was represented by Alderman and Sheriff Elect Fiona Woolf CBE. We were also joined by two helmsmen from the Tower RNLI LIfeboat Station on the Thames -Stuart Morrison and Bill Callaghan, The Secretary of the Architects Benevolent Society - Keith Robinson was present to see the presentation of the Company's Award for the most significant contribution to the ABS in the Course of the year. The plate, decorated by Russell Brown of Hawkins Brown, was won by Populous represented by Ben Vickery. Both were present. 

Pictured below is Ben Vickery collecting the ABS Award from the Master

As part of its support for its 'link regiment' the Company has actively supported the appeal for funds by the Tower Pier Lifeboat Station to purchase two new Class E Lifeboats for the Thames.

Pictured left is the Master presenting a cheque to Stuart Morrison and Bill Callaghan  

 Pictured right - the Master presents a donation to the Secreatry of the Architects Benevolent Society - Keith Robinson.

The other presentation made on the evening was of a cheque to the winner of the Company's Stuart Murphy Travel Award for 2010. This is an award of £2,000 made following receipt of applications from Diploma Students at schools of architecture in London. It is intended to allow the winner to undertake travel in conjunction with a piece of course work.
The winner this year had been announced to the Court earlier in the day as Linda Hagberg who is studying at the Bartlett School.

Linda is pictured below receiving her award from the Master.

While the occasion had something of an 'end of term'feel about it, there was, for those in need of the CPD points) a serious side to the evening. The Master's principal guest was Dr Simon Thurley - Chief Executive of English Heritage (picture below with the Master) who, in response to the toast to the guests, set out a clear explanation of the challenges facing his department and the means being taken to reslove them.

If there is any doubt about the Master's enjoyment of the occasion the photograph below provides the answer. As soon as he was escorted from the Hall at the end of the meal, he made a hasty return to be photographed with a selection of ladies who had all been sat in close proximity to each other.

An Architect to Architects

Printed below is the sermon delivered by the Reverend Dr Allan Doig FSA - Fellow and Chaplain to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford at the Company's Annual Service at St Lawrence Jewry on Monday 5 July;

A few days ago I was in Edinburgh where I spent a long while in a small octagonal room in the National Gallery of Scotland.  It is dedicated to Poussin’s paintings of the Seven Sacraments.  These absorbing works develop intense, focussed, relationships amongst their central figures in a variety of situations.  Their action is suspended in the almost breathless pivotal moment of transformation, even transfiguration, of relationships between people, and with God.
The Book of Common Prayer helpfully defines a sacrament as ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’.   Even in the strictest sense, many other traditions recognise a greater number of sacraments than the two, baptism and Holy Communion, discussed in the Book of Common Prayer, and it can be illuminating to try living in a sacramental world, even for brief moments – a sacramental world where God has left his ‘fingerprints’, so to speak, all over his creation.  In that small octagonal room punctuated by Poussin, the main transformative and revelatory moments of life rhythmically paused your circuit of the room.  Similarly, out in the world it can be more of a syncopated interruption of our journey, as we are frequently surprised by transformative moments of God’s grace, caught and made visible in a plethora of outward signs. 
The ‘fingerprints’ God has left on his creation, like all fingerprints, are a sign of the identity of the creator.  If you look at a work, the fingerprints, the special characteristics of its form and the relationships within it, you can come to recognise significant things about it creator.  That is true of Poussin and those seven paintings, it is true of you and the buildings you create, it is true of the New Jerusalem of living stones being fashioned by that heavenly Architect, and it is true of that great Architect, and the whole Universe he has made.
Job’s life had been collapsing around him, as had his self-understanding, and his understanding of Divine justice, so his faith demanded that he question God.  We heard God’s answer in that first reading.  God answered Job out of the whirlwind:
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions?
Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set?
Or who laid its cornerstone?
When the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

After this opening, follows a great song of creation – a reflection on God’s Wisdom imposing finely detailed order on chaos.
You have before you a visual reflection and meditation on the same theme.  On the service sheet you see a 13th-century manuscript illumination, frontispiece for a Bible Moralisée.  Text and image together were a revelation of the Wisdom, the ways, and the works of God. 
God made a place for mankind in the order of his Creation.  You, as architects do something very similar: you create places for human habitation, human flourishing, and the luckiest of you (or the chosen few) create places for human encounter with the Divine.

Those places of encounter are special places with a special sacramentality that I want to look at in a couple of special examples, but I do not want to pass over the sacramental possibilities of architecture in general.  Buildings in general at the very least influence, and sometimes control, the type and quality of human relationships and human flourishing that take place within and around them.  If they do that well they can be outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace in the fulfilment of the second part of our lord’s two-fold commandment – to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’.

Churches, on the other hand, are sacramental signs of the fulfilment of all the Law and the Prophets.  As places of encounter and unity of the worshipping community as the Body of Christ in the presence of God and the whole company of heaven, they are a sacramental sign of that Communion and the growing fulfilment of the twofold commandment:

“The first and great commandment is this: to love the Lord thy God with all thy heard, with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength; the second is lie unto it, namely this, to love thy neighbour as thyself.  No other commandment is greater than these; on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

These buildings are sacramental signs of the coming of God’s Kingdom – the New Jerusalem – ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.  The apse mosaic of Santa Pudenziana, shown on the order of service, was among the first figural mosaics in Rome, from around 390.  It shows Christ seated on a jewelled throne on the rock of Calvary which is surmounted by a jewelled cross.  In a golden toga, he is the Emperor of Heaven, surrounded by the Apostles dressed in togas as his heavenly court within the courtyard in front of the Holy Sepulchre.  Beyond the arcade of the courtyard are seen the buildings of Constantine’s new Jerusalem.  The Beasts of the Apocalypse fill the skies.

The message of the mosaic is clear: “the kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ”.

“It is a long time coming!” I hear you say?   I suppose the answer is the same as God’s answer out of the whirlwind to Job’s challenge: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand!”  That is to say, it will come in God’s good time.

Meanwhile there are sacramental signs of its coming, visions of the Kingdom of God, signs of God present with and in his people, fashioning us as living stones to build the New Jerusalem. Churches are signs of God’s presence with his people, the sacramental image of the New Jerusalem, and I want to look at just one particular example to bring that home.  The example is Wells Cathedral, and not just the Cathedral, but the mediaeval building brought to life by the mediaeval Sarum liturgy.

The West Front of Wells (the last illustration on your service sheet) was completed by 1250.  The whole elaborate system of niches and aedicules is populated by Old and New Testament figures, saints and angels; all were originally brightly polychromed – ‘angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven’ and indeed there are times when you could hear the ‘singing of their endless praise. In the double register of quatrefoils above the West Doors, and just below the Apostles in the topmost full register, if you look carefully you can see rows of holes.  These open from a singers’ gallery within the facade above the Doors, and a musicians’ gallery at the top.  Crowning the composition of the facade is the figure of Christ Enthroned, flanked by winged seraphim.

The liturgy of the Sarum Rite is characterised by elaborate processions and dramatic presentations.  On Palm Sunday, for example, after the morning office, processions would proceed round the cloister to the cemetery in front of the West Doors. Meanwhile, at the Altar, a consecrated host was placed in a shrine with relics.  The ‘Body of the Lord’, present with his saints, preceeded by a light, was taken directly to the West Doors where it met the main procession. Everyone standing in the western graveyard ‘in the midst of death’ was holding a blessed palm and the passage from Matthew 21 was read out: Christ was about to enter Jerusalem in triumph:

‘And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the tress and strewed them in the way.  And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!’

At that there was a blast from the musicians’ gallery, high in the facade and all proceeded to the West Door where ‘Gloria, laus, et honor’, ‘All Glory, laud and honour’, was sung by the choir in the hidden gallery behind the carved angels above the West Door.  The congregation responded with the refrains.

From Christ Enthroned with seraphim, through ranks of Saints, angels, biblical scenes and figures, down to the ground where the present generation of God’s people thronged, singing in response to the hidden choirs of angels, the facade was the entry both to Jerusalem of old and the New Jerusalem yet to come – foretold in the Revelation of John the Divine, and already prepared to receive us.  It both is, and is to come. So, the processions and the people then entered the Cathedral under the shrine containing the ‘Body of the Lord’ and the relics of his saints held aloft.  Inside, they were probably met by the clamour of a nave organ that seems to have been supported by two large corbels still seen in the south gallery. Carefully and elaborately coordinated liturgy and architecture brought all participants into the real presence of the Kingdom of God.  The Cathedral is a sacramental sign of the New Jerusalem. 

So, to return to where I began: that octagonal room in the National Gallery of Scotland had a wall for each of Poussin’s paintings of the Seven Sacraments.  That is the traditional, even orthodox doctrinal number, but I invite you, through reflection on the general definition of a sacrament to see yet more sacraments – at the very least, more potential for true sacramentality. The eighth wall of that octagonal room naturally contained the entrance portal.  By the time you leave that room, having seen those seven intensely spiritual paintings, the eighth wall and it doorway open into a world with renewed sacramental possibility.  Architecture is a powerful force for its realisability.  Architecture creates luminal places, places of encounter between people, and between the people and the Divine breaking into the world.

These are places for human habitation, places that hold and shape human experience, places that enhance human flourishing, places that unfold and reveal all that is Good, and Beautiful, and True.

Given these possibilities, you as architects, have a great calling, a Vocation.  In theological terms, it is to reveal the Christ, who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except by this Way, this Truth and this life, revealed and shaped and enhanced by the places where we meet, those luminal places shaped by you.

You can hold heaven in the palm of your hand.  Take care how you handle it.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Book Review

Wine by Design, Second Edition (2010, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-72141-4), is written by two Canadian architects, Sean Stanwick and Loraine Fowlow. Both bring obvious passion to the idea of architecture as culture and see wine as part of that same artistic realm. This second edition adds nine new and exciting wineries to the first edition and some updated text and photographs.

The authors focus on so-called ‘international star’ architects, which means that Frank Gehry with his Le Clos Jordanne in Canada and Marqués de Riscal in Rioja, , Renzo Piano at the gorgeous Rocca di Fassinello in Maremma, Santiago Calatrava at Ysios and Zaha Hadid with her gem of a tasting room at the very traditional López de Heredia Viña Tondonia feature. The authors also discover first-rate wineries designed by local architects, such as Fielding Estate by Ontario architects Superkül and Adega Mayor in Portugal by the über-Modernist Alvaro Siza. Okay, they missed quite a few others, like Calera’s gravity flow in California, but that’s a quibble.

The book is beautifully designed and the wineries are impeccably photographed. It is almost a ‘coffee-table’ book. However, the summaries for each winery, including recommended wines and winery details, are well-handled and nicely presented on individual pages. As an architect, I savour the technical terminology and the critique of each winery’s design, which are indeed excellent. I would have adored more architectural drawings: plans, sections and even axonometrics. As a Master of Wine, I find the discourse about wine production simplistic and occasionally inaccurate. And, like many wine amateurs, the authors spend far too much time waxing lyrical about photogenic barrels and cellars, and perhaps spend too little time describing the wines, the respective styles and qualities, and whether the wines fit the winery architecture and design and packaging. 

As a read, it is probably more for wine-drinking architects than for architecture-loving wine consumers. But, the book certainly captures the romance and excitement of the winery experience in many parts of the Old World and the New World, and for that it must be commended. Enjoy with a superb vintage wine.

contributed by Patricia Stefanowicz MW

The New Ashmolean

The Ashmolean Museum claims to be the oldest public museum in Britain and perhaps it is. Maybe it depends on one’s point of view. 

The New Ashmolean is certainly visionary. Rick Mather Architects with exhibition designers Metaphor (great name!) have created a new, glassy addition to the old Neoclassical Museum to create a seamless modern museum in traditional, ultra-conservative, Oxford. The concept of exhibiting the stunning collection by themes is not unheard of but is a bit unusual, shall we say?

As an architect and regular visitor to Oxford, I found the transformation extraordinary. Yes, the ‘classics’ so-to speak are still mainly contained in specialist galleries, so my beloved Italians are still mostly within their periods.

What I found thrilling on my first visit during our January 2010 snowfalls, though, is how the curators managed to find common links between textiles produced thousands of miles apart and somehow make the story work. The same thread (ouch!) permeates the other themes. For example, who, apart from the genius now managing the Museum would have thought to have a theme on Beauty and then to hang great works of art from as diverse 18th century cultures as Japan and Italy next to each other?

It works, if you can think laterally, or make use of the (inevitable, nowadays) audio-guides or lunchtime guided walks, but I suppose for the general tourists it may all be a little bit confusing, nonetheless. After all we are normally taught to think in a straight, logical and historical line. Architects and art-lovers aren’t like that, so we just wend our chaotic way through whatever comes up. And, I love it, the materials, the stairs, the colours, the ‘mix’.

The last includes the rather enticing rooftop Ashmolean Dining Room, which is managed by benugo, a fairly clued-up pair of brothers (Ben and Hugo), who have restaurants, cafes and concessions throughout the UK, including at the V&A. In March my gremolata encrusted sea bream was more than just acceptable. For more information about the Ashmolean Dining Room, read Nick Lander (FT Weekend food crtitic) reviews on www.jancisrobinson.com. 

contributed by Patricia Stefanowicz MW

Photographs to follow

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Company Visits Bath

The Master, Roger France organized an excellent visit to Bath over the (long) weekend 17-20 June. A more scholarly assessment of the visit is to be put together in due course. Suffice it to say at this stage that, in addition to the customary charms of this World Heritage City, much good fellowship was enjoyed and a great deal was lerned about the city and its history from a glittering array of speakers organized by the Master. It was interesting to learn that, while much cudos attaches itself to a city recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, there are not many practical advantages. Development is not permitted and both the economy and the city's two excellent universities suffer accordingly.

A New Gate for All for 2012

Earlier in the year the Company, with the support of a number of other construction related Livery Companies and the City Property Advisory Team of the C ity of London, instituted an architectural competition for the Design of a New Aldgate - a temporary landmark and entrance to the City of London. The structure is to be ready for the Olympic Games in 2012.

Over 90 Entries for the competition (run on behalf of the Company by the Architecture Foundation) were received from architects from round the world in early June. These were judged anonomously by a panel including Alderman Mike Bear; Achim Borchardt Hume, Chief Curator of the Whitechapel Gallery; The Master of the Company, Roger France;  Sarah Ichioka, Dorector of the Architecture Foundation and Peter Murray, a Court Assistant of the Chartered Architects' Company and Chairman of New London Architecture.

Five schemes were shortlisted and these, along with a selection of the other schemes were exhibited at St Botolph's Church Aldgate from 18 June until 4 July. The Shrotlisted proposals illustrated here were:

'The London Gate' by DONIS (Netherlands)
'The Listening Posts' by Foster Lomas Ltd (UK)
'Aldgate to the World' by Juan Alfonso Galan Arquitecto (UK)
'Ceci n'est pas une maison' by NORMAL (Canada)
'Vertical Forest' by Sou Fujimoto Architects (Japan)

The winning proposal will be announced  on 22 July and will receive a prize of £3,000.

Illustarated below (from the top):'The Listening Posts',  'Ceci n'est pas une maison'; 'Vertical Forest'; 'Aldgate to the World'; 'The London Gate'

Further details of the Competition can be found on: www.architecturefoundation.org.uk

A pathetic excuse for a blogger

It's not that nothing has happened these last several weeks; more that too much has been gouing on and your blogger and his pen friends have been rather too occupied elsewhere. More complete reports of some of the fiollowing posts are to follow. This will serve as an update.

Since the issue of the May Newsletter a nimber of members of the Company have attended the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy at St Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday 11 May. This splendid occasion sees the Masters, Upper Bailiff and Prime Wardens of most Companies joining a procession with both Church and civic dignitaries at a service which has its roots in history (this was the 356th such service). Great music and an inspiring sermon delivered by The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Reverend Alan Harper.

Thursday, 1 July 2010