Saturday, 22 December 2012

Merry Christmas - 2012

A very happy Christmas and optimism for the New Year

The Clerk

Ian Head

Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects
164 Stockbridge Road
Hants SO22 6RW

Tel 01962 869158

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Mewsletter - 1

Hi, I’m ROWSE and I moved in with Mervyn last year, and have been trying to sort him out ever since … it was a long time since a CAT was in charge … he’s still got a lot to learn!

H.J.Rowse - Engineer

I’ve come all the way from Liverpool. My first folks weren’t nice to me and dumped me in a big hole under the river called the Mersey Tunnel. I was so scared and crouched below the crash barrier while heavy metal rushed past. I thought all my nine lives would be snuffed out. Then a big man called Sam stopped his car (and everything else including the Birkenhead bus ground to a halt). He gently picked me up and put me inside and drove to the toll booth on the Cheshire side and handed me in … they told him cats weren’t accepted for payment, but they got the RSPCA to collect me, and take me to their rescue centre. They fed and cleaned me and got me injected (and had my bits removed). Sam came to see me – he’s what humans call a Good SAMaritan. His Dad, Mervyn, told him that he’d like to give me a home, but first the RSPCA had to check that he would be nice to me. Then Sam took me on a long, long journey – I cat-napped most of the way – and I arrived in Ashwell – to stay. 

I’m really a Scouser (and a mouser with nouse) … I’m now named after Herbert James Rowse (1887-1963), architect for the 1930s Mersey Tunnel in which I was found (that’s typical of Mervyn, but I’ll humour him while I get my food on time). Things have gone downhill since Sheila, Mervyn’s helper retired. I’ve just read Mervyn’s 2012 Newsletter – ‘Masterly’ dressed up in those funny clothes! He says I’m a capricious Office Manager – what cheek! As you can see he’s got me studying a large book about an architect called Lutyens (who never built a tunnel under anything as far as I can see). This is to do with something he calls ‘the Milo Lecture’. 

I’ve seen that Mervyn’s Consort Ann (who’s had a lot more cats than his nibs) has now stated posting messages on the blog of the WCCA, so in all fairness let me have my say.

Yours in desperation, PRRRRR…ROWSE

webmaster's cat's recommendation for Xmas lunch

From the Boss Cat at 11 Silver Street 

Master Mervyn's meanderings - 6

The onset of December brought a distinct end of term feeling. The end of November was signalled on Friday 30/11 by Lunch with the Old Bailey Judges, almost a miss as the East Coast trains were disrupted by suicide at St Neots. By dint of driving fast from Biggleswade to Letchworth I caught a train from Cambridge, which made up for lost time by rattling down a main line free of expresses from the north and I arrived at 12.50, just as Sherriff Nigel Pullman, my host began rounding everyone up for the meal. His Honour Judge Nicholas Cooke, next to me, had a daughter with a flat near the centre of Letchworth, which broke the ice for civilised conversation. Usually, guests are offered the chance to visit the Courts during the afternoon to witness Justice in action. As it was Friday, business has either been wrapped up or adjourned for the weekend, fortunate as the judge seated opposite could travel to his country house in Dorset. On Tuesday 4 December the Clerk and I attended the Marketors Company Lecture at Goldsmiths’ Hall, the most opulent of venues, to hear Professor Patrick Barwise expound on ‘Hitting the Sweep Spot: How to achieve Lasting Organic Profit Growth’, a title suggesting one of the lyrics from the ‘sixties Broadway musical ‘How to succeed in Business without even trying’. It was an exposition on ‘Druckerism’, propounded by an American marketing guru of the ‘fifties. As he spoke I reflected that brand recognition was a part of Victorian commerce – think of the Bisto Kids (still revived to help sell the gravy powder) and brilliantly successful despite (or possibly because of) limited media a century ago – press and posters and enamelled signs displayed at shops and on railway stations. The hearty supper after the lecture may not have included Bisto but it certainly cut the mustard for a cold might. 

Wednesday 5 December had a Reception for Adrian Waddingham’s Shrieval Election Campaign for June 2013, at Armourers’ Hall. I expect there will be more of this in the New Year, particularly as Common Hall approaches. I rushed on to the President’s Medals Ceremony at the RIBA, guest of Richard Brindley, who had flown to Brazil on Institute business. The Jarvis Hall was packed and all the recipients looked frighteningly young and self-confident. The exhibition was a fearsome display of what computer graphics can achieve. The Reception in the Florence Hall suffered from low levels of light, which made it difficult to recognise people. The building comes alive on these occasions, and I hope that some of this enthusiasm will be generated for my Milo Lecture ‘Lutyens in the City of London’ next February12 (calling notices are out so there’s no excuse not to sign up). What none of us knew was that the centenarian Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer had died – next day I posted a tribute on the blog and Richard, who had become the British spokesperson in Brasilia witness to the scene of mass grief for the man who had created the architectural image for their new capital city (cross reference to the relevant page of the blog). To end the week on Friday 7 December the ‘At Home’ at Southwark Deanery brought welcome calm and radiated the impression of a friendly family party. On the Embankment, a few steps from The Globe, the Deanery house is a rare Georgian survival, rescued from use as a paint factory, and faces what the Dean calls the best view in London. Looking out of the first floor windows across a windswept River Thames towards the floodlit south elevation and dome of St Paul’s Cathedral commanding the skyline, few would argue with him. 

A few days to catch up, do some Christmas shopping, and actually start preparing my Milo Lecture, and then one of the Landmarks of the Company year, the Annual Carol Service at St Lawrence Jewry, on Friday 14 December. I had chosen the music – organ voluntaries and carols for choir and congregation in liaison with Catherine Ennis (organist and choir master, who was unfortunately booked elsewhere on the night), Paul Weston had arranged the readings and our Chaplain, Canon David Parrott had signed the Order of Service off. A few ex-cathedra scares notwithstanding – notably the grinding halt to train services on the East Coast following the emergency evacuation of the King’s Cross signal box, which delayed arrival of Upper Warden Jaki Howes- all went ahead without a hitch. The music fitted the mood perfectly, opening with ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ in its processional format, stimulating as with John Joubert’s proclamatory ‘Torches!’ to the tender melancholy of ‘The Coventry Carol’; traditional congregation sing-outs including ‘The Holly and the Ivy, ‘The First Noel’ culminating in ‘Hark the herald angels sing!’ The organ voluntaries by Franck (Pastorale) and Bach (‘Wachet auf’) set the scene, while we processed out to Karg-Elert’s splendid ‘Marche Triomphale’). All the readings went well. The buffet afterwards was most convivial, bringing a most memorable event to an appropriate end. 

Finally, (if you have been), thankyou for reading this. There’s lots, lots more to come. Meantime, Merry Christmas ans a Happy New Year from The Master.


I always knew that 2012 would be a roller-coaster year, but it’s been positively supersonic … 70 years came on July 23, and I celebrated it in style with a Luncheon Party at the Knebworth House Barns on 7 September, a perfect day with 60 family, friends and Livery Company guests. In a summer of poor weather we were blest with warm sunshine. A highlight was the presence of Joan, Eileen and Stella, three bridesmaids at my parents’ wedding in April 1936. On 18 September I was installed as Master of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects for 2012-3, at Waterrnen’s Hall in the City. Robert Adam, an architect with whom I have enjoyed working over the past few years made generous remarks in his reply to the guests. I’ve almost lost count of the events I have attended through the Autumn, including a charity walk round 40 livery halls, processing in two services at St. Paul’s Cathedral and in the Lord Mayor’s Show, and several black tie dinners. My events began with a visit to the Henry Moore Foundation, my Master’s Reception at the Artworkers’ Guild and a tour of the Royal Courts of Justice led by my cousin, Mr Justice (Sir Gary) Hickinbottom, and we are having our customary Carol Service at St. Lawrence Jewry on 14 December. Then a let up until the machine starts up again in the New Year! As my Consort, I have been fortunate and delighted by the support of my stalwart friend Ann Yorke, who enlivens every event that she attends (and she attended a ‘ladies only’ luncheon hosted by the outgoing Lady Mayor at Mansion House, which included a tour of the private apartment).  

Rewind to Spring 2012, on 31 March, Sheila, my aide for 23 years retired. This has impacted upon my ability to deal with a workload that has not lightened significantly, despite my regularly turning new work away. Happily Sheila and husband Alan have attended several Company events. Rowse also misses Sheila, and is rather capricious as Office Manager, but a true feline friend in times of stress. In April I was keynote speaker at the celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of Greenbelt, Maryland and in July I presented a paper on Barry Parker’s work before and after his two years in Brazil, when I attended the International Planning History Society conference at Sao Paulo. Unusually there are no more trips abroad planned until the Company visit to Finland in May 2013. 

The Olympic Games passed me by, although Ann and I sat through most of the televised opening ceremony in The George at Alfriston, on one of the Glyndebourne weekends. These included a witty production of Rossini’s Cenerentola, Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen, a hyperactive Purcell’s Fairie Queene (particularly the ‘Duracell’-powered bunnies) and (great relief) the best Marriage of Figaro I have ever seen, ingeniously updated to 1960s hippy Seville, with solid sets based on the heritage of Moorish architecture, a tough, credible production, far removed from neo-Rococo chocolate box Mozart (or the perverse modernism of the production that opened the new house in 1994). The pacing, acting and ensembles were up to the best standards. As I write this I am filling in the booking form for next year! 


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Ladies wot Lunch & Opera

I have just been reading Mervyn's blog and felt that I should state that the Duracell powered bunnies, in the Fairie Queen, had a thing or two to teach the Kama Sutra - third paragraph; keep up at the back there - and we were in the seats where you rattle your jewellery, so got an excellent view. Not at all sure that I should let Mervyn take me to this kind of thing - Rinaldo the year before was another eye opener. I will lend out the DVD for a small sum.

the tired Duracell bunnies still in motion...
La Faerie Queene 'erself
Glad the thieves at the Henry Moore Foundation arrived just after we had visted and that they were caught; there is too much stupidity going on about the value of metal, although the price of gold seems to be rising again. Memo to Mervyn: Check the consort's badge, next time you see me.

Have also been to another Ladies lunch - ooooh the noise! - at the Tallow Chandlers Hall - and they weren't wearing hats either after all my efforts to get one, and they made some of us move places after the main course [why me?]. The only peaceful place was the loos, and since one did not want to miss the new Lady Mayoress speaking, you couldn't spend too long down there. Made even more new friends and had a great time bellowing across the table.

Another down payment on a black cab and I was back to Euston in time for the 3.23.

Happy Christmas to you all.

The Stalwart Consort

webmaster's comment:

wikipedia says " In Spenser's "A Letter of the Authors," he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in allegorical devises," and that the aim of publishing The Faerie Queene was to “fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline.”

Friday, 7 December 2012

from Brazil; on the death of Oscar Niemeyer

By coincidence I was in Brasilia as news broke of Oscar Niemeyer's death. I had the great privilege of being invited to witness the return of his coffin to the President's Palace (which he designed) for his lying in state and being interviewed for Brazilian TV news about his influence and contribution to architecture in the UK and impact of being awarded the 1998 RIBA Gold Medal.

The public outpouring of emotion and affection was very moving. Crowds lining the streets of his capital city to pay their respects, all flags at half mast and all TV stations and newspapers with large features about Niemeyer's work. It is hard to imagine such a reaction for any architect in the UK!

I am in Brazil by the invitation of the Brazilian Government, in my role at the RIBA, to advise on developing their new professional body and regulation of the 100,000 architects in Brazil, and also looking at opportunities on how UK architects can collaborate with their Brazilian colleagues. Being my first visit to Brazilian, it has been great to see the Neimeyer buildings of the capital in real life, and they even more remarkable in reality and a great contrast to the brash and busy city that now grown up around them.

I will never forget the experience of being part of the amazing tributes given to this amazing architect and being able to experience his amazing buildings.

Richard Brindley
WCCA Court Assistant - RIBA Professional Services Board


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Oscar Niemeyer dies aged 104 years

With Oscar Niemeyer are (L to R) a German student who joined the visit, Mervyn Miller, Cristiane Millard, Master John Millard, Jaki Howes and Tom Ball.


Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) has just died, a few days before what would have been his 105th birthday. Along with a few other members of the Company, I was privileged to visit his Rio studio, overlooking Copacabana beach, where he sketched projects, which were then worked up in a separate office. He reminisced about his life’s work and uneasy working relationship with Le Corbusier, which began with the Ministry of Education in Rio in 1937. Their stormy collaboration on the United Nations Building in New York gave rise to it being sorted out by Harrison and Abramovitz, whom Corb dismissed as ‘gangsters’. Famously Corb remarked to Oscar ‘OK- you do it the Baroque Way’, a reference to the sweeping curved forms which dominated his work from the 1940s, begining with the public buildings at Pampulha Garden Suburb outside Belo Horizonte, state capital of Minas Gerais, run by Juscelino Kubitschek. As President of Brazil, JK appointed Niemeyer to work with Lucio Costa in planning and building the new national capital, Brasilia, and getting a critical mass completed during the President’s single term 1955-60 so that there could be no going back. A remarkable achievement, the most iconic building is probably the Cathedral, formed of inclined curved precast concrete ribs, creating a corona in silhouette. And then there are the domes, featured in the Parliament building, and repeated ad infinitum in projects over the years, with distinctly erotic overtones – the curves, whether they be of the hills surrounding Rio, the sinuous canopies that linked his cultural buildings at Sao Paulo or the female body – were the fundamental leitmotivs of creativity.

Famously an outspoken man of the left, he was virtually exiled to Europe during the late 1960s, and designed the headquarters of the French Communist Party in Pars, and commercial and cultural buildings in France and Italy, before returning to his homeland under an amnesty in 1979. A close personal friend of Fidel Castro, he was commissioned to design a Monument to Anti- Americanism for Havana. He told us about this, sketching a horned devil’s head spouting flames, while muttering ‘Bush merde’ sotto voce – no translation necessary. I suppose that it won’t be built, although there will doubtless be ongoing projects taken to completion, as occurred with distinctly variable results after Frank Lloyd Wright’s death in 1959. The cultural centre at Aviles, Spain, element of which he sketched during our visit was completed in 2011, one of many ‘in progress’ projects we were shown in the downtown office. 

The links to the heroic ages of modernism are fast being broken. Oscar Niemeyer was one of the last and most prominent. Brasilia was recently declared as a World Heritage City by UNESCO – I wonder what Oscar made of this! It certainly remains one of the most rigorous realisations of the Ville Radieuse model, with its inherent strengths and weaknesses. Fifties sculptural concrete architecture is still controversial, but on this scale cannot be ignored, and Niemeyer was one of its greatest begetters.

St Francis of Assisi, Pampulha, Belo Horizonte 1940

Brasilia, main axis, 1956

Parliament 1960
Contemporary Art Musem Niteroi, Rio Bay, 1995-2000
Brasilia Cathedral 1959-70 Exterior
Brasilia Cathedral Interior