Monday, 25 February 2013

Livery Committee Briefing

Dear All

Please find attached the latest edition of the Livery Committee Briefing for your information.  The Livery Committee feel that this is an important means of communication between them and the Livery at large and have asked that Clerks make this document available to all members of their respective Companies.
Ian Head - Clerk

Friday, 22 February 2013

The plaque for a WCCA New City Building award - 2010

The new plaque installed
The New City Architecture Award 2010 was won by architects FLETCHER PRIEST for a project at No.1 Angel Lane, fronting Old Father Thames on the site of a former telephone exchange next to Cannon Street Station.  The new Headquarters of Nomura Securities.

the extended River Walkway


click here for details of the WCCA New City Buildings Award

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Consorting with the Master

It had been many years since I had heard the Master give a lecture - I think it was about Berlin, it was certainly in Coventry and must have been over 20 years ago because my late husband was with me. Mervyn has not abated by one whit his erudition.  It was a fascinating, beautifully prepared and delivered lecture. 

However, although Mervyn and I are often seen at these events together, what is not realised is that we rarely get to talk to each other - we just wave and nod a few times. Well, this week we finally managed to get together for long enough to have a diary meeting - and book our flights to Helsinki - but that is another story.

We went to the opening of the PCU at the Birmingham Law Courts on Monday evening - yes, Birmingham, where I live!!!  At home!!!  We had a great time, travelled there by bus and met some interesting solicitors and lawyers, Millers Gin [Mervyn - and supped through a straw] and white wine [stalwart Consort], there were some sandwiches but they were in the distance somewhere and we were going out for dinner to Zizzi afterwards. 

We did the diaries the next morning and then got onto the computer to book tickets to Norway.  All went well until we printed out and realised that we had booked to come back at 8 o'clock in the morning.  Have you ever tried changing a booking with a heavily accented Norwegian?  Don't.  And all the time 'Norwegian Wood' was playing in the background - oh the memories!!  We were children of the Beatles era - I would have cried but for the previously mentioned heavily accented Norwegian.

 The flights were sorted out and Mervyn's credit card bashed again.

So all is well.  Looking forward to the lecture at the Guildhall next week, I understand that we are to visit the art gallery beforehand - see you there?
the stalwart Ann

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Milo Lecture at the RIBA - 12 February 2013


This Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects’ lecture is named in honour of the first Clerk to the Company, Lt. Col. Peter M. Milo, who did much to establish the Company in 1985-6.

Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) is best-remembered for his country houses, the Cenotaph and the city of New Delhi. He was born in London, and although he spent much of his boyhood in Surrey, he developed an enthusiasm for buildings in London while at the Kensington School of Art (out of which the Victoria and Albert Museum would later evolve).  He acquired an extensive knowledge of London buildings of all periods, particularly the Wren churches and St Paul’s Cathedral, which was reflected in work as diverse as the British School in Rome and the viceroy’s study in New Delhi.

I shall review examples as prelude to discussing his buildings in the City of London.

These City buildings were designed in the inter-war period, when he refined his classicism to address the challenge of new 'palaces of commerce':  Britannic House, Finsbury Circus (1920-4); the former Midland Bank HQ in Poultry close to The Mansion House (1924-39) and the Leadenhall Street branch (1928-32) and the former Reuters building at 85 Fleet Street (1934-38). The Palladian temple form of the Mercantile Marine Memorial (1927) facing Tower Hill from Trinity Gardens is one of his finest war memorials. These will be illustrated with my own photographs, supplemented by The Lutyens Trust Photographic Archive, and examples of Lutyens’ sketch designs, courtesy of the RIBA drawings collection.

In 1940, as President of the Royal Academy, Lutyens led a team of architects to prepare a reconstruction plan for post-war London, distilled from his core convictions of a sense of place and the enduring worth of classical values.  His concept for the St. Paul’s precinct was based upon the extensive clearance of bomb-damaged areas around the cathedral.  A major feature of this was the axial vista from the south transept to the Thames. Accepted in principle by the City of London Corporation, this vista (together with the Millennium Bridge) is one of the most significant additions to the post-war cityscape of the capital.

Sir Edwin Lutyens died on New Year’s Day 1944, and his ashes were interred in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The Master (centre), the Master Needlemaker, George Borthwick (left) and Margaret Richardson, Trustee of the Lutyens Trust.

The MILO Lecture of The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects, ‘Lutyens in the City of London’, was given by the Master in the Jarvis Hall of the RIBA on 12 February 2013, before and audience of 225. This included Masters from over 40 livery companies, as well our own Livery, Freemen and Students, a sprinkling of Lutyens Trustees, architects and historians.  The choreography of thy event involved Geoffrey Purves, Renter Warden introducing Angela Brady, RIBA President, whose mellow Irish tones welcomed everybody and introduced me.

The wood-lined Jarvis Hall has the atmosphere of an exclusive intimate cinema of the 1930s – hardly surprising as it was completed in 1934.  The lecturing rostra are small pulpits either side of an enormous cinema screen.  I’d had a quality check of my presentation before finalising it, had seen it uploaded and tried it out well before starting time, so I knew it looked fine and the system worked.  A sound check made sure that, short of mumbling down at my feet, every word would be heard.  However, there’s always a feeling of apprehension as you start, until the adrenalin kicks in and you sail through the presentation.  I’d got notes for quotations, but barely used them, and in retrospect, while there were a few things that I didn’t say which I wished I had, there was nothing I had said, which I wished I hadn’t.  So it felt successful.

My lecturing technique has been honed by many years of speaking to the Decorative Arts Societies, ‘trial by tweed’ as we call it; ladies who lunch, with the killer instinct of judges on the X factor (or so I’m told since I’ve never watched it).  Assembled Masters, even those from the Great Twelve are pussy cats by comparison. Even so, I was relieved when Jaki Howes, Upper Warden chaired the question session, and put her oar in with a blinder about Lutyens’ contemporaries, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Peter Behrens confronting respectively the then limits of the Arts and Crafts and the emergence of Modernism, while Lutyens looked to the past.  One significant name was missing. ‘But you didn’t mention Frank Lloyd Wright, who was born in 1867’, I replied. ‘I don’t like Frank Lloyd Wright!’ came the riposte.  However that enabled me to discuss the synergy between FLW and EL, who met during the former’s visit to London in 1939, and the way in which the posthumously-published Lutyens Memorial Volumes became bibles in the Taliesin Studios in the 1950s (review copies surely since FLW wouldn’t have paid for them).  The question session was more rewarding than many, and Jaki ended with a vote of thanks that rounded off a lecture, which I am delighted to know raised the profile and prestige of WCCA.  Except for the Reception when people were happy to continue the architectural dialogue, rather than hasten away.  Obviously I can’t post a full text (there isn’t one) but the synopsis above together with a few pictures below gives the gist of my lecture.
Mervyn  Miller - Master 2013 WCCA

1. The former Reuters'/Press Association Building, 85 Fleet Street

 2. The former Midland Bank Headquarters, Poultry
3. The Mercantile Marine Memorial, Tower Hill and Trinity Gardens
4. Britannic House; the corner with Moorgate

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Mervyn's mid-winter musings....

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), thank you for reading this. There’s lots, lots more to come.  Meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from The Master.....

And so to 2013 … things really got going with a vengeance on 8 January, with a triple bill of appearances.  First I was guest at the Epiphany Court Luncheon of the Masons Company, held at Mercers Hall.  It was most enjoyable and I found a kindred spirit in the Upper Warden, John Burton, who is Surveyor to the fabric of Canterbury Cathedral (and has recently stepped down from caring for Westminster Abbey, and now their Surveyor Emeritus).  The luncheon proceeded at a relaxed pace, but I was committed to attending our Company’s Committee Meetings across town at the RIBA at 2.30pm – my hosts had been warned that I would have to leave early, but to go before the Toast to the guests felt downright rude – I’m not sure what they said about me, although their Master was quite relaxed when I met up with him that evening.  The principal speaker, Mark Boleat, the Lord Mayor’s economic adviser had to cross the river for an early afternoon meeting with Boris, so he and I disappeared together.  Clerk, I am placing you on the same podium of eminence as the classically educated mophead in terms of striving to attend meeting.

The afternoon Committees were fairly uneventful, although some important business was sent forward to Court.  Then it was a scramble to change into my Dinner suit to accompany the Clerk to the Plaisterers’ Company’s Annual Dinner for Masters, Prime Wardens (and Clerks).  Set below a modern office high rise on London Wall, the enormous Plaisterers’ Hall gives the effect of being inside a very elaborate celeb wedding cake.  It was packed out, yet the number of women guests could be counted on one hand: the Livery still appears to remain a male bastion on some occasions.  An enthusiastic jazz combo from the Guildhall School of Music seemed out of context, but they were so good that I’ve requested the Clerk to book them for our Banquet in March.  And so to bed … but Samuel Pepys didn’t have to cope with the onset of rail replacement buses when he rounded off the diurnal chronicle thus.  When this happens it adds an hour to the homeward journey.  The upshot was that my back was in fragile condition, with the consequence that I apologised for missing the Team Build Wash-up Dinner the following evening, although it recovered for the Master’s installation at The Art Workers’ Guild on Thursday January 10th. 

Then a clear week, fortunate due to escalating deadlines of an Appeal Proof of Evidence, a complex Heritage Report, Annual Practice Accounts, Tax Return and part payment, VAT return and payment and a final edited version of a chapter on the challenge of conservation in English Garden Cities for an American academic publication all due in the last 10 days of the month!  

Presentation of the WCCA/RIBA Stuart Murphy Awards at the RIBA on Tuesday 22 January was rewarding in all senses.  The Company’s travel grants, either for individuals of groups (it was one of each this year) enable Part II students to engage in ‘blue sky thinking’.  Ione Braddick had investigated the regional vernacular architecture of Mexico and a group from London Metropolitan University had examined regeneration in Croatia.  Both presentations were confidently made – communication skills key to understanding, both in the field and to give succinct summaries of what had been learned and understood.  After a lively discussion/ question session, I presented the cheques to the winners and Upper Warden Jaki Howes announced the arrangements for 2013.  I’m eager to review the entries. 

The Annual Lunch at Vintners’ Hall for Masters and Clerks on Friday 25 January (Searcys, the caterers angling for Company Business and the Vintners selling the convenience of their rooftop bedrooms at every opportunity) was a bit of a hard sell.  Actually, Vintners’ Hall is one of the best architecturally, and the choice of food and wines was excellent in quality and quantity.  It was unfortunate that I had a business meeting in the City at 2.45 and snuck out immediately after pudding – that meant that I didn’t receive the goody bag, which last year contained a ½ bott of decent champagne.

The Organ Recital at Mansion House was rather special: a chamber organ had been made by Manders to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as a present from the City of London.  It will be installed in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey this Autumn, but meanwhile the Lord Mayor, Roger Gifford is hosting a series of concerts in the splendour of the Egyptian Hall, of which this was the first. Huw Williams of the Chapel Royal played a selection from Handel to Elgar designed to put the organ through its paces: small it may be (as organs go) but it packs a powerful punch.  Arrived back at Letchworth, there had evidently been snow flurries during the day: icy drifts had swept over one road, which caused me to turn back, but the other rout was fine although I slipped and slithered into the village, which perversely seemed clear of snow.   

Monday, January 28: Chartered Surveyors’ Dinner, Butchers Hall
The Chartered Surveyors Dinner featured the famous sirloin, of which the Master tasted, and signified approval (heaven knows what the caterers would have done if he hadn’t!). Personally I would have liked mine more bloody (that’s my deep-seated carnivorous hunter genes kicking in). The speakers were two prominent sports personalities/ commentators, Jeremy Guscott and Adrian Davies, of whom, sadly, I had not heard (that’s my out-of-touch with reality genes kicking in).  Mr Guscott, a rugby player, must have found the heat of the hall oppressive as he wore an open-necked shirt.  I was seated opposite David Scahill, Master Engineer and around my part of the central table sprig conversation was lively.  Timing was excellent, so I lingered awhile afterwards to my cost. I just missed the 10.53 from King’s Cross (which proved to be the last through train of the night).  The 11.15 which is timed to reach Letchworth in 26 minutes was cancelled, and decamping from a Peterborough train at Hitchin and taking a substitute bus from Hitchin (all of 3 miles) to collect my car added almost an hour to the journey. Master’s Cross on such occasions!  

Tuesday 29 January 2013: Court and Lunch at Cutlers Hall, a fine small Victorian Hall, with a red brick, sandstone-dressed Elizabethan style façade and a beautifully engineered hammer beam roof (designed by a surveyor T. Tayler Smith).  I made an early start, and the Court got off to a prompt start, which I assiduously kept to time. Business included formal approval of our relationship with out new regiment, Orpington Sea Cadets, who will provide a carpet guard of honour for the forthcoming Banquet at Carpenters’ Hall, and taking forward Richard Brindley’s proposal for developing a higher profile role for the RIBA, WCCA and the Lord Mayor’s Office in raising international opportunities for British Architects.  New Liverymen, Freemen and Students were admitted, including Freeman status for Sir Alastair Stewart, previously and most appropriately created Honorary Liveryman in July 2012, reversing the usual sequence.

And so to Luncheon, a pleasure from start to finish. My guests, Mr and Mrs Martin Lutyens and Mr and Mrs Andrew Barnett (all from The Lutyens Trust) and my Consort all enjoyed the event, and the food, wine and conversation were uniformly excellent.    

A 'practice visit' to Justin Bere rounded off the day.  Actually it had been pretty busy for Justin, who was elected to the Livery at Court, and also had a student bound for mentoring.  His office is in the basement of the Mildmay Community Centre near Newington Green. This had originated as an early 20th century local power generator, converted to its present use in the 1950s, and Justin has transformed it to an energy-efficient building of the highest grade.  On much of the exterior almost a foot of insulation has been applied, with state of the art triple-glazed windows and elaborate heat transfer boilers.  He is a leader in ‘passivhaus’ technology, so it was perfect CPD for us elders, and we also had a welcome contingent of our students present.  All thanks to Upper Warden Jaki Howes and Ann Markey for arranging this in liaison with Justin.