Split Pediment

The musings of a Brighton-based architecture dweeb and town planner in training.

Category: Gothic

Know thy station; or, the various fates of three north London termini – part 2

Greetings one and both! I hope this finds you well. St Pancras was a Christian zealot, apparently decapitated at the behest of Diocletian in 303AD. He was fourteen years old. There are three fine nineteenth century buildings that, directly or not, memorialise this headstrong lad. The station – of which more later; St Pancras new church (built, anachronistically, in the supposed Greek renaissance style, fashionable in the early 19th Century); and the old church (the fabric of which is mostly newer than the new church. Natch), in the churchyard of which stands Sir John Soane’s memorial to his wife and in which Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin plotted their elopement. And they say romance is dead. Or something.

Pancras means, literally, “the one that holds everything”, and the station that bears this martyr’s name tries to do precisely that. “fine” burgers, “natural” remedies, “authentic” fossil (apparently that’s a distinctive modern vintage global lifestyle company specialising in consumer fashion accessories). You can even go to somewhere that helps you to “transform daily routines into the special rituals they once were”; going to the toilet never sounded so appealing. You can see a giant statue of two people melodramatically kissing, a much smaller statue of that wonderful old curmudgeon Sir John Betjemen, and – presumably for the next year or so – some Olympic-sized rings. If you’re really unlucky you might get to hear someone as arse-crushingly anodyne as Ed Sheeran whipping a crowd of international commuters into a frenzy of bedraggled bemusement as part of the “station sessions” series of unfortunate concerts.

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Good Scott

A fuss (and given we’re talking about architectural history here, you can imagine the sheer scale of said fuss) has lately been made over George Gilbert Scott. See, for example, the oaf that is Simon Jenkins do his level best to portray Scott as a victim of an incomprehensible miscarriage of historical justice. Jenkins’ major argument is that nobody’s yet written a biography of Scott; this may be unfortunate, but it doesn’t exactly make him an architectural pariah, weighted down as he was with those triple guarantors of obscurity, a knighthood, RIBA’s royal gold medal and being buried here.

Scott’s name was one of the first I learnt as an autodidact of architectural history. Difficult to remember exactly why one remembers something, but I suspect it had something to do with the name’s dynastic tendencies and trying not to get into a muddle over my Gileses and (multiple) Georges. Indeed, both Jenkins’ article (now corrected) and the Mirror (brava Kirsty Henley-Washford! We commend your architectural predilections if not your accuracy!) cocked up the lineage. Of course, I need not have bothered. That excruciatingly embarrassing faux pas never occurred; very few people have heard of George Gilbert Scott (or his progeny) because very few people have heard of any architect. And, yes – I realise that you (dear readers both) have heard of all the architects, but that’s because you’re special. Seriously, though, which Victorian architects are better known? I offer Charles Barry and Pugin, but only because they did this. Waterhouse, maybe. Butterfield? Blomfield? Street? Hardwick? I can barely remember what they built, and I actually care about these things. Sigh.

Of course, this is all due to a bicentenary and the trend-setting power of Google. More interesting to me than whether this man deserves a biography (what a dreckishly dull conceit to hang an article on!) is the architectural furore that Sir GGS provoked.

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Pointless unscientific poll

So the good folk at WordPress, who work tirelessly to enhance your and my blogging experience, have introduced a thrilling new bit of functionality. Seriously, blogging doesn’t get more interesting than this; it’s so scarily web 2.0 it’s almost incendiary. Unsurprisingly, I wanted to try it out, just because it’s there, so I got to thinking of what exactly I could ask both of you. Perhaps “how many buildings have you been in?” or “If your mother was a monumental arch, which one would she be?” or “Inigo Jones – architectural hero or dodgy foundations?” Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – way too predictable. So in the end I thought it’s best to keep these things simple.

Ladies and/or gentlemen, I give you A POLL:


Nope, I really have no idea what I’m on about either.

As you may well or well not know, I have just spent the soggiest weekend of my entire existence on the Isle of Wight. Which was nice. I did, however, manage to persuade my companions to take a minor detour to see some ruins of a Cistercian Abbey called Quarr, between Fishbourne and Ryde on the North of the island. Well, it turned out that the ruins aren’t much; there’s a nice-looking house that uses what one presumes to be some of the leftovers (I think in situ, but I’m no expert) from the dissolution of Quarr in 1536 but apart from that not much remains (nicely-cut stone would be a valuable commodity). Anyway, it looked a little like this: Read the rest of this entry »

So it’s been just simply forever and a little longer too

and for that I entirely apologise. Really both of you deserve much more from this astonishingly unproductive non-blogger. Especially now. As Sarah the Travelling Cukoo sharply spotted, this minor bog of ours now appears as the top result on a popular internet search engine. You know the one – provides censorship on behalf of human-rights-infringing regimes; infringes copyright; rhymes with “frugal” – that sort of thing.

So I’ve not been up to that much of late in architectural terms. I suppose I’m still mildly hungover from NYC, so here’s some leftover pics for a nostalgic tripette down memory lane.

The Woolworth building, another of those that once held the “tallest building in the world” title. It’s basically a big Gothic spire, almost Disneyesque in scale and form, set atop a bigger rectangular base. There’s an amazing picture on Wiki of the tower being built. It brazenly fronts onto City Hall (entirely dominating the area), giving a rather clear message of where the money really is.

Mmmm... capitalism

This is an astonishing building in the NoHo/East Village part of the world. It’s actually still being built, though it appears occupied at night. As you can sort of see from the picture, there aren’t many other buildings this tall in the nabe; there is some doubt and dislike locally, as there is to all tall buildings. Architecturally speaking though this building is incredible: the taughtness in the skin is both playfully thin – it seems to be stretched between the floors – but it doesn’t seem fragile, as it exposes the structure (the central and side pillars and the floors). And the shading in the glass and the panelling emphasises the smooth curve and the change in light in the window reflections. Anyway, enough twittering, here it is:

And now that I’ve whetted your proverbial, I’m off. Sorry ’bout that.

That bridge

Hello there one and both. So I’ve been here for a while now and frankly it’s getting a little boring.


HA HA!! Had you fooled! I was joking, of course. I’m currently chez Machado, listening to Mark Ronson’s Authentic Shit (sorry Mum) radio show which was actually broadcast last week or something, though we went to see him do his schtick on Friday (before we went to the Planetarium and danced to some pumping dirty house music (sorry Mum)) though he wasn’t actually DJ-ing as he had a guest DJ though he was sitting in the background sipping a beer or somesuch though he didn’t look like he was enjoying himself much though he probably was.

I think I may be playing this a bit loud and that it might be interfering with my sentence structure. Sorry about that. Turned it down now. Mr Buttress might, with his implicit interest in all things Gothic, be interested in this post, being as it is about one of the finest Gothic structures on Earth. No, not Rheims Cathedral, nor the Palace of Westminster. Don’t be so foolish – I’m in New York; and I thought my readers were clever. Huh. No, sorry – yes, er, right. No, so not either of those but this one:

Oh to be a Roebling!

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St Mary’s a bit of a looker

The rich, red brick of this large Victorian church in Kemptown looks rather nice in the evening sunshine. St Mary’s is of a pleasantly complicated design; I like to think there’s a slight Venetian influence, with the large flat gable at the facing end of the Nave and the high pointed pediments above the door and window arches. But I could be imagining it.

and she claims to be a virgin.

Apparently she’s very grand on the inside. Aren’t we all.

A little Gothic never hurt anyone

So here’s a very cool building in Brighton (on Steine Street, just off St James’). I’m fairly sure that it’s the stage entrance of an old theatre or cinema. This is at the side of the building (hence the crowding); the front has – from memory – a fancy red brick double-bowed façade and there’s a long rectangular hall that stretches back toward the sea. The building is now an amusement arcade (now there’s a euphemism).

Steine Street Stage Entrance

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