Saturday, May 31, 2014
Throwing the kitchen sink at it
A recurring theme in posts on this blog has been the way architects and builders deal with corners. Here’s one of the most striking corners I know, the turret or overgrown oriel that takes the eye around the junction of Chancery Lane and Brown Street in Manchester. The building was designed as the offices of a bank, and, from the rusticated ground floor to the rows of dormer windows in the roof and the iron crown that tops off the structure, it’s an eye-catcher in a city of rich showy 19th-century buildings.
The architect was George Truefitt, whose buildings included the unusual circular St George’s Tufnell Park Road in London, and other bold churches such as St Mary, Davyhulme, Manchester, which has an octagonal tower, and St John Bronley, which has a big apse and a number of quatrefoil-shaped windows. Whereas these churches are unambiguously Gothic, this Manchester office building of 1868 is in a style one can only call eclectic – a mixture of classical rustication, Gothic shafts, round-headed arches, iron balconies and stone parapets. Some of the carved stonework – repeated flowers and leaves, for example – looks forward to the terracotta details on many buildings of a couple of decades later. The finishing touch, that wrought-iron crown on top of the corner turret, is a charming one-off. This kind of blend of showiness and solidity, confidence and delicacy, is typical of the Victorians. It may not be ‘proper’, but one way to make a mark on the busy, architecturally eventful streets of Manchester is, in a popular phrase of today, to throw the kitchen sink at the building. I’m rather glad that Truefitt did so.