Thursday, November 20, 2014

Savile Row, London

Well suited?

This elegant bit of lettering is an interesting variation on the capital’s standard black and red street name signs. By keeping the usual colours – black for the name of the street, red for the postal district  – the sign recognisably relates to London, but the letterform and layout are completely different from the London norm. The architect of this building, Gordon Jeeves, seems to have had the idea of integrating the lettering more closely than usual with the design of the building, setting the letters in a purpose-designed horizontal slot, and using this slot to mirror the strong horizontal lines of the rest of the design.

The building (essentially an office block, though meant to have shops on the ground floor) was designed in the late-1930s: the Survey of London says in 1937. On the opposite corner is the West End Central Police Station, a pale, stone-clad building of 1938–9, with modernist features (glass bricks, strong horizontals) and similar lettering. So it looks as if the architects of the Police Station (Burnet, Tait & Lorne) decided to follow the lead of their neighbour and include matching lettering.

I like the way the sign sits in its horizontal slot – although the fit isn’t exact: the ‘Savile Row’ and ‘Boyle St’ parts of the slot have been made the same length so there is more white space around ‘Boyle St’. The letterform is strikingly different, too, from the usual Univers Bold Condensed of London’s street name signs. Could it be Futura, or something very like it? My graphic designer readers will no doubt enjoy telling me. I hope the rest of you enjoy the sign too.

1 comment:

Joe Treasure said...

Elegant, as you say, Phil. I also appreciate that it's permanently there, where you can look up and see it. How often have I risked life and limb, wandering up the middle of a street, map in hand, looking for a sign?