Friday, July 29, 2016
In a city full of outstanding buildings, this one, small but expressive, stands out as far as most. My photograph shows the upper floors of a shop in Long Row (it was a travel agent’s when I was there a while back), and, in a context of flat fronts and plain colours, it combines contrasting materials, contrasting shapes, and planes going this way and that. The first things I noticed were the turrets protruding out and sticking up on either side. But there’s so much more – the stylish roof, the elaborate first floor bay window, the bands of stone among the brick.
So where is this building of around 1900, latterly a travel agency, taking us? Mostly, I think, to the French Renaissance. The steeply pitched hipped roof with its central dormer (framed by classical pilasters) is certainly a French feature, so are the turrets with their conical tops, and so are some of the details on the big window – those chevrons that combine to make diamond patterns, the ornate details above the second-floor windows, and so on.
There was a fashion for this sort of thing at the turn of the century, part of the increasing variety of styles on which late-Victorian and Edwardian architects felt able to draw upon, from Byzantine revival to Art Nouveau. But this is a particularly English version of the French style, and very much of its time. The brickwork is very English (and looks very well done too), those square panes of glass are of their time, and the central part of the bay window, with its integral arch, is out of the school of Norman Shaw (a shame about the replacement window frames, but at least they follow the pattern of square panes).
Nottingham is a city of wonderful brickwork (those fine industrial buildings, some even with curving walls) and of restless architectural innovation (the work of Watson Fothergill especially). This small building can share city space with them and not fail to shine too.