Monday, January 26, 2015

Garrick Street, London


Here’s a detail from a shop in Garrick Street, next door to London’s famous Garrick Club and of the same date, the 1860s. I must have passed this hundreds of times before I paused to look at the architecture, mainly because I’m so interested in the contents of bookshops that their design sometimes passes me by more readily than that of most buildings.

In this case, the architecture is an arcaded frontage that’s very much of its period. There are classical pilasters with inset panels of dark stone. Between these pilasters are tall, round-headed arches  with dark marble shafts, producing an effect of restrained grandeur that’s very much in keeping with the large club next door (the architect was responsible for both club and shop). But what particularly caught my eye was the gold filigree decoration in the spandrels, the almost-triangular spaces made when you fit the rounded arch into the rectangular facade. It’s a delicate gold floral pattern and a smaller version also appears on the capitals.

These delicate decorative touches come from a time when the designer of a shop front expected it to last, not to be replaced with new fittings in a couple of years. One wonders if Frederick Marrable, the architect of this London block, would have expected it still to be here 150 years after it was built. Perhaps he and his contemporaries would have been surprised, but no doubt pleasantly.

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The architecture and decorative sculpture of the neighbouring Garrick Club are described and illustrated at the excellent Ornamental Passions blog.


Anonymous said...

So much more elegant than the disgusting plastic fascias that litter our high streets today!

Manny Amadi said...

The attention to detail of the gold floral pattern...true craftmanship.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you both for your comments.

Re the gold floral pattern, my wife compared it to the detail on some small late-Victorian pots we have. There's the same precision, as if the decorator of the building was working at a very small scale.