Thursday, March 5, 2020

Glentworth Street, London

Arriving in style

In its dozen or so years of existence, this blog has rarely been quiet for more than a week at a stretch. It’s not usually difficult keeping this up in quite a busy life of writing, teaching courses, working my way through piles of books that want to be read, having a social life, and helping the Resident Wise Woman sort out the implications of Brexit for a life that has been lived, for a decade and a half, in two European countries. Needless to say, in the face of such things blogging has to take second (or third, or. fourth) place and in the midst of such pressures the thought is apt to arise that I’m not sure I’ve seen any buildings recently that I want to share.

And then, I take a trip to London and start walking along a street and immediately see things that I want to engage with. Sometimes the thought is, ‘Blimey! I’d not noticed that before!’, sometimes it’s ‘Of course! I always wanted to look more closely at this.’ Here’s an example of the latter. I’ve posted before about the striking Art Deco apartment blocks on Marylebone Road. This time, a little early for my train, I walked around the block occupied by one of them, the huge Berkeley Court. It seemed too late in the day for photography, but modern mobile phones are very forgiving in low light, and here were two things I like: illuminated lettering and stylish ironwork.

This is the way out (there’s a matching way in) of a drive at street level. The idea is that your taxi* can turn off the street, sweep around a curve, deposit you at the entrance, and sweep out again, keeping you out of the rain and giving you the leisure to alight gracefully, without any of the fluster or disruption that can come when the vehicle blocks a busy street. Staircases and lift are nearby, allowing you to ascend to your flat with ease.

It is all very luxurious, like turning off the Strand to arrive at the door of the Savoy, but this was built to be no mean block of box-like pieds à terre. Some of the apartments on the plans have six bedrooms – I don’t know if they are still so large, or if they’ve been subdivided. And the finish reflects this. There’s pleasant illuminated lettering† for the name of the block – the colour seems to have faded irregularly, but never mind, this helps to make it more authentically period.§ The ironwork is wonderfully angular without being aggressive or unfriendly. This entrance is an asset to the street as well as to the people who use it.¶

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*I think this is the residents’ entrance. There is apparently a matching drive for service vehicles, but I didn’t see that.

† The stroke widths seem to me to be a bit uneven, but I’m not quibbling.

§ The date of the block is c. 1931, the architect W. E. Masters.

¶ My post about the neighbouring, slightly more ocean-linerish, Dorset House, is here.

1 comment:

Hels said...

The reason I love Deco architecture was not just because it was aesthetically pleasing, but because that era (1919-39) was otherwise very worrying - Spanish Flu, Great Depression, rise of Nazism etc.

So for Berkeley Court to present a stunning and luxurious front entrance and lobby must have been heartening for residents and passers-by. 1931 was otherwise a horrible year.