Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Euston Road, London

A fire station – with knobs on

I’ve always admired the Fire Station in London’s Euston Road. It’s something to do with the restrained irregularity of it – all those canted bays sticking out at different heights, and the irregular roofline, and the variety of window sizes and shapes, the whole ensemble held together by the unifying and very Londonish palette of red brick and white Portland stone. Two openings below the delightful lettering (classic stuff, down to the substitution of V for U in ‘EVSTON’) originally marked the entrances to a pair of bays where the fire engines were housed. Later the building was given a single-storey extension to the right containing more such garages, and the two visible in the photograph were turned into offices.

There is more of the same winning mix of brick and stone round the corner on the left – it’s an L-shaped building, but I don’t have a photograph that shows this front. That’s because this is not an easy building to photograph. It’s tall, and demands that you stand back a long way to get it all in the frame. It’s also bounded by major roads – there’s nearly always a big red bus going slowly along Euston Road and blocking the view. And if you step back any further, the fire station starts to disappear behind the buildings on either side of Upper Woburn Place to the south (one such late-20th century block is just visible on the right of the frame).

So to take a photograph that does some justice to the architecture one has to step back – but not too far back – and wait for the buses to pass. I also found it helps to ‘lose’ the rest of the traffic in shadows as much as possible, when the red brick glows against a border of blackness. Who was responsible for this bit of architectural wizardry? The fire station was the work of the London Country Council Architects’ Department at the very beginning of the 20th century. Around this time there was a whole sub-department dealing with fire stations, which were being built in many parts of London. The man on this job is said to have been either H. F. T. Cooper or Percy Erskine Nobbs, who the year after this fire station opened moved to Montreal, where he taught in the university and worked on some major Canadian buildings. If Nobbs was involved, this was Canada’s gain and London’s loss.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Once again you are to be congratulated on getting this shot! I like it: built tall, but with panache.