15 November 2011
Tarted up newsagent in Dean Street
There is a lot of fuss lately about how the renovation of a newsagent in Soho's Dean Street.
Am I the only one who thinks this was a bad idea?
I was walking past it on Saturday 5th and stopped dead in my tracks, horrified at how it is now a pastiche of its former self.
As shown right, for years it had faded flaky paint. It was old, and it looked old. You could clearly see that. But now the paint has been stripped off back to the wood – a process that the Georgians certainly couldn't be bothered with – and what we have now is an impression of how the shop might have looked on the day it first opened for business.
I agree the windows look better now they have been painted to match the shop (though they could have been even better if they had been replaced with smaller panes) but all the signs needed was a coating of clear varnish. Gone are the layers of history that gave its charm. Can you imagine the uproar if Berry Brothers & Rudd on St James's Street did the same thing and removed its thick dark green paint? There'd be an outrage!
Also in Soho, not far from Dean St, between Ed's Diner and The Spice of Life, I notice another Georgian(?) shop has been reclaimed. At the moment it is stripped down the wood. I will be watching to see what happens.
This cleaned-up, pretend history brings to mind two horribly retouched wall advertisements in Covent Garden (here and here). I am all for preserving history but what is the point of retouching a defunct sign? Why not just leave it as is? As a reminder.
All this revamping and reclaiming London's history actually contradicts the rape of St Giles by plastics and Westminster's plans to renovate a section of the east side of Charing Cross Road that contains Gaby's. But more about that in a future post.