29 March 2020

Endangered Species by Barry Baldwin on Grand Buildings

Blimey!  How did I not notice this until last year?
Trafalgar Square is a busy junction that I usually walk through or round quickly as I play 'dodge the tourists' but last summer I stopped in my tracks when I noticed something for the first time that's been there hiding in plain view since Feb 1991 – the entrance between Prezzo and Waterstone's at 31-32 Northumberland Avenue is absolutely slathered in marvellous details. 

Around this arch there are panels containing Adam and Eve surronded by seventy different animals from all around the globe such as a gorilla, an owl, a lizard, a bear, a zebra, various birds and sea creatures. And, as you can see from above, there are flowers, plants a trellis and a factory too. A hand at the apex of this arch appears to hold a horn of fruit. And there is watch on its wrist which I told is showing 'the eleventh hour'.
Three pics stuck together here
I hunted for an artist's mark but all I could find was a foundation stone for the building showing that Grand Buildings is a Land Securites development by architects Sidell Gibson Partneship, constructed by Higgs and Hill on the site of The Northumberland Hotel.
The archways continue to the beginning of The Strand and each one has a different carved head at the top. Some are winking, some are gurning, one wears a tie, another has a spotty scarf, all are rather strange. I am at aloss as to who these people are supposed to be.

I always like to end with a link for more information. Well, blow me down if my mate Peter Bertoud has also written about this and begins his piece with practically the same opening line!

Barry Baldwin
Barry Baldwin's Facebook page

15 March 2020

Odeon Holloway – update on renovations

The Odeon Holloway is being renovated.
The info boards around the hoardings show that they are reinstating much of the original Art Deco colour sceme and re-opening the restaurant area on the frst floor behind the big tall windows.
That's great.
I was hoping that they'd out up free-standing letters on the exterior as per when it was a Gaumont cinema (see below). Or some big neon letters would be nice.
But, recently, the new street-facing signage was revealed:

Odeon Holloway Road, N7, January 2020
Oh how disappointing. An opportunity missed. How is this signage in-keeping with the Art Deco style of the building?!
These days, we have laser cutting and digital technology, LCD screens and lighting, and moving graphics, so couldn't something more evocative have been installed here?
Odeon's designers have simply (by which I mean 'lazily') repurposed a big flat space that, in the early days of the cinema, was used to advertise films or events that were showing or coming soon. This would have involved men climbing up and down ladders; something that is not possible in these days of health and safety.
OK, reinventing the space is fine, but this big bland blue panel is, for me, a wasted opportunity. Note that the inside of the building as still going to be predominantly Odeon blue which is so not how the building looked in the late 1930s and totally at odds with the company's suggestion of a return to the sumptuous surroundings of the past.
Odeon's brand lock-up is here slapped in the middle of the blue panel but it is restricted in size by the height of the panel. And, as such, lacking in impact. There's more blue than brand. More laminate than logo.
This is a horrid, unbalanced, 'logo' anyway – the LUXE section and rules take up more space than the company name – that's just plain silly. It looks like the design project was given to a junior or someone on work experience. The 'designers' do not look to have actually considered how this logo device would work when placed on different shapes and formats. It's fairly normal practice to consider the options and create a few versions of a brand to allow for the various places where it might be applied. This lazy, one size fits all, approach is sure to be happening on Odeon's other sites too.
UPDATE: going past another Odeon Luxe in Putney recently, I noticed the design and layout of the elements there is different – there are no horizontal lines. Therefore, Odeon don't appear to have a standard logo/lock-up usage guidelines which is poor in itself but means there is not excuse for this half-arsed Holloway layout. 
I have been working on signage projects for years, polishing many turds over the decades, and could have made this look so much better. Every time I walk past this building, and that's almost daily, I mentally rearrange the logo elements to create a better layout. I'd have created an alternatve, better-balanced, lock-up by making the ODEON letters almost twice the size with LUXE* slipped in underneath (at this size) but with rules either side rather than above and below.

Anyway, enough of the disappointment... below is a pic of how the cinema looked in the year it first opened.
And lots more pics here:
1938
*Luxe – I assume this means luxury with those big sofa-style chairs with receptacles for drinks etc. Call me old-fashioned, but prefer I like to sit properly on seats/chairs. I find the new seating uncomfortable, too deep back to front. I have been known to take a cushion with me to support my lower back! And don't get me started on popcorn and all that noisy munching and slurping....!

2 March 2020

Carved reliefs by G. Herickx at Cecil Sharpe House

A couple of weeks ago I went to an interesting exhibition at Cecil Sharp House, the home of english folk dancing, in Camden NW1. The building is fairly nondescript and belies what goes on inside.
It was first built in 1929 by architects Henry M. Fletcher and Godfrey Pinkerton and at that time was thought to be very modern which seems at odds with folk dancing which keeps old traditions alive.
During WWII the building suffered bomb damage. John Eastwick-Field and Hugh Pite were engaged to make renovations and extensions and in June 1951 the building was reopened by HRH Princess Margaret.
It was during the post-war revamp that six lovely carved reliefs were added around the entrance, three on one side and three on the other, depicting old english dancers, musicians and revellers. A signature at floor level shows the artist as G. Herickx. I particularly like the man on his hobby horse – he looks so stern, so serious compared to the others!


I tried to research the artist in the hope of finding his carvings elsewhere. Nothing of this kind but I did find a Geoffrey R Herickx who, with a name like that, just has to be the same person. Sources say he was born in Birmingham (but when?!). He painted pastoral/english scenes then, in the 1980s, he produced a series depicting aircraft in flight. He now specialises in miniatures. If this is indeed the same person we can assume that if he was in his early 20s when he created these six panels he will be almost 90 by now. If you have any further info please do get in touch.

As for Cecil Sharp House – there's always a variety things on offer with many different kinds of dance classes, not just Morris, such as tango, clog and salsa. Plus there's live music, workshops and more.
More about what's on at CSH here.