2 September 2022

A new architectural style in Spitalfields, E1 - Revivialist Pasticheism

Walking from Aldgate to Old Street last weekend via Spitalfields market, I cut across Wentworth Street and into Toynbee Street. Ahead of me, on the right, I saw an Art Deco style building. I stopped in my tracks – this definitely wasn't there a few years ago and I recalled a ramshackle mess of low-level buildings along that north side, covered in posters and graffiti, as shown below, top left, and here on retrospective streetview. This new building is quite clearly a modern take on the late 1930's style of architecture complete with geometric motifs. Indeed, on the front of it proudy shows 2021. How bizarre.

I contunued along the street to find more pastiche structures in the form of late Georgian workshops, and Victorian warehouses, all with strangely colourful windows frames, and another 1930s-style building in grey tones at the far end. 

I went to investigate the other side of the block in Commercial Street and found that a Jazz Age façade now replaces some derelict low level buildings at the rear/front of the black-tiled building in Toynbee Street. 

What is going on here? If these were reconstructions of the buildings previously demolished here I'd kind of understand the point of it. But that's clearly not the case. This appears to be some kind of showcase of the kinds of buildings you might have found in the area sometime in the past. A bit touristy and cheesy in my view. Sort of like the set of a cartoon movie.

Is it that today's architects run out of new ideas?

What do you think? Do you have any further info?

Next week I will post about two lost Art Deco gems in this area.

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Thanks, Jane