Monday, August 5, 2013

Slim Slow Slider

Well, this quick-fire blog post thing didn't work too well. And the Richard Rogers post will have to wait until after I have visited the RA exhibition, which, incidentally, I will be reviewing for Icon. So here's another short post instead on the architecture of the Square Mile....

This is a bit of an oddity really, but well worth checking out if you are in this particular neck of the woods*. St Mary at Hill not only has a pleasingly strange street name but is home to a very peculiar collection of buildings. Three in particular stand out because of the way in which they interact and integrate with each other. 

The short, shallow hill is dominated by St Mary at Hill itself (herself?), an originally medieval church rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire. Its official address is Lovat Lane, but the real frontage - if you could call it that - is on St Mary at Hill. The facade is deeply strange, featuring a blocked-up Venetian window, a broken pediment and a very large, hand painted sign bearing the churches name. 

Odder still is the entrance which is through an unsung opening in a very mannered, late-Victorian structure off to one side. This building has a completely asymmetrically grouped array of windows which can be only partially explained by the fact that it abuts the church and effectively hides the courtyard behind.

The archway leads to this courtyard and the entrance to the church itself, which features a collection of circular openings of diminishing scales. This intersects with the main entrance from Lovat Lane and the cleverness of Wren's arrangement - which effectively buries the church amongst its neighbours - becomes clear.

To the left of the church is another opening marked appealingly enough by a small, slightly sinister skull and cross bones hovering in its pedimented doorway. This leads to a stepped passageway that appears to lead off to Lovat Lane but which was gated on the day I visited. 

The cream stucco of the church frontage spreads across this adjacent building as if to claim a bit of it for itself, with the result that the spaces behind the facades of these seemingly discrete buildings slide into each other ambiguously. No great shakes perhaps, but there's some, y'know, complexity and contradiction going on here for the mannerist geeks amongst us. 

Inside, there is a rather beautiful and not very mannered at all Wren interior. 

1 comment:

Nemesis Republic said...

I've a photo I took some time ago of the skull and crossbones, one of a series of odd pediment decorations taken on a day walking round London, and could not remember on which building it was! Thanks for solving that one, and thanks for an interesting post.