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Visit to Kilve beach, Somerset

3 Nov

Kilve beachSpent a week in Somerset and despite staying very near the well known fossil laden beach at Kilve. As usual in my disorganised state went there at the end of a long day and didn’t take my proper camera with me.

The fading light and the rugged beauty of the cliffs and the beach itself was a huge temptation so took some shots on my phone. They hopefully relay the warmth of the fading sun and the Jurassic wilderness that meets the eye from all directions. We were totally unprepared for the terrain we climbed from slippery rock to slippery rock avoiding the puddles of water left behind from the receded sea water.

Enjoy the shots and if you ever go near that part of the world do have a look around.

My Flick photo set, can be viewed on this link, as the code I used for an embedded slideshow was broken by WordPress (cheers):

Visit to Morecambe’s Midland Hotel

24 Jun

Midland HotelThe Midland Hotel was one of those landmark buildings I’ve known for years from photographs and TV programmes but up until four days ago I had never seen in the flesh.  Such important and much written about buildings can frequently be a disappointment when viewed under the over-inflated expectation of the eager architectural tourist.  The Midland thankfully was even more spectacular and beautiful that I could have expected. Its ocean liner moderne look is a striking feature of the promenade. A striking symbol of ambition facing the heavy, high Victorian railway terminal. Its beautiful finishing in glass mixed plaster reflects a magical iridescence to the naked eye. No photographs can capture the not quite white colour of the render.

The entrance sequence is most spectacular despite the clean lines of the building giving away much of the layout of the interior. The round stairwell dominating the middle of the elevation provides a surprisingly small and dark threshold to the atmospheric lobby. The masterly staircase curves its way overhead with such utter grace and elegance, I’d challenge anyone not to gasp at the beauty. The colour scheme inside gets transformed from the white exterior to more friendly beiges punctuated with flashes of bright red.  Martha Dorn’s stylised waves round carpets create pools of patter on the floor,  add to the overall chic look. A particular brilliant touch is the individually carpeted steps that avoid the visual uniformity of using a runner and retain the fast moving rhythm of the staircase. Like the best Art Deco entrances it gives off an air of unashamed luxury and sophistication. But the Midland also invites both the eye (with the ceiling medallion) and the foot (with the red velvet steps) to climb to the top and admire this energetic, almost kinetic  interior.

Having Eric Gill contributing the signature sea horses on the facade, the staircase roof medallion, a relief behind the reception desk and a map of seaside towns in the function room was a stroke of genius. They all have a sense of purpose and the erotic flair of the best of his work…most appropriate for an indulgent, luxurious hotel by the sea. The Eric Ravilious mural in the rotunda bar was recreated in 2013 and looks as light and feathery in texture as any of his paintings and watercolours.

We have to be grateful to Urban Splash and the Friends of the Midland Hotel who resurrected this important building, saved it from near demolition and brought back the glamour for all of us and future generations to enjoy. No wonder Coco Chanel spend a weekend there when it first opened in 1933. It is a shame that the regeneration of the immediate area on the side the hotel has been shelved after three rejections of the planning application. Let’s hope the council can find a way to bring back life to the immediate area of the central promenade. Which used to house an enormous outdoor pool and entertainments. With their removal now it’s surrounded by acres of bland grass.

The hotel’s website:

My Flick photo set can be viewed on this link, as the code I used for an embedded slideshow was broken by WordPress (cheers):

Visit to Liverpool’s St George’s Hall – 11 August 2013

14 Aug

Last Sunday morning had the chance to visit St George’s Hall in Liverpool. The severe neoclassical exterior does not quite prepare one for the ornamented and over the top Roman inspired interior.

Designed by the relatively unknown Harvey Lonsdale Elmes who won the competition in 1839, he died before the completion of the building in 1854, most of the interior decoration and detailing was completed by his celebrated peer Charles Robert Cockerell. The overall feel of the building is of opulence and grandeur, civic pride taken to Victorian lengths but in much more palatable taste than your average city hall.

Confusingly the complex contains courtrooms and cells alongside a splendid small concert hall and the main hall itself. The recent restoration has left it in great shape and hope you enjoy the photographs which were taken during the guided tour so a bit rushed and maybe not quite as sharp, they hopefully relay the feel of the space and some of the details that add to a very impressive ensemble. Surely one of the most important examples of 19th century Greek Revival architecture in the UK  to rival anything built in Bath and Edinburgh.

The notable Minton floor made up of over 30.000 tiles is only revealed for two weeks a year and it coincided with our visit which was fortuitous. Enjoy the shots.

The website of the Hall

Wikipedia entry for the building

Coventry’s Modernist Jewel

29 May

Having admired Basil Spence’s architecture for years and only last Thursday had the chance to see in the flesh Coventry Cathedral, his masterpiece. It was a truly stunning experience. Nothing could have prepared me for the volumetric variations, the quality of the finishes and the brilliant clarity of the design.

Coventry Cathedral was a most controversial project that kept Spence redesigning the overall look but also numerous of the details in the decades it took to realise the building. The finished article does not read at all tortured or unresolved. The very feel of the nave is a perfect blend of old fashioned monumentality but in detailed high quality modernist finish. In many ways it reminds me (most obviously the columns supporting the roof) of Arne Jacobsen’s St Catherine’s College, Oxford dining hall with it’s uninterrupted volume and meticulous finishes.

Coventry’s Cathedral is an enthralling, exhilarating space, the feeling of discovering the chapels and their very creative interplay with natural light is an intriguing blend of a Sci-Fi film set fused with constructivist utopias and  an architect’s grand vision. The inherent processional movement of the visitors through the body of the building is acknowledged with intriguing contrasts and revealing unexpected vistas. The way the side bays contain the colourful stained glass windows reveal themselves as one walks from the altar down the naive is both elegant and ultimately thoughtful, as when one sits on the chairs for a service or a concert the eye focuses on the altar as the angle of the windows makes them nearly invisible. Thus allowing the audience to be concentrated.

The much reviled Graham Sutherland tapestry taking over the end wall is truly spectacular in scope and a great piece of decoration in the most grand tradition. Spence’s beautiful dual aspect windows lighting it up, animate the surface and also provide with gorgeous pure white light to make the green background shine. They are allowing for a dramatic contrast with the diffused light in the rest of the nave. Photographs do not do justice to the subtle textural differences between materials and the quality of light, comfortable feel and the overall scale of the building.

All the lucky people present for the 50th anniversary performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem are in for a great treat, the acoustic will surely envelop them and pay tribute to the idealism and sense of purpose that made it happen.

PS Due to posting this from my mobile connection and without 3G the photographs I took there will not be online till the end of the week. They will hopefully communicate some of the complexity and cohesion of the design and how it all fits together.


You can now view the slideshow of the photos I took during the visit to the Cathedral

Goodbye 2011 / Stormy weather edition

2 Jan

Just a quick note to express how wonderful it was to visit again the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea on Saturday and say goodbye to 2011, next to the stormy sea and enveloped by the amazing Modernist masterpiece that the Pavilion really is.

Built in 1935 by  Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff it is a supreme demonstration how Modernism can reflect back on both location and function, providing a wonderful backdrop for the seaside views and a flowing space that makes people the main spectacle. The two staircases are beautiful at capturing light and giving a sense of occasion, but it is the movement of the users that activates the space and makes it an ongoing performance.

Beauty, elegance, simplicity.

If you haven’t been, rush to see both the excellent Warhol exhibition (which is free, and do not be put off by the stupid title)

Here is a link to my photo set on Flickr: Click! 

For general information on the Pavilion check it’s Wikipedia entry: Click!

And here’s the link to their website: Click!

Hotel Endsleigh, Milton Abbot, Devon / Effortless, gorgeous and homely

8 Aug

Last night was one of those nights, were a really special experience makes me think how we evaluate quality and pleasure.

We spend almost four hours at Hotel Endsleigh and it made obvious what an excellent country house hotel should be all about. It was miles ahead of any large chain hotel (including 5 star establishments like The Dorcester and The Grosvenor House Hotel) and was imbued with character and appreciations for its guests.

We booked for a birthday dinner on the strengths of its reviews and knowing that it occupies a wonderful location overlooking the Tamar Valley on the border between Devon and Cornwall. The 1810s fishing lodge (designed by Jeffry Wyattville)  is a wonderful architectural folly with a deceptively ramshackle back elevation with tiny soffit windows poking through the peaked roof. On arrival and walking into the gorgeous entrance hall with its roaringly inviting fireplace the gorgeous smell of conifer wood burning is just wonderful. The 1930s accents (crystal uplighters, the pattern of the curtains) and the cooky assemblage of Greek antiquity statuary, with a prominent bust of Homer, gives the place an air of relaxed luxury. No need for garish marble floors and polished bronze and brass accents, just exposing the beautiful original floor boards of the Grade I listed building give it a look of a lived in home and not a run of the mill establishment.

The staff we got to talk to through the evening were all good humoured, sweet, efficient and above all discrete. Making it all to clear how important it is to have great staff when you are in a people centred industry. They added personal touches that most chains wouldn’t even train them to do, such as to rearrange the seating at the relaxed library for our aperitif and making us feel comfortable to walk around the beautiful building and gardens without feeling that we were under constant surveillance. Also many hotel restaurants would not bother make too much effort if warned in advance that it was a birthday dinner. At Endsleigh we got the best table, overlooking the Tamar valley and looked out at the croquet lawn with the amazing listed planting schemes by Humphry Repton and Cornish woods in the distance. The cooking was faultless (and heavily seasonal, using local ingredients/produce) and was a perfect match to the amazing setting. It was one of those rare times when everything comes together and makes up a perfect, unforgettable evening.

If you are in Devon or nearby do pop in, it is one of the most wonderful places I have ever been. Alex Polizzi should be very proud of her establishment and we will surely return in the near future.

Have a look:

The Hepworth Wakefield – The photos are in.

4 Jun
P1100630 by Georgios 1978
P1100630, a photo by Georgios 1978 on Flickr.

Dear readers, a couple of days had the opportunity to visit David Chipperfield’s other new Gallery (after his Margate the other week) and have to declare it an unqualified success.

The feel is mature, assured and concise. The finishes are smooth, precise but not self indulgent. Wakefield should be justly proud of this major civic pride injection and all of the visitors should be full of happiness and take in the work of Hepworth in a world-class setting. Chipperfield managed what a lot of architects fail far too frequently, he sculpted space using light and volume. The building’s exterior reveals a light filled, subdued interior, but with wonderful almost three-dimensional light from the unusual clerestory skylights. He also was very responsive to the location and both the industrial and waterside context of the new building. Fanciful museums as a means of regeneration quite frequently leave me cold. But the Hepworth is a building that has a sense of grace, civility and above all makes the art within speak.

I truly wish he had won the competition to built Tate Modern back in the day. His honed Modernism is much more warm and inviting than Herzog & De Meuron’s more flashy materiality, he’s more in the mould or Arne Jacobsen than the frequently bland Norman Foster. If you are living in Yorkshire you have no excuse not to visit, everyone else has to visit to admire this wonderful edifice.

Here is my set on Flickr with all the shots

Verdi’s Macbeth and the power of artistry / Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh – 27 May 2010

10 Jun
macbeth edin 2010Had the chance to be in Edinburgh in the same week as when the Edinburgh Grand Opera was staging Verdi’s Macbeth at The Royal Lyceum Theatre.I booked my tickets a couple of months ahead intrigued by the prospect of a mixed professional and amateur team putting the show together. Glasgow and Edinburgh have quite a long tradition of this type of opera and choral productions. In London of course the calendar is overfilled with performances by the ENO and the Royal Opera House, leaving very little space in the limelight for opera from the people for the people.The Royal Lyceum was indeed a fine high Victorian edifice with a plush interior, rather suitable for the production of a Shakespearean themed opera. The performance we witnessed took place on 27 May 2010 with the following cast:

  • Macbeth – Ivor Klayman
  • Lady Macbeth – Christina Dunwoodie
  • Banquo – Peter Cannell
  • Macduff – Mike Towers
  • Lady in Waiting – Jennifer Craig
  • Malcolm – Joe Earley
  • Doctor – Russell Malcolm

The evening was very interesting and the performances may not reached the heights of a top opera house but they made up with the obvious love and dedication the performers gave to Verdi’s dramatic score and arias.

The orchestra despite it’s small size managed to convey Verdi’s sweeping gestures and brought them to life. A sure highlight was Dunwoodie’s Una Macchia E Qui Tottora in the last act, she may have not been totally convincing dramatically, but her fantastic and spirited delivery brought Lady Macbeth to life in a wonderful way. Ivor Klayman did a really good job portraying Macbeth with brio and conviction, despite his obvious vocal fatigue in the last scene. But most singers would be outshone by a really good soprano singing Macchia but it’s always the danger with this opera.

This evening was a wonderful reaffirmation of my love for opera and the wonderful artistry and skill that is involved. Can’t wait for the next chance to witness a live performance, in the mean time recordings with Callas, Gobbi, DiDonato, Petibon and many others will keep the flame alive.

New images from my Cornish trip now on Flickr

23 Feb
Check out some of the images from my trip to Cornwall
Hope you like them!

Just leaving York on my way back from Edinburgh…a bit of a mess with people trying to find their seats amongst the mayhem!

12 Aug
Edinburgh was lovely,went to Gauguin’s Vision at The National Gallery,Bacon-portraits and Cartier-Bresson at The National Gallery of Modern Art. All three shows were interesting, but the one that captivated my attention was Bacon. A large accumulation of his work, always has a curious effect on me. The experience is one of amazement,involvement,surprise,familiarity,respect,seduction. Seeing the fantastic full length portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne from Berlin had me quaking in my boots. The beauty of the colours and the handling were devastating. I could look at it for days and still find more excitement in it. More soon xx George
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