London Architecture Diary Guest Editor - Richard Coutts, Baca Architects

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Lay down your slide rules and disable your Wacom pens – the festive season is upon us!

Palladian Design: the Good, the Bad and the Unexpected is still on at Portland Place, providing a last chance to see some of Palladio’s drawings before they go off view for the next decade or so for conservation reasons. The last section on Abstract Palladianism might intrigue some visitors, with designs by Peter Jenkins, John Penn, Stephen Taylor, Peter Merkli and O.M. Ungers.

Over at the V&A’s Architecture Gallery (Room 128a) is a beautiful little show on Philip Webb, the Arts and Crafts architect. Developed in collaboration with the RIBA, the exhibition marks the centenary of his death.  Original drawings of the Red House, Bexleyheath – designed by Webb for friend and colleague William Morris – don the walls, alongside furniture and drawings of other key buildings. This unique collection of drawings and archive materials offer a unique perspective into the origins of a movement that echoes in many of London’s latest editions.

Both new architecture and contemporary art can be found in Vauxhall at Newport Street Gallery.  Designed by Caruso St John Architects for artist Damien Hurst and newly opened in October, it houses a wonderful spiral staircase which is worth the journey alone. This polite ensemble of brick building, adding new to existing re-purposed scenery-painting workshops, showcases Hurst’s new and back catalogues alongside other artists. John Holland’s Power Station paintings are on display this December.

If you have a robust constitution, millennials and those with children might want to head over to ‘Winter Wonderland’ for a heady mix of Vegas-style festivities in the grounds of Hyde Park. A visual and olfactory extravaganza of Victorian merry go-rounds and Santa’s grotto, that dovetails with stalls selling everything from stolen to mulled wine.  Taking a calmer approach might see you visit the Christmas lights of Regent Street, comprising of tastefully deconstructed timepieces that span the main boulevard, while hovering up a few last minute presents for the family. The Dover Castle pub near Covent Garden is a great place to escape the masses – a personal favorite is to cosy up with a ‘Xmas Old fashioned’, a twist on the classic bourbon treat, at ‘Dirty Martini’, also nearby.

Wrap up warm and promenade along the South Bank, taking in the latest pop-ups (‘Beltane & Pop’ extruded aluminum gem is a favourite) or glowing greenhouses set against the backdrop of the River Thames. Or shift your vantage point from ground level to skyline to view London’s forgotten river from Level 72 of The Shard.  There, architectural food deviants Bompas & Parr are offering a unique festive food and drinks experience with unparalleled views of London’s emerging skyline.

And finally, and apologies for the shameless plug, but is has been two years in the writing with Robert Barker, with over 57,000 words and 500 illustrations, is Aquatecture: Buildings and cities designed to live and work with water. For those interested in the vital role of water in shaping our built environment, this book could be great stocking filler. 

Merry Christmas

Richard Coutts

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