Sunday, 20 June 2010

A man that you meet every day

After a lot of lunchtime wandering I realised that I really liked this building. It doesn't come through so clearly on the photograph but it's constructed from highly polished browny-purple granite. That and the geometry of it make it look like some kind of immaculate volcanic remnant.

I tried looking it up on the internet but floundered a bit using searches like Transport for London and Victoria Street and a few others. Anyway, on closer inspection I discovered the architect's inscription: Seifert. Using this as a search term the veil lifted from my eyes and I suddenly saw how many fantastic buildings were his. Of the ones I was already aware of the most gratifying was the International Press Centre on Shoe Lane.

When I worked over in Holborn I walked past this every day and always admired it (for a period weaving my way through a crowd of animal rights protesters, who were very angry at one of the companies housed within). When I was younger I think I probably hated all modern office buildings as featureless monoliths, but now I can't get over the modular honeycomb character of this one, Centre Point, Space House and no doubt dozens if not hundreds of others. Perhaps comparable buildings in my native Sheffield just weren't as good, I don't know. I'm wondering if my hatred for the Eggbox might have been, with hindsight, a little callow.

As the most interesting of his buildings that I'd never heard of and which wasn't too far off the beaten track I went for a good look at Space House (now, I think, far more boringly referred to as 1 Kemble Street). It's plan is a bit like a squashed up Starship Enterprise the flat back end of which lies on Kingsway and which I must have walked past so many times but never once cut through to Covent Garden and chanced upon the amazing rotunda. Snapping away a women exiting the building was bemused at my admiration for it, she worked there and its form had somehow failed to lift her spirits.

The lists I've seen so far consist of about fifty buildings which, from what I've read, sounds like about a tenth of the number he actually produced. I was surprised to see that he doesn't seem to be the subject of any large coffee table type book, or any book at all.

The best thing about this is the prospect of going out to see a lot of these buildings that previously I'd never even heard of, though a pleasingly weird aspect of it was the ones that I've been faced with nearly all my life. Going to visit my grandma in Manchester and walking along Gateway House every time I came out of Piccadilly. And King's Reach Tower - for so many years just the location of Tharg's Command Module.


  1. I'm gonna have get on this. I'm always buzzing about Holborn, Kingsway and had a trot to Shoe Lane last week (the Library). So could do with browsing about the buildings on my travels.

    I'm also slightly obsessed with the Masonic Lodge on Kingsway - and recently discovered a pub (The Freemason's Arms)just over the road is where I had my 18th birthday do.

  2. Granite Countertop Calgary - Thank you.

    Mondo - It's across the road from the library. It's a great area, looking about while stood under a tree outside Thavies Inn House you've got a very diverse Portmeirion-style panorama. I love that equestrian statue of Prince Albert, the way he's raising his hat.

    When I was making my way down High Holborn on my way to take the photos I noticed (for the first time?) that you can see the Nat West Tower and the Swiss Re Building (heartmeltingly referred to by my wife once as the Sexy Courgette).

    I too was intrigued by the Grand Lodge - I never twigged what it was despite the shop across the road selling those aprons and various other accoutrements. Then one day as I was walking by the doors opened and a horde of dapper little gents emerged

  3. Great pictures and a very interesting piece Artog. I don't stop and look around nearly as much as I should do. Too intent on the getting to where I need to be going.

  4. Cheers Drew, I was really pleased with the photos. I'm never in a hurry to get back to my desk, hence the lunchbreaks spent looking at buildings.