Architects Architecture Design Developers

SCABAL + Christ Church Spitalfields London

Raising the Profile

2 Christ Church Spitalfields © SCABAL @

It appears in paintings, guides, novels and Gavin Stamp places it on the front cover of his latest collection of essays Anti-Ugly. Hawksmoor’s Grade I listed Christ Church Spitalfields is about as high profile as a building can get. Jon Buck of Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects (SCABAL) considers it to be, “A strong white stake in the dissenting soup of different interests of early 18th century London. ‘Here I am!’ it proclaims.”

A row of buildings including the original Christ Church Primary School once stood next to it on what used to be Red Lion Street, now Commercial Street. The school moved to nearby Brick Lane and the adjacent churchyard was decommissioned in 1874. An informal garden emerged along the vacant frontage and by 1970 a youth centre occupied part of the site. Nine protected London Plain trees date from the decommissioning.

The current Rector, backed by the London Diocese, has a vision for this sliver of urban space sandwiched between Fournier Street and Fashion Street. Geographically and symbolically, Rev Andy Rider sees the church as a meeting place of creative East London and the financial City to the west. An integral element of this vision is the new nursery and community building which provides much needed accommodation while opening up twice as much usable outdoor space. For instance, the northern flank is much shorter than its predecessor resulting in a more generous space next to the church.

Christ Church Spitalfields © Stuart Blakley

SCABAL won the bid. Jon believes in responsibility to the past and future. Part of the planning application was a 168 page tome of a Conservation Management Plan. Architecture is too often pastiche (Ecclesiastes 1.9: ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun’) whether neo Georgian, recycled modernist boxes or Accordia-lite. Not here. SCABAL has produced something original, subtle referencing in place of derivation. Sensitive handling instead of intrusiveness.

The barn-like pavilion is, appropriately, tripartite in plan. Clusters of rooms to the north and south are linked by glazed central multipurpose hall. With low eaves and reclaimed London Plum bricks similar to those of Fournier Street Rectory, the northwest and southwest corners are treated as a walled garden. Jon explains, “The plan arrangement is derived from that of Christ Church: 12 metres describing the nave; 5.5 metres, the aisles. In its humble way, the central gathering place is nave-like and lofty.” Large spans of section posts and beams maximise flexibility of use. Rooflights avoid overlooking in response to the sensitivities of diverse cultures. Low level windows in the nursery are child-friendly.

Lime mortar is a subtler reference to the church than using dressed stone. “Copying Christ Church would look cheap,” believes Jon. “This building is next to, but not a fragment of, the church. It’s small but generous, different… ground level heroic.” An asymmetrical plan dictates the irregular shape of the half-hipped roof with its timber frame overhangs. Too shallow a pitch for slate, zinc picks up the reddish hue of the bricks.

Hailed as best practice in action by statutory bodies, it’s staggering that Spitalfields’ lowest profile new building (the church is 14 times taller) is gaining a high profile. A local group is seeking to have it demolished. Meanwhile the sands of time are sinking and the lessons of Gavin Stamp’s essay Hawksmoor Redivivus go unnoticed. Until this disagreement is resolved, the nursery and community building lies unused next to the overcrowded school.

462_A020_SITE PLAN 2013.dgn

  • Drawings © SCABAL
Architects Architecture Art Country Houses Design Luxury People

David Linley + Highclere Castle Hampshire

Inside the Box

2 Linley © Stuart Blakley

Thanks to a certain Sunday evening wind down from the wild weekend historisoap, Highclere Castle is as recognisable as the Houses of Parliament. Golden Bath stone Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite pilasters framing corner turrets ascend to a parapet – a tumultuous riot of strapwork, tracery, heraldry, pinnacles, plaques, coronets, colonettes, rosettes and finials. Jacobethanaissance architecture with Perpendicoco interiors. Handiwork of Sir Charles Barry, circa 1840.

A drawer in an upper floor of the V+A contains a perspective drawing commissioned by the architect to show his client Lord Grantham Carnarvon how the redesigned castle would look. It was originally displayed at the Royal Academy. Who says artists’ impressions and exhibitions are recent tools of self promotion for savvy architects? Architectural models are another tool. British design company Linley has developed expertise in creating scaled down versions of buildings – with a twist. They are functional, whether a humidor, bureau or writing desk. Robert Smythson meets Frank Smythson.

Linley Highclere Castle © Stuart Blakley

Mavisbank, Monticello, Monte Carlo Casino, Marino Casino. The latter a miniature in wood of a miniature in stone. Chairman David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret, nephew of the Queen, drops his title and abbreviates his name to David Linley in business. “Something of lasting value is most important,” he says, “beautifully made with the best possible materials. We search out wonderful woods.” Accuracy derives from photographs, drawings, surveys and even aerial views from helicopters.

Highclere Castle is the latest building to receive the Linley treatment. Honey I shrunk the treasure house. It’s a jewellery box. Constructed of maple, 11,000 individual pieces of marquetry have been meticulously selected and pieced together by highly skilled craftsmen. This architectural box, lined in faux suede, has three main drawers plus a trademark secret drawer. Costs £65,000, price of a car or parking space.

At Lavender’s Blue we’re good with colour. So is Linley. Upmarket London shops must have their signature colour. Liberty: regal purple; Selfridges: canary yellow; Harrods: Pantone 574c greenLinley: aquamarine blue. David says, “We needed a striking colour to stand out cause, in a senses, the logo needs to be something you can see from far away… so that when you see a bag being carried down a street you know it’s that colour. Therefore it must be Linley. It’s rather nice when you see one – oh, that bag’s come out of the shop.”

1 Linley © Stuart Blakley

Design Luxury People Town Houses

Peter Sheppard + Smallbone Kitchens Brasserie Range

Range in the Home

1 Peter Sheppard's Smallbone Brasserie Kitchen ©

Where better for Smallbone of Devices to launch its new range than the kitchen designers’ very own home? And where better to dwell than the converted Friary of St Francis, a brogue’s shuffle from Westminster Cathedral? The building was designed in 1884 by Henry Astley Darbishire, Peabody Trust’s trusted architect. His flats on nearby Pimlico Road form a rambunctious High Victorian yellow brick hallelujah to piety. They rise above quotidian stockists: Semmalina toys; Ramsay art, Tomasz Starzewski fashion; La Poule au Pot wine dining; Wild at Heart flowers; Michael Reeves furnishings; Gordon Watson antiques; Gallery 25 antiques; Moloh fashion; Luke Irwin art; more Luke Irwin art; Langston antiques. Living over the shop has never been so glam. Oh. Em. Gee. The former friary elevates philanthropic grandeur to a whole new level: a four storey loggia lined Romanesque palazzo of patronage.

The reports of the death of fine dining are greatly exaggerated. Eating out hasn’t quite cataclysmically descended from fish knives to fishwives. More like a move from blue blood to blue jeans. Out formality; informality. Chris Corbin and Jeremy King are the pioneers of creating dress down town restaurants with an uptown social scene. Meritocracy over aristocracy. Michel Roux’s La Gavroche and Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus may still be serving haute cuisine at triple the price and triple the waiter-to-customer ratio, but the brasserie scene dominates now in London. Fine dining is niche, not norm. Even the famously conservative Marcus Wareing has binned the white linen tablecloths at his fine dining restaurant in the Berkeley Hotel. He’s replaced the late David Collins’ interior with “free and easy dining accompanied by American style service”. Peter Sheppard who along with Keith Day designs for Smallbone observes, “Restaurant style creeps into homes.”

Ever since its seminal 1970s Pine Farmhouse Range, Smallbone has been setting kitchen trends. In the 80s came Hand Painted and then in the 90s, when everyone else was busy doing fitted, came Unfitted. This trailblazing salute to Charles Jencks’ postmodernism introduced freestanding furniture, stoves, larder cupboards and the singular kitchen island. “Fitted kitchens first became popular in the 1950s,” relates Peter. “The Brasserie Range continues the move away from fitted kitchens. It’s influenced by the 30s, based around the needs of the family. A place to cook and chat. The starting point was an oversized dresser in a French bistro we frequent. It adds to the relaxed Provençal ambiance. We’ve adapted the dresser, adding sliding glass doors, an integrated worktop and back painted open shelving.”

Peter Sheppard's Smallbone Brasserie Kitchen

Characterful strips of knotty oak contrast with nickel plated saucepan style drawer handles. Plain cornices and skirting boards are finished with a slip of brushed stainless steel. It’s versatility, though, that defines this range. The traditional plate rack has been updated to hold glasses under it. The ceiling rack now has a wraparound shelf. Below the sink unit is a slatted ledge for Keith and Peter’s pug, Chanel. St Francis is not just here in spirit. A bronze statue of the patron saint of animals is on the wall outside. As for the kitchen island, that’s so last century. Smallbone’s Brasserie Range has three islands of varying size. The kitchen archipelago.

Peter Sheppard's Smallbone Brasserie Kitchen ©