Categories
Fashion People

Carmen Dell’Orefice + Claridge’s Hotel London

Model Behaviour

Model Carmen dell'Orefice © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lavender’s Blue caught up with the inimitably monocled magnificently manicured Carmen Dell’Orefice when she recently stayed in a Diane von Furstenberg designed hotel suite (where else?) in London. She was fresh – very fresh indeed – off the runways at New York Fashion Week where she stole the show walking for Norisol Ferrari.

Carmen dell'Orefice Portrait © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Those cheekbones sharp enough to slice bread with… the thoroughbred aquiline nose… the gunshot grey and lilac hooded eyelids… the supremely elegant arch of her back… that majestic mane of silvery white hair… Her legendary beauty has been captured on countless occasions by the great and the good of the photographic world. But in the flesh she is even more enticing, more exquisite, more natural and best of all armed with a wicked sense of humour that celluloid could never capture. We fell about laughing as she exaggeratedly demonstrated some of her more extreme model poses. The secret of her suppleness? One hour’s stretching exercises in the morning, she confided. Over to Carmen:

“I have worked with all the best photographers long before digital photography came along. Back then, photographers talked a different language. I don’t consider images taken of me belong to me. They are the products of the photographers who are mental and spiritual sculptors. I don’t think about the labels people give me. I’m too busy. Have the passion to live. I never chose to be in my profession. I learnt to achieve. Life is worth living. Do some good when no one is looking.” Inspirational isn’t a strong enough adjective.

Carmen dell'Orefice © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“I am still thinking of who I am. Think of who you are and where your passions lie. When young guys like you tell me I’m inspiring I know there’s hope for the future of this world. The idea is from 80 to 100 to slow down but quite sure how I’m not sure yet. I may be the last link to a golden age and I’m going out with my heels on. I love being silent. Take life seriously.” And with that, she burst out laughing.

Ubermodel Carmen dell'Orefice © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Art Design People

Min Hogg + The Seaweed Collection of Wallpapers + Fabrics

Finding Material

Min Hogg The World of Interiors Founder © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“It’s sort of feeble really,” says Min Hogg. “Open the property section of any newspaper and you’ll see page after page of boring beige interiors. I blame technology. People just want to switch on this and that but can’t be bothered to look at things like furniture and paintings.” Her own flat is neither boring nor beige. Quite the opposite. It’s brimming with antiques and art and personality. And magazines. “The red bound copies on my shelves are from when I was Editor. The loose copies in boxes are all the subsequent issues.” Min was, of course, founding Editor of the highly influential magazine The World of Interiors.

Min Hogg The World of Interiors Founder Home Garden Brompton Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“My mum would have made a brilliant Editor but she was awfully lazy,” confides Min. “She always made our houses really nice without any training, none of that, she just did it. She was a great decorator. You bet! So was my grandmother.” Min’s first plum role was as Fashion Editor of Harpers and Queen. Anna Wintour, who would later famously edit American Vogue, was her assistant. “We hated each other!” Min recalls, her sapphire blue eyes twinkling mischievously. “I was taken on by Harpers and Queen over her. She really knew I wasn’t as utterly dedicated to fashion as she was. By no means!” Nevertheless, Anna was the first to leave.

Min Hogg The World of Interiors Founder Home Brompton Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Thank goodness then for an ad in The Times for “Editor of an international arts magazine” which Min retrieved from her bin. She applied and the rest is publishing history. The World of Interiors was a roaring success from day one, year 1981. “I submitted a three line CV,” she laughs. “I didn’t want to bore Kevin Kelly the publisher with A Levels and so on!” It didn’t stop her being selected out of 70 candidates. “I sort of knew I’d got the job. I ended up having dinner with his wife and him that night. I think probably of all the people who applied, I was already such friends with millions of decorators. Just friends, not that I was doing them any good or anything, I just knew them because we were likeminded.”

Studying Furniture and Interior Design at the Central Art College must have helped. “Well it was too soon after the Festival of Britain and I really didn’t get it. The only person who taught anything was Terence Conran. He was only about a year older than any of us actually. But you could tell he wasn’t into Festival of Britain furniture either which, I’m sorry, I don’t like and never did.”

“Come and have a look at the view from the kitchen, it’s really good,” says Min stopping momentarily. “It’s like living opposite the Vatican,” pointing to the plump dome of Brompton Oratory. Back in her sitting room, the view is of treetops over a garden square, a plumped up cushion’s throw from Harrods. As for choosing an interior to publish, “If I liked it, I’d do it. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t! I came to the job with this huge backlog of interior ideas. We never finished using them all. I’m blessed with a jolly broad spectrum of vision, and as you can see, although I’m not a modernist I can appreciate modernism when it’s good. I don’t like Art Nouveau either but I can get the point of a really good example of anything.”

Appropriately Min’s top floor which she bought in 1975 looks like a spread from The World of Interiors. “I don’t decorate, I just put things together. I’m a collector,” she confesses. Eclectically elegant, somehow everything fits together just so. “John Fowler was an innovator. He was frightfully clever.” So is Min. She laments the disappearance of antique shops. And junk shops. “London used to be stuffed with junk shops. Now it’s seaside towns like Bridport and Margate that have all the antique shops. There’s nothing left in London. Just the few grand ones.” Interiors may be her “addiction” but Min is interested in all art forms. She’s been an active member of the Irish Georgian Society ever since it was founded by her friends Desmond and Mariga Guinness. “I love the plasterwork of Irish country houses,” she relates, “Castletown’s a favourite.”

Min Hogg The World of Interiors Founder Address Brompton Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

With her vivacity and an email address list to die for, it’s little wonder Min’s parties are legendary. She even makes a fun filled appearance in Rupert Everett’s autobiography. But it’s not all play between her Kensington flat and second home in the Canaries. She’s still Editor at Large of The World of Interiors. Plus a few years ago she launched the Min Hogg Seaweed Collection of Wallpapers and Fabrics. It began with Nicky Haslam telling her: “I need a wallpaper for an Irish house I’m decorating. You know about colour and design.” So Nicky gave Min an 18th century portfolio of botanical seaweed prints for inspiration and off she went.

Min Hogg The World of Interiors Founder Seaweed Collection Wallpapers © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mike Tighe, the former Art Director of The World of Interiors, joined me,” she explains. “For me it was a physical thing, cutting out paper patterns by hand. Mike did all the computer work. I learnt to do a repeat and everything else. It’s funny how you can learn something if you’re interested. By pure luck the finished result looks like hand blocked wallpaper. If someone gives us a colour we can match it. I like changing the scale too from teeny to enormous.” It’s a versatile collection, printed on the finest papers, cottons, linens and velvets. Prominent American interior designers like Stephen Sills love it. The collection may be found in a world of interiors from a Hawaiian villa to a St Petersburg palace. But not in any boring beige homes.

Min Hogg The World of Interiors Founder Seaweed Collection Fabrics © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Architects Architecture

Boone’s Chapel Lee London + Sir Christopher Wren

Baroque and Roll ­

Boon's Chapel Lee London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

You know you really have achieved celebrity status as an architect if you are still a household name three centuries after your death. Or your surname is adopted for a revival of your architectural style a couple of hundred years posthumously. Sir Christopher Wren and the Wrenaissance. St Paul’s Cathedral in the City, central London, may be his most famous ecclesiastical building but at the opposite end of the scale spectrum is Boone’s Chapel in Lee, southeast London.

Boon's Chapel Lee London Cupola © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Boon's Chapel Lee London Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Boon's Chapel Lee London Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Boon's Chapel Lee London Pediment © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Or at least Boone’s Chapel is attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. It certainly exhibits many of the trademarks of the master: chunky modillion cornices; boldly rusticated quoins; scroll key blocks; a rather delicate timber cupola crowning its pitched roof; and more oeils de boeuf than a farmer’s field. Beefcake architecture. A study in red (bricks and rooftiles). Originally part of an almshouses complex, Boone’s Chapel has found a new use that is staggeringly appropriate. It’s become an architects’ office.

Boon's Chapel Lee London Oeil de Boeuf © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Architects Architecture Design Developers Hotels Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

Chelsea Harbour + Chelsea Harbour Hotel London

Suite Success

Chelsea Harbour River Thames London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Over the course of multiple visits – breakfasts and brunches, dates and dinners, walks and weekends – Lavender’s Blue cover and discover and rediscover London’s best Eighties development. Back in the day, Astrid Bray was Director of Sales and Marketing at the Conrad London (as Chelsea Harbour Hotel was originally named). She recalls various Chelsea Harbour restaurants, “There was Ken Lo’s Memories of China and Viscount Linley’s Deals. Marco Pierre White’s The Canteen was owned by Michael Caine, a great friend of ours. Deals was opposite The Canteen on the same side as Ken Lo’s. There was a pool table bar called Fisher’s. We would bring pop groups like Westlife through the loading bay to get to the bar!” A shortage of celebrities was never an issue. “Robbie Williams bought an apartment in The Belvedere opposite the hotel. Take That and Tina Turner stayed in the Conrad. We had a lot of fun there. One night I sat on the grand piano in the bar while Lionel Richie played and sang! There’s nothing in life that isn’t slightly mad!”

Chelsea Harbour Thameside © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour, all seven hectares of it, is a defining development of late 20th century London. Despite its Thameside location, the former industrial site had been poorly connected and blighted by infrastructure proposals. Architect Ray Moxley of Moxley + Jenner won a competition organised by landowner British Railways Property Board to design a mixed use scheme. “It seemed obvious to excavate the old harbour, rebuild the lock, repair the walls and form a new yacht harbour,” Ray remembered. “Harbours are always pleasant to watch and enjoy and property values are higher on the waterfront.” Honfleur provided inspiration. That town in northern France has houses and shops and bars and studios grouped around a lock on the mouth of the River Seine.

Chelsea Harbour River View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The triple level penthouse of The Belvedere merited its own brochure in the original marketing of Chelsea Harbour. Designed by Mary Fox Linton, the “interior of contrasts” included Seguso urns in the entrance hall and Hurel furniture in the reception room. “Fine views of the Thames on one side and upstream towards Richmond on the other” were rightfully recorded. The kitchen was fitted out by Bulthaup and the “warm intimate” guest bedroom had an Alvar Aalto table and 18th century chairs. Apropos to a flagship scheme, Ms Linton’s rejected chintz for eclectic minimalism.

The Belvedere Chelsea Harbour Thames © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Grouping is key to Chelsea Harbour’s aura of containment. The marina is tightly ringed by the hotel, Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and apartment blocks. Ray’s genius was to create a sense of place. The tallest apartment block, the 20 storey Belvedere, next to where the marina flows into the river, is topped by a whimsical witch’s hat roof. A maquette version of this roof tops the security pagoda entrance to Chelsea Harbour. Ray excelled at roofscapes sculpting a cornucopia of pyramids, swan necked pediments and mansards.

Chelsea Harbour Scheme © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Belvedere Chelsea Harbour © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Boats © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Apartments © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Marina © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour London Apartment © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and Hotel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel and Design Centre © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Offices © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Gatehouse © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre Dome © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre New Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Sign © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The architect was also adept at architectural playfulness, from reinterpreted Trafalgar balconies to oversized industrial metal window frames. The Design Centre is lit by tall glazed domes, ogee roofed conservatories and outsized neo Georgian windows topped by fanlights. Chunky columns and bulky balustrades add to the sense of gargantuan scale. Ray Moxley died in 2014 aged 91. Architectural practice APT is now encasing more of the original mall in glass to form an internal street. Lead architect Robin Partington enthuses, “We have the best jobs in the world. It’s all about curating, whether designing the interiors of an office development or masterplanning a scheme.”

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Bedroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel is shaped like half a butterfly, with two wings hugging the marina in an architectural embrace. The top of the tips of the wings culminate in oriels in the sky. Undulating waves of balconies swirl and curl their way across the elevations. The hotel looks like a grounded ocean liner. Earl Snowdon’s eatery Deals, which he launched in 1988 with his cousin Lord Lichfield, may have long gone but there’s always Chelsea Riverside Brasserie on the raised ground floor of the hotel. And yes, the view lives up to its name. The Canteen is also confined to history and memory. Its à la carte menu for October 1997 priced starters (featuring frivolity of smoked salmon and caviar) from £6.95 to £8.50 and mains (such as escalope of salmon with stir fried Asian greens, ginger and soya dressing) were all £12.95. These days, Chelsea Harbour Hotel room suite service caters for midnight munchies. Hand dived scallop ceviche at 2am? Yes please. Chelsea Harbour Hotel is the only all suite five star hotel in London.

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Piano © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The cruise ship inspiration wasn’t just confined to the exterior: it flowed indoors too. “David Hicks designed the hotel interiors in 1993,” explains Astrid. “It was all about a ship. He believed, ‘Themes are always intriguing.’ The mezzanine stairs were modelled on a cruise liner. The ground floor meeting room was called The Compass Rose. There were lots of blues and light ash wood in the interiors.” It was a real era catcher. One of David’s best known earlier works was his colourful revamp of Baronscourt, the Duke and Duchess of Abercorn’s seat in County Tyrone. Wallpaper by his designer son Ashley Hicks is for sale in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre.

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Restaurant © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour is the private members’ club of the marina world with a record breaking six year minimum waiting list. The luckily berthed include: Achill Sound; Ariadne; Christanian II: Ella Rose; Esperance; Honey Rider; and (guess which actor’s?) The Italian Job. A four bedroom Lamoure yacht is currently for sale at £249,000. Back on dry land, the range of properties on the 2020 market include: a two bedroom duplex penthouse (92 square metres) in Carlyle Court for £1,000,000 | a two bedroom third floor apartment (90 square metres) in King’s Quay for £1,200,000 |  a two bedroom duplex penthouse (112 square metres) in Carlyle Court for £1,250,000 | a three bedroom 14th floor apartment (194 square metres) in The Belvedere for £3,200,000 | a four bedroom ninth floor apartment (186 square metres) in The Belvedere for £3,300,000. Splashing the cash is one sure way to make a visit permanent.

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Corridor © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Architecture Town Houses

Roupell Street London + The Doors

Astragaled

Roupell Street London Doors © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Waterloo sunrise. Shades of Revlon.

Categories
Luxury People Restaurants

The House of Lavender’s Blue + Chef Francesco Bardotti

Polyphonic High Notes

Chelsea and South Kensington Houses London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A plane crossing the cobalt blue sky – spring is truly here – is a rare occurrence. A daily event at most. There are more joggers on the roads than cars. We go for a walk (self isolated of course) through the silent cherry blossom festooned streets of Mayfair. In St James’s Park a grey squirrel jumps out from a scramble of fellow squirrels, ducks and pigeons, and tamely climbs up our legs. Harrods’ famous shop window displays now feature rainbows inspired by Sir Peter Blake’s new drawing. The pop artist’s rainbow has become the symbol of the city at this time. On the way home, walking along the Thames riverside, a moored party boat devoid of partygoers incongruously blasts Donna Summer’s “I feel love”. A swan glides by. Such is London living during the current health crisis. More ‘homecation’ than ‘staycation’.

Nine Elms London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Nine Elms Vauxhall London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Nine Elms Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cheyne Walk Chelsea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cherry Blossom Chelsea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Squirrel St James's Park London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Squirrel and Two Pigeons St James's Park London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Heron St James's Park London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Duck St James's Park London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Harrods London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Tulips Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cheyne Walk London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Shepherd Market Restaurant Mayfair London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hide Restaurant Mayfair London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Francesco Bardotti Canapes © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Earlier, we’d glimpsed through locked gates the botanically medicinal four acre wonder that is Chelsea Physic Garden, an attraction established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. The melancholic mood had lingered in the air. Our favourite afterwork haunt Shepherd Market, a huddle of intimate international restaurants from French to Turkish to even Polish-Mexican, had been eerily quiet. Spookily so. Passing Michelin starred restaurant Hide, we’d been reminded that its Chef Ollie Dabbous was always ahead of the curve. Even before the crisis, he launched ‘Hide at Home’ to deliver superlative cuisine chez vous. The all day service includes sommelier recommendations from Hedonism Wines.

Francesco Bardotti Standbychef Canape © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We catchup (virtually) with Ollie who explains, “The only difference between home delivery fine dining and a regular experience in my restaurant is the tableware. We use exactly the same high quality ingredients and preparation.” Online catering companies are one of the few services to be flourishing in London at the moment. Italy born Switzerland trained Russia experienced England based Chef Francesco Bardotti is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his canapés delivery service StandByChef. Later, we give into temptation and order Francesco’s appetising appetisers (beetroot hummus; brie and quince; and mushroom truffle) to enjoy on our secluded terrace. “You don’t need to worry about anything!” he says reassuringly. If we can’t go fine dining, fine dining can come to us.

Francesco Bardotti Canape © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Architects Architecture Developers Luxury People

Montevetro Battersea London + Taylor Woodrow

It’s Enough to Get the Dopaminergic Neurons of Your Ventral Tegmental Area Stimulated Into Overdrive

Ulster Architect Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A little over 22 years since the quadruple page spread was published in Ulster Architect (for decades Ireland’s leading architectural magazine published and edited by Anne Davey Orr), it seems like an opportune moment to revisit Montevetro. It truly was the trailblazing residential scheme that set alight the southwest bank. It’s hard to imagine that Battersea hasn’t always been fashionable but back then it was a backwater (no pun). Montevetro was the architectural lovechild of Taylor Woodrow, one of the largest housebuilding and construction companies in Britain, and architects Richard Rogers Partnership. A mere eight years after Ulster Architect published this seminal piece, Taylor Woodrow merged with its rival George Wimpey, to form the nation’s leading housebuilder. Taylor Wimpey Central London sprung up as the capital’s developer arm of the plc, attracting some of the hottest talent in the property industry. Swapping CGIs for photographic art, the wordage remains more or less the same in this replication of the original feature. Here goes.

Riverside View Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Everyone is raving about it – planners refer to it as ‘sustainable housing’ and developers call it ‘New York style studio living’ – that is, the late 20th century phenomenon of inner city redevelopment. Rising like a shining phoenix from the grey ashes of urban desolation in London is Montevetro, a contemporary block of pied-à-terres along the River Thames opposite Chelsea Harbour. Designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, it is one of the most arresting examples of inner city redevelopment to date.

Thames View Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lord Rogers: “At the time Wren rebuilt St Paul’s, he didn’t replicate the old cathedral but designed something of its own day. Montevetro  is a building for our era, but it respects its setting, not be deference but by sensitivity, to the context.”

Montevetro Battersea London Taylor Woodrow © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

When Richard Rogers Partnership took a critical look at the southwest bank site for what was to become Montevetro, the shortcomings of the existing buildings there became obvious. The old flour mills could have been converted to residential use but as lead project architect Marco Goldschmied says, “the drawbacks were apparent – an awkward plan and inconvenient layout would have deprived a third of the apartments of any river view and prevented the possibility of creating a significant new public space along the Thames.”

River View Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The site was typical of many along the river: it had great potential but in reality it was fairly depressing. The redundant industrial buildings, objects of no beauty, formed an impenetrable barrier between the river and the neighbouring streets. Extending to the very banks of the Thames, they also blocked the path of the river walk (a popular public amenity gradually extended in recent years) and overshadowed Battersea’s ancient parish church – Listed Grade I.

Thames River Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Rogers strategy was to capitalised on the riverside setting and to insist that every apartment in the scheme had a view of the river. The new building reflects that strategy. At first glance it resembles a slender wedge, its river frontage entirely glazed to maximise the views from the large reception rooms. At the rear are the bedrooms behind a more solid façade – a practical device but one which allows the building to reflect the mature of the surrounding streets, with their interesting mixture of architecture dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries. A building or buildings? Montevetro is really the latter: a linked group of buildings which step up from three storeys close to the church, to a sensational 20 storeys at the northern tip of the development. “Respecting the setting of the church was a key consideration,” says Marco. “It is a rare survival but it had been treated with scant respect in the past. We spent a lot of time studying the impact of the development on views of it from along and across the river. The result will be that its impact will be much enhanced.”

Tower Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Montevetro Battersea Taylor Woodrow London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sunlight Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roofline Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Taylor Woodrow Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Railings Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Balcony Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Boat Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lord Rogers: “I’ve lived in London for 40 years and I’ve come to realise that the Thames is the real heart of London. Unfortunately, much of the river is virtually invisible to even those who live close to it – shut off by decaying industry and dereliction and frustratingly inaccessible.”

Boat Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Rogers team was keen to achieve a scale appropriate for the Thames. Small suburban scale buildings would have looked insignificant along its broad banks. Montevetro has grandeur which is tempered by a concern to be neighbourly. The apartments are pulled back from Battersea Church Road, where the residential leisure suite respects the proportions of nearby houses. Marco shares Richard Rogers’ concern for public space. The new development provides a spacious public garden which reads as an extension of the adjacent churchyard and creates a new context for the church. “A complex like this has to balance the interest of the residents, who naturally want privacy and security, with those of the public,” says Marco. Residents can enjoy their own shared private garden, set back from the river and slightly elevated above the public park.

Sail Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lord Rogers: “It isn’t just buildings which make a city – public spaces matter just as much. The Pompidou Centre in Paris, for example, is linked to a great piazza which teems with life.”

Windcatcher Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Rogers team gave prolonged thought to the issue of materials. At Montevetro, the mix is sophisticated. The strict grid which is central to the design is used to carry a system of panels, infilled with terracotta on the eastern elevation, giving the required solid effect. The futuristic penthouses are highly transparent, with view on both sides from lofty studios. The contrast between surrounding sturdy Victorian brick and the airy lightweight grace of Montevetro will add a sexy new dimension to the riverside scene.

Garden Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lord Rogers: “Living in the city is a vote for the city. Fortunately, lots of younger people are voting for the city and living there so that they can spend time enjoying life and not battling with the chore of commuting.”

St Thomas's School Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Richard Rogers Partnership believe that their new development is not a simplistic statement but rather is an intricate piece of urban design – a carefully considered vertical village to address immediate and wider contexts. Marco Goldschmied is convinced that it meets the needs of a particular social group: affluent, highly mobile, cosmopolitan in outlook and not content to decamp to the suburbs. “In contrast to other countries, we expect people to decamp to the suburbs to live in conventional houses when they achieve a certain position in life,” he comments. “Montevetro is a belated recognition that there are plenty of people who have ‘made it’ but actually want to live in the heart of London, with all the amenities that the city offers in easy reach.”

Church Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Whether or not you actually like Montevetro is, of course, a matter of personal taste. To us, striking arrangement as it is, we can’t help thinking that from a distance it vaguely looks like a group of Docklands offices. On closer inspection, its residential purpose becomes totally apparent as the tiers of towering terraces come into view. Maybe it is just a question of adjusting our view of the form domestic architecture should take. After all, the Lloyd’s Building readjusted most people’s perception of what a white collar workplace could look like. Montevetro – it’s certainly a cutting edge architecture and concept.”

Church Spire Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Montevetro is aging well. Incredibly well. Like a good Malbec or a high cheek boned former model. City centre apartment living is no longer novel. Quite the opposite. And on the publishing front, if anything, today’s photographic art outsells yesterday’s CGIs. The narrative has become more augmented. Somehow the sharp contrast between the high tech architecture and neoclassical church has mellowed with time. And as for the area’s fashion status: a Russian oligarch has snapped up Old Battersea House, a smooth pebble’s throw from the scheme; the future king goes to St Thomas’s School round the corner; and on a sunny Friday evening you’ll find the best photographers and writers and planners and models in town chilling in Battersea Square. That’s how it is.

Church Wall Montevetro Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Architects Architecture Country Houses People

Glenmore House + Cushendun Harbour Antrim

A Hymn to the Lost Pastoral World of the Anglo Irish

Cushendun Coast County Antrim © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Top Irish architect John O’Connell knows Cushendun well. “Clough Williams-Ellis represents his era correctly,” he affirms, “using a fine palette. His architecture is so reticent. There is an early German flavour to it. He was blessed with a prudent patron at Cushendun.” Clough was a strong believer in contextualism, commenting, “How often one may see new houses that are like swaggering strangers… that have insolently plunked themselves down on the edge of a cosy little gossip party and been properly left out in the cold. They have made no gesture of salutation, no concessions, no effort to make themselves agreeable to the architectural traditions of the place, and in return the old village just will not, cannot, know them.”

Glenmore House Cushendun Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belfast based architectural historian James Curl wrote a seminal feature on Cushendun titled “Antrim’s Discreet Holiday Resort” for Country Life in 1976. “The area known as The Glynnes, or Glens, of Antrim comprises the northeasternmost part of Northern Ireland. This article will describe the character and development of Cushendun, a small village on the shore at the eastern end of Glendun, one of The Nine Glens of Antrim. The coastal regions of The Glens are in sight of Kintyre and Islay, and from the earliest times there has been a close relationship with the lands across the Moyle. Yet The Glens are essentially Irish in character. Gaelic was spoken in the valleys until comparatively recently, and the area is rich in its own legends and history. From these glaciated valleys an adventurous people set out to establish rule over much of what is now Argyll, and the first kingdom of Dalriada was established. The hardy, independent nature of the Glensmen ensured prolonged resistance to Elizabeth’s generals in the 16th century, while the territories’ isolated position left language and religion relatively intact.

Glenmore House Cushendun Side Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Taken as a whole, The Glens contain some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland. While each has its own champions, Glendun inspires its own partisans, for it has a gentle charm quite unlike its more spectacular sisters. To the west, it is narrow and wooded, where its river tumbles over dark stones seta mong mosses, heathers, and ferns. It widens at its eastern end, and becomes a lush landscape of small fields with hedges that in summer are aglow with wild fuchsia.

Until just over a century ago, Glendun was one of the most inaccessible of The Glens, but this was dramatically changed when the Royal Military Road was constructed in 1833 to 1834. This road brought tourists to the fashionably romantic landscapes, and, ultimately, to enjoy the newly approved bathing in the wide and lovely bay that joins Glendun to the sea. Thus, from the reign of William IV, Cushendun developed as a discreet holiday resort, in a landscape of ravishing beauty. In 1817, R S Dobbs could describe the hamlet of Cushendun as ‘handsome’ and having ‘some very romantic spots in it’, including the curious caves of conglomerate rock that lie south of the village proper, and through which access may be had to the Caves House, formerly the home of the Crommelin family. Although tiny, Cushendun is the nearest port to Great Britain in Ireland, and it was this that prompted the Crommelins in 1830 to commission a design from John Rennie for a harbour known as Port Crommelin. However this scheme never materialised. Today, there is a modest harbour at the mouth of the river, and the natural features give us a clue to the name ‘Cushendun’, for the Irish Cois-abhann-Duine means ‘the end of the brown river’. The stone bridge at the western end of harbour was constructed in 1860 and recently has been inelegantly widened…

The building of the churches, the opening of The Glens, the fashion for sea bathing, and peace helped Cushendun to prosper, and sturdy dwellings replaced the humbler huts of the past. The architecture of Cushendun is mostly of a traditional 19th century vernacular type usual in Irish villages. The main street of Cushendun leading from the bridge to the parish church has its post office and shop, while McBride’s Pub, near the river, provides a convivial focus…

To the west of Main Street is the first group of outstanding character. This is known as The Square, and consists of two storeyed terraces planned symmetrically around a courtyard garden that is entered between massive gate piers. The terraces are linked by arches at the corners. An elliptical slate tablet in the central gable is inscribed with a date and the initials ‘RMcN’ and ‘MMcN’ commemorating Ronald McNeill and his wife Maud who were largely responsible for the appearance of modern Cushendun. Maud was Cornish and ‘loved The Glens’, according to her tombstone under a Celtic cross in the Parish courtyard, and it was largely through her that Clough Williams-Ellis was commissioned to enhance the village, starting with The Square, built in 1912.

After the ‘bathing lodge’ was burned down, Williams-Ellis designed and built Glenmona House in 1923 for the McNeills in a pastiche Regency style. The architect then added Maud Cottages, by the Green, in 1925. These consist of two storey terrace houses, with the upper part slate hung in the manner of Cornish coastal villages. The contribution of the architect and the McNeills to the beauties of Cushendun cannot be overestimated.

Main Street, the church, Glenmona House, and the cottages are all to the north of the river. To the south is a range of hotels. Following the war years, the future of Cushendun caused concern. It was recognised that the village and its surrounding area were of great beauty and importance, and so in 1954 some 62 acres of Cushendun north of the river were acquired by the National Trust through the Ulster Land Fund, and further acres adjoining the beach were purchased in 1965 with the aid of Enterprise Neptune Funds. There is a considerable problem with erosion of the beach, not only through over-use by holidaymakers but through farmers removing sand for agricultural purposes. Boating interests are encouraged by the Trust with improvements to the harbour, while grazing rights on surrounding lands are leased on the conacre system.

Glenmore House Cushendun Side Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Trust, mindful of the desirability of encouraging a traditional way of life, lets cottages to local people rather than to persons requiring holiday homes. There were problems in upgrading the existing houses to comply with modern standards, but generally this has been achieved with little damage to architectural character. The Trust, by means of covenants, ensures that properties are adequately maintained, and more care than is usual in Northern Ireland has been taken over the design of 24 new dwellings for public housing. While covenants appear to work in the Trust’s own lands, proper conservation policies for Cushendun as a whole are necessary. A Conservation Area should include the Caves, the hotels, and the whole of the village, and enhancement of this national treasure should be the goal.”

Cushendun County Antrim © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

So there it was and here it is. Four years after James Curl’s Country Life plea, the village and surrounding lands of Cushendun were designated a Conservation Area. The Caves have found new fame as a Game of Thrones destination. And yet, and yet. Randal McDonnell, Viscount Dunluce, son of the 14th Earl of Antrim, recently captured the underlying issue, “This is an extremely remote location hemmed in by The Glens.” He should know: his family used to own 133,000 hectares of Country Antrim: “Basically the top half.” A melancholic peace has descended upon Cushendun, these days a not so much discreet as forgotten holiday resort. The The National Trust’s Glenmona House is a little frayed round the edges. Cushendun Hotel and its once hospitable neighbours facing the harbour stand forlornly empty, the only visitor a grazing goat sporting a high viz yellow jacket.

Cushendun Hotel County Antrim © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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