Architects Architecture Design Developers Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

The Flint House Restaurant + Hannington Lanes Brighton East Sussex

Go Czech

Bohemia isn’t just a place in the Czech Republic. Ever since the Prince Regent and Maria Fitzherbert were at it on this stony shore, Brighton has been alternative, edgy, avant garde. Their love nest, Royal Pavilion, is a rare example of the Indo Saracenic style in Britain. More than two centuries after it was completed, the Royal Pavilion with its onion domes, big tent roofs and minarets is still alternative, edgy, avant garde – and very bohemian. Quite the silhouette looking east on a sunny winter’s morn.

A samosa’s throw from the Royal Pavilion is a maze of alleys off North Street. A window sign states: “The Hanningtons Estate: Hanningtons Department store, affectionately known locally as the ‘Harrods of Brighton’, grew from a single shop at No.3 North Street into one of the largest single freehold estates in Brighton. The Hannington Estate sits on a 1.32 acre site and is the dominant landmark retail pitch at the eastern end of North Street. The department store dominated North Street for nearly 200 years and was the most prestigious shopping address in Brighton, until its closure in 2002. For 10 years the future of the Hanningtons Estate was uncertain, until it was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2011 which, along with local architects Morgan Carn, hatched a vision to rejuvenate the whole area. An extension to Brighton’s world famous Lanes, named Hannington Lanes by the architects, was to be created on the redundant service yard of the former department store.”

And continuing, “New pedestrian links to North Street, Brighton Place, Meeting House Lane and Brighton Square were included to maximise connectivity and permeability. The main North Street frontage of the former department store was to be restored to its former glory. In 2015, the estate was purchased by Redevco of the C+A group – the international chain of fashion retailers, who also started as a single shop in the 19th century. Redevco shared the vision of Morgan Carn Architects and engaged local contractors Westridge to construct Hannington Lanes and rejuvenate North Street. Works commenced in 2016 and were completed in 2019.”

Seasoned East Sussex restaurateurs Chef Ben McKellar and his wife and business partner Pamela have opened a brasserie called The Flint House in a corner of Hannington Lanes. The building may be new, but the choice of facing materials – brick and flint – pays homage to centuries of Brighton architecture. Downstairs is dominated by a counter around an open kitchen. Upstairs the dining room and cocktail bar spill onto a terrace cosily overlooked by its close neighbours.

Where better to enjoy some good Italian white wine, Le Coste Trebbiano di Romagna 2019 of Emilia Romagna? And some small plates: marinated beetroot salad, miso dressing, smoked almond furikake; smoked anchovies on toast, green sauce; tempura pickled shiitake mushrooms, kewpie mayonnaise. And one very small plate: fruit pastilles. The food is as fresh and clearly directed as the brasserie interior with a nod to the Continent. The extra taste notes are just that little bit bohemian.

Architects Architecture Design Developers People Town Houses

Omagh Gaol Castle Place + St Lucia’s Army Barracks Omagh Tyrone

Busman’s Holiday

Omagh, a small town in County Tyrone, is known for many things. A prison isn’t one of them. But high above the River Strule overlooking the Old Mar’t (now a shopping precinct) stand the fragments of what was Omagh Gaol. It should have celebrated its bicentenary in recent years; instead it closed in 1902. The remaining buildings of Omagh Gaol in Castle Place form a picturesque hilltop group along with the adjacent St Lucia’s Army Barracks. The best view is from Abbey Bridge (a plaque states “First built 1900. Reconstructed 1948”) crossing the River Strule.

The grandest extant building of the prison is the Governor’s House designed by the prolific architect John Hargrave. He was the hand behind commercial and residential buildings in varying styles across northwest Ulster including the neoclassical court houses of Omagh, Dungannon and Strabane. His country house commissions include the Greek Revival Ballygawley Park near Omagh, the Gothic Favour Royal in Aughnacloy, the Picturesque Lough Veagh House in Garvagh and the neoclassical Rockhill outside Letterkenny.

In 1743 a fire wiped out Omagh. The O’Neill clan of Dungannon had founded the settlement in the 1430s and following the Plantation of Ulster it had been developed by Captain Edmund Leigh. This hilltop group belongs to a rebuilding of the town starting at the end of the 18th century. Alastair Rowan explains in his Pevsner Guide to the Buildings of North West Ulster (1979), “In Castle Street, west of the court house and churches and on the west bank of the river, is a little precinct entered through a pointed archway. This was the site of the old prison, built in 1796 and rebuilt by John Hargrave in 1823. Various late Georgian terraced houses remain, together with the octagonal three storey sandstone block of Hargrave’s Governor’s House. It has a gallery on the first floor and short wings on either side.”

The Governor’s House (18 Castle Place) and the Gatehouse (7 and 12 Castle Place) are three of the 19 Listed Buildings of Omagh. The wraparound balcony with its French doors was not decorative: it allowed the Governor to watch prisoners in the yard below. Polygonal designs inspired by philosopher designer Jeremy Bethan’s 1785 Panoptican model are commonly found in prison architecture – whether internally or externally – for providing 360 degree vantage points. Currently derelict, the elegant house offers 260 square metres of living accommodation (three reception rooms and four bedrooms) over three storeys. Another structure, barely there now, is the crumbling Tread Wheel. This stone building contains a deep well for drinking water and was also probably used as an instrument of punishment. None of the three early 19th century prisons of this region – Omagh, Derry City and Enniskillen – survive, save for these stones.

Local historian Vincent Brogan has been campaigning to save the Governor’s House: “The Council do not have an historic structure of this type in Omagh or Enniskillen and it would add to the heritage of the district. So much of Omagh’s heritage has been lost over the years, so it would be great to see this property being purchased and developed for future generations. It’s vital to the rejuvenation of Omagh that no more of our historic buildings should be allowed to crumble and disappear. There is an immense opportunity to change the aspect of the town when St Lucia Barracks are developed and the Governor’s House will be an even more strategic proposition when this inevitably happens.”

The adjacent St Lucia’s Army Barracks were built for the Royal Inniskilling Fusilier Regiment to the design of architect James Butler in 1881. Unlike their neighbour, while the barracks may be vacant, the sturdy two and three storey limestone buildings are still intact. St Lucia’s Barracks cost £40,000 to build (according to The Tyrone Constitution, 16 December 1881); the Governor’s House is currently for sale for £40,000. Further north of Omagh, Ebrington Barracks on the banks of the River Foyle have been brilliantly upgraded and edited as a mixed use new urban quarter of Derry City.

Architecture Developers Town Houses

Campanile + Barden Towers Belfast

Twin Peaks

The traditional Italian campanile is a standalone structure, not integrated with the accompanying building, and reserved for its purpose of keeping bells. St Mark’s Campanile in Venice is the most famous: it is the belltower of the adjacent St Mark’s Basilica.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were together responsible for lots of fads that became fashions that became fixtures of national life, from Christmas trees to white wedding dresses. Their mid 19th century house on the Isle of Wight, Osborne House, remodelled (with a helping hand by Prince Albert) and rebuilt by the developer Thomas Cubitt, launched an architectural craze. The residential campanile. Osborne House has two such vertical features. Soon, campaniles were springing up on houses everywhere across the British Isles. “The top floors were sometimes used to house water tanks,” explains heritage architect John O’Connell.

Belfast has a handful of striking examples. In the north of the city, campaniles dramatically rise above the side elevations of a pair of semi-detached villas on Donegall Park Avenue. In the east of the city, twin campaniles are attached to the front elevations of a pair of semi-detached houses on Belmont Road named Barden Towers.

Completed in 1895, Barden Towers are typical red brick bay windowed suburban Belfast houses of the larger kind but the campaniles with their terracotta trimmings give them a novel twist. These belvederes each contain a square ground floor vestibule with a corresponding room on the two storeys above. The upper floor tower rooms are lit on three sides by generously sized sash windows. Daylight streams into one of the bedrooms like Edward Hopper’s painting ‘Sun in an Empty Room’.

Built decades after their Osborne House inspiration and centuries after their Italian forerunners, the campaniles of Belfast are shining examples of an architectural feature adapted in terms of material and function to a different climate, country and culture.

Architects Architecture Art Design Developers Luxury People Town Houses

Musée Jacquemart-André Paris + Giovanni Bellini

Forever Adding to the Body of Knowledge

Bellini isn’t just a tipple, y’know. An exhibition in the museum’s modern gallery on the artist Giovanni Bellini (circa 1430 to 1516) of depictions of Christ resonates with meaning on Good Friday. White faced depictions of the olive skinned Nazarene. Sainte Justine Borromée painted in around 1475, a dagger forever thrust through her heart. A cobblestoned carriageway leads from Boulevard Haussmann up and round to the entrance portico which overlooks the most private of urban gardens. Soon you are in another world of glamour and sophistication and mirrored brilliance. Even by Parisian standards, Musée Jacquemart-André is astonishingly beautiful. And it unarguably has the best porphyry columned staircase in the French capital. Or at least the most aristocratically idiosyncratic.

We’re connoisseurs of mad staircases. Mourne Park in Kilkeel, County Down: parallel flights of fancy leading each and every way, overlooked by 13 Persian cats. Lissan House in Cookstown, County Tyrone, with its estate carpenter-built stairs ascending and descending in all directions, getting in trouble for calling it “eccentric” (then owner Hazel Dolling took it as a slight about her). Musée Jacquemart-André is a new well deserved entrant into our genre. An intricate three dimensional jigsaw of galleries and suspended catwalks is visually doubled by a mirrored wall.

Museum Chairman Bruno Monnier explains, “We want visitors to feel like the honoured guests of the two art lovers that were the spouses Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart. That is why we have done all we can to preserve the original atmosphere of this sumptuous 19th century mansion. Works from the Italian Renaissance, French painting from the 18th century, 17th century Flemish painting and an array of furniture all bear witness to the refined taste of the two founders.”

Édouard André (1833 to 1894) was the scion of a rich Protestant banking family from Nîmes. The Banque André was powerful in the economy of the Second Empire and Édouard moved in the circle of Napoléon III. A short lived political career ended with the abdication of Napoléon III and the fall of the Second Empire. In 1872 he chose to devote the remainder of his life to his true vocation, that of collector and patron of the arts. Édouard’s wife, Nélie Jacquemart (1841 to 1912), was a society painter.

In 1868 Édouard bought a plot of land along the future Boulevard Haussmann. Henri Parent (1819 to 1895), architect par excellence d’hôtels particulier, resurrected the Louis XVI style for his gleaming masterwork. Édouard and British collector Richard Wallace were both members of the Union Centrale des Arts Appliqués à l’Industrie. Richard opened his house museum in London, The Wallace Collection, in 1900. Musée Jacquemart-André would open 13 years later as bequeathed by the widow Nélie in accordance with her late husband’s wishes. Both cultural attractions still brim with the personalities of their founders.

Henri brought the best craftsmen and Nélie managed the designers, contractors and suppliers. The married pair of patrons holidayed in Italy every year, bringing back trinkets and souvenirs, not least the Staircase Hall frescoes from a villa in the Veneto. The Staircase Hall flows into a Winter Garden – the latter was all the rage in the late 19th century following the invention of central heating. It was Nélie’s idea to transform the empty rooms of the first floor into an Italian museum. The pieces are like a roll call of la crème de la crème artists down the ages and across the borders: Sandro Botticelli, Giovanni Canaletto, Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds … The ‘salons de style’ filling the ground floor are made for entertaining. The double height Music Room allows for a musicians’ gallery. In contrast, the Private Apartments, bedroom suites for Édouard and Nélie, are discreetly located facing away from Boulevard Haussmann.

A Protestant people’s palace. So handy too. Musée Jacquemart-André is just five minutes from Gare du Nord (on the back of a motorbike). It’s time to sip a Bellini in the garden.

Art Design Restaurants Town Houses

Montmartre + ADN Brasserie Paris

All Over Again For You

Finding a good vegetarian brasserie in Paris isn’t easy; coming across one by accident is pure serendipity. Descending one of the precipitous flights of steps from the gleaming limestone Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, we spot and enter ADN. It takes up the ground floor and basement of a five storey building on the corner of Rue Muller and Rue Feutrier. The white and windowed interior of the dining space is simplicity itself; in contrast the bathroom is a dark Aladdin’s cave of music memorabilia. Black walls and mirrored ceilings frame and reflect record sleeves from the likes of Édith Piaf and Ennio Morricone. Deux entrées – l’arincini, sauce tomate and oeufs, mayonnaise au curry – are the perfect pitstop snack for our climb halfway down the hill of Montmartre. ADN stands for, “Comme à la maison … all we do is natural.”

Architecture Art Design Developers People Town Houses

Avenue Foch Paris +

City of Gas Light

All 12 routes radiating from l’Arc de Triomphe ooze breathtaking elegance and Avenue Foch is no exception. Champs Elysée might be better known, but Avenue Foch is even more exclusive. One of the most expensive addresses in the world, it’s lined with palaces and embassies and blocks of patialial apartments. Never mind keeping up with the Joneses: you have to worry about what the Rothschild and Onassis families are up to you if you reside on Avenue Foch. Prime 19th and 20th century real estate overlooks two strips of parkland running along either side of the road – this is the widest avenue in Paris. Developed by Napoléon III, it was renamed in 1929 after World War I Marshal Ferdinand Foch. There’s a sculpture of the Marshal atop a horse plonked outside the green triangle opposite Victoria Station London. In case you are wondering, “Foch” rhymes with “oh my gosh”.

Architects Architecture Art Design Developers Hotels Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

Paris + Literature

The Myth of Normal

Like Colette, we prefer passion to goodness. The great French novelist purrs in The Cat (1933), “The June evening, drenched with light, was reluctant to give way to darkness.” And, “June came with its longer days, its night skies devoid of mystery which the late glow of the sunset and the early glimmer of dawn over the east of Paris kept from being wholly dark.” She too was a lover of “The giddy horizons of Paris.”

Writer and poet Charles Baudelaire caused quite the stir in 1857 with his risqué poem collection Les Fleurs du Mal. One of the tamer pieces is The Swan. Roy Campbell translated it into English in 1952, including the line, “Old Paris is no more (cities renew, quicker than human hearts, their changing spell).” Two years later, William Aggeler also translated it. His version includes, “Paris changes! But naught in my melancholy, Has stirred! New palaces, scaffolding, blocks of stone, Old quarters, all become for me an allegory, And my dear memories are heavier than rocks.” All those Haussmannian boulevards must have seemed so sharply new.

Nancy Mitford, as always, is right. In Don’t Tell Alfred (1960), the Francophile novelist continues, “… past acres of houses exactly as Voltaire, as Balzac, must have seen them, of that colour between beige and grey so characteristic of the Île de France, with high slate roofs and lacy ironwork balconies. Though the outside of these houses have a homogeneity which makes an architectural unit of each street, a glimpse through their great decorated doorways into the courtyards reveals a wealth of difference within. Some are planned on a large and airy scale and have fine staircases and windows surmounted by smiling masks, some are so narrow and dark and mysterious, so overbuilt through the centuries with such ancient, sinister rabbit-runs leading out of them, that it is hard to imagine a citizen of the modern world inhabiting them.”

Frédéric Dassas, Senior Curator Musée du Louvre, told us at the Remembering Napoléon III Dinner in Camden Place, Chislehurst, Kent, “Walk through Paris with open eyes. We still have Paris in Europe!” We will. We do. We’re full of passion for this city. Especially riding through Paris with the wind in our hair. On the back of a motorbike, weaving through rush hour traffic, speeding down narrow streets, zooming round the uninsurable l’Arc de Triomphe roadway, this is life in the fast lane and the overtaking one too. Sporting Mary Martin London and Isabel Marant of course. Selina Hastings writes in her biography of Nancy Mitford (2002), “She found in beautiful Paris happiness of spirit …” Soon we will be deuxième étage living it up. We’re not always good but we’re always passionate.

Then there’s the Manifestation! We head up Montmartre for a hawk’s eye view of Montparnasse. Sacré Coeur.

Art Town Houses

Paris + Good Friday

Dominus Flevit

Architects Architecture Developers People Town Houses

North Great George’s Street Dublin +

Say More Things

Dublin is so rich in neoclassical Georgian architecture, overblown and exuberant in its ‘costly magnificence’. The American Federal style was also inspired by the richness of the Irish interior architecture and the boldness of its 18th century furniture. Many fine examples can be found on the East Coast from Boston to Philadelphia.” American art collector and international tastemaker Charles Plante lives and works on either side of the Atlantic.

North Great George’s Street, north of the River Liffey in Dublin, is all about overblown scale architecture and exuberant interior plasterwork. And the owners of the houses would agree it costs a lot to look this magnificent. Since the 1970s, this street has boasted a remarkable group of owners, not least Ireland’s foremost heritage architect John O’Connell. Former Chairman of the Irish bookshop chain Eason and conservationist Harold Clarke lived on the street from the 1960s until the 1980s. The distinguished antiques dealer Willie Dillon was his neighbour at that time.

Thomas McKeown, Chairman of The North Great George’s Street Preservation Society, lives on the street with his wife Adelaide. “In 1767 Sarah Archdall began selling sites to individuals who wanted to build houses on what was then the Mount Eccles Estate. Building started shortly afterwards and North Great George’s Street was essentially completed by about 1800. Then came the Act of Union in 1801 and the relocation of the centre of fashion to the proximity of Leinster House marked the beginning of a slow decline. Indeed, by the early 1900s a group calling themselves the ‘Georgian Society’ was formed to make a historic record of the fine buildings that were apparently already doomed to destruction. This was prophetic and many of the buildings that are documented in their work have long since disappeared.”

“By the beginning of the 20th century a large part of the street was already in multi family tenements and by the mid 1960s some of the houses had been demolished. At this time there was also an increased awareness of the inherent value of our Georgian heritage. On North Great George’s Street, fine houses, needing major restoration, were available for the price of a suburban semi detached. This was recognised by a number of starry eyed individuals who saw the chance to live in a great house – this prize came at the price of much effort, often in the face of official indifference.”

“The result – appreciated by more and more people – is there to see and would probably not have succeeded if a group had not joined forces to form The North Great George’s Street Preservation Society. One of our main objectives has been to have the street designated an Architectural Conservation Area by Dublin City Council. This would prevent excessive development, particularly of the mews lanes. The reinstatement of damaged pavements and the removal of utility wires and cables on the façades is another.”

“The houses on the street are not going to revert to single family homes any time soon, but hopefully there will be a mix of good quality apartments with a limited commercial element that will maintain the vibrancy that has made it the best place in the city centre to live. The Society will continue to strive to attain these objectives and above all preserve the integrity of the street’s great architecture.”

Senator David Norris, renowned James Joyce authority, bought his house in 1978. “What initially attracted me to purchasing a Georgian house was the sense of space and the way in which light poured in through the great windows. I adore the 18th century plasterwork which decorates some of the ceilings. On top of all this, North Great George’s Street is smack bang in the middle of the city. Along the way I suppose the greatest challenge has been finance. In the beginning none of us had any great deal of money and that is when the Society proved a great support. The other thing was finding appropriate craftsmen who were capable of dealing with an 18th century building.”

Architect John Hanley and sculptor John Aboud bought their house in 1987. “Over the next 30 years we gradually turned the house around. We have always enjoyed living here, even in the early years when winter gales would sweep through the rooms. The space and the light, together with the decorative details and the views to the garden, are a constant source of pleasure. The street itself, rising in stately terraces towards Belvedere House, is a magnificent backdrop to our everyday life. And of equal importance is the fact that here we have a close knit village in the midst of the city, where we are surrounded by neighbours and friends who share our pleasure in living here, and our commitment to its future.” The North Great George’s Street Preservation Society celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019.