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Carlingford Louth + Fergus Flynn Rogers

The Four Deep

Esteemed architect Fergus Flynn Rogers more or less single handledly turned around Carlingford back in the day. Everywhere you look in the village there’s one of his motifs: a plate glassed Diocletian window here; a sky high metal framed corridor there. He possesses a crucial and unnerving handling of materiality, at once immediate and sympathetic. Between Carlingford and Newry lies the village of Omeath.

Former resident artist Anne Davey Orr explains, “Omeath was the last Irish speaking area on the east coast. It was where people from Falls Road Belfast came for their summer holidays – hence the caravan parks.” Meanwhile, lucky roadside donkeys chomp on apples from a Ballyfin goody bag.

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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

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Masterpiece London Preview 2015 + The Wallace Collection

Total Eclipse of the Art

Adam by Richard Hudson @ Leila Heller Gallery MPL15 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It was as if Elizabeth Bowen was in Masterpiece London and not The House in Paris: “Heaven – call it heaven; on the plane of potential not merely likely behaviour. Or call it art, with truth and imagination informing every word.” Now in its sixth year, Lavender’s Blue have covered the last four but as Liz B declared, “Any year of one’s life has got to be lived.” Red carpet Dysoned, #MPL2015 has arrived. The greatest show on earth is back in town. Millennia of masterpieces filling a groundscraper marquee (12,500 square metres), a pneumatic Royal Hospital Chelsea, full blown Wrenaissance, Quinlan Merry, painted canvas under printed canvas. Arts and antiques gone glamping. Something to tweet home about lolz. An upper case Seasonal fixture and celebration of unabashed luxury. Masterpiece is truly the cultural epicurean epicentre of civilisation, from now (Grayson Perry’s Map of Days at Offer Waterman) to antiquity (Head of a Young Libyan AD 200 at Valerio Turchi).

Eamonn Holmes MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Everyone’s here at the preview party, the upper aristocracy and upper meritocracy of globalisation chic to chic. Royalty with their heirs and airs, gentry with their seats and furniture, oligarchs with their bodyguards’ bodyguards, Anglo Irish with their Lords and Lourdes, nouveau riche with their Youghal to Youghal carpet, celebrities with their baggage and baggage, Londoners with their Capital and capital. And a very bubbly Eamonn Holmes. Stop people watching. Stare at the felicitous ambiguity of Geer van Velde. Wonder at the dense opaque impasto of Freud. Gaze at the transparent golden glaze of Monet. Study the descriptive precision of Zoffany. Blog about the parallel lines of Bridget Riley. Instagram a selfie beside The Socialite, Andy Warhol’s portrait of New York realtor Olga Berde Mahl shyly making her first ever public showing courtesy of Long-Sharp Gallery. Better late than never.

Tomasso Brothers Dionysius Bust MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“If you think about it the clue is in the name,” muses artist Anne Davey Orr. “Masterpiece – a creation that is considered the greatest work of a career, or any work of outstanding creativity and skill. And Masterpiece is certainly the best in its field. From the faux façades to the faux colonnades, and the exotic festoons by Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart, Masterpiece exudes a professionalism which avoids the tackiness that sometimes attaches to other art fairs. The accompanying directory of 300 high end galleries alone, contents apart, sets it in a league of its own.”

Steinway Fibonacci MPL2015 @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Newly introduced Cultural Partners such as the Wallace Collection lend added weight to #MPL2015. Every discipline in the design art market is represented. The reflection is so perfect in Edouard Lièvre’s rosewood mirror in Didier Aaron. Hot on the jewel encrusted heels of Wartski is a cool £22 million Bling Ring’s worth of rubies and diamonds at Van Cleef and Arpels. “It’s hard to find rubies over five carats,” notes PR Joan Walls. “The Vermillon earrings are 13.33 and 13.83 carats. Their pigeon blood red colour is so rare, so wonderful. They’ve pure consistency with very few inclusions. The Vermillon earrings are underscored by corollas of pear shaped marquise cut diamonds.”

Another Masterpiece first is a piano. Cue Steinway and Son’s 600,000th instrument The Fibonacci designed and handcrafted by Frank Pollaro. Random renditions of Für Elise aren’t recommended. Sipping Ruinart and devouring pea and mint canapés while chatting to Stephen Millikin is. “Fibonacci is a geometric representation of the golden ratio. It’s found in nature and art, brought together in this piano,” Stephen explains. He’s Senior Director of Global Public Relations at Steinway and Sons, based at 1155 Avenue of the Americas, New York. “The piano is made from six logs of Macassar Ebony. A Fibonacci spiral is inset in the veneer. This motif resonated with Frank Pollaro.” At £1.85 million it’s not going for a song but nor should it. The Fibonacci was four years in the making from concept to completion. Maths star piece.

Vaulted boulevards of dreams, deep white fissures, lead to panoplies of intense colour. Galerie Chenel’s Pompeiian red, empire yellow and lavender’s blue niches fade to black in the shadows of exquisite statuary. There is no vanilla at Masterpiece. Lacroix clad Lady Henrietta Rous and Suzanne Von Pflugl rock up to Scott’s (Mount Street has decamped from Mayfair to Chelsea for the week). The conversation is fashion houses and fashionable houses. “I’m wearing my Ascot hat!” proclaims Lady Henrietta. “I tried on all the hats on King’s Road! Ossie Clarke was a good friend. I edited his diaries.” Annabel P recognises mention of Suzanne’s childhood home now lived in by her brother, Milton Manor House. “It’s perfect for weddings. At the last one Henrietta was still going strong on the dancefloor at 2am!” jokes Suzanne. “It was the vintage music!” blames Lady Henrietta.

Brun Fine Art MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Tamarisks flying past the rainy windows were some dream,” imagined Elizabeth Bowen, “not your own, a dream you have heard described.” Carriages; horses for courses. All aboard golf buggies to vacate the Royal Hospital estate. Not so bound the Honourable Mrs Gerald Legge, Countess of Dartmouth, Comtesse de Chambrun Viscountess Lewisham, Viscountess Spencer. A Rolls Royce pulls up and Raine slides into the back seat. Blacked out windows slide up, no time for a Snapchat. And so, the chimerical layering vision that is Masterpiece London, so emblematic of a progressive spirit, is over for another year. Here’s to #MPL2016.

Lady Henrietta Rous @ MPL15 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Anne Davey Orr @ Lavender's Blue