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The Spell + Roupell Street London

A Street Named Desire

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Aerials View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Gazing at a house on Roupell Street, any house, lucky number seven, luckless number 13, before a visit to The King’s Arms (crammed Monday to Friday; only the fireside cat for company at the weekend), after a visit to The King’s Arms, summer and smoke, makes us think of that part in Alan Hollingsworth’s novel The Spell when, in the grips of his first ecstasy experience, Robin Woodfield realises why house music is so called: “Because you want to live in it.” Or there’s the picture of a house in the photographic journal Camera Lucida which Roland Barthes captions, simply and perfectly, “I want to live there.” It’s a shortcut to The Cut; thespians acting at the Old Vic, acting up at the New Vic.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Chimneys © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A grid, a toast rack, a tightknit urban grain, a bacchanalian bout of Augustan nostalgia, a traditional survival in an otherwise redeveloped postcode. Roupell Street runs parallel with both Theed Street and Whittlesey Street to the north and Brad Street to the south – all traversed by Windmill Walk. The early 19th century terraced houses, once unremarkable by their compact ubiquity, now listed for their intact rarity, a lesson in brick for planners and architects and citizens. The original artisan workers have long gone, replaced by harrumphing gazumping bankers, boorish bourgeoning bourgeois, collars swapped from blue to white. Modest houses bought with immodest bonuses. All too apropos, the property developer Mr Roupell moonlighted as a gold refiner.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Gables © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Ian Nairn where else but in Nairn’s London wrote: “Here is true architectural purity… nothing but yellow London brick and unselfconscious self respect. Whittlesey Street is… two storeys made into three with a blind attic window concealing a monopitch roof of pantiles. Roupell Street answers with a wavy pattern. On one level there is no finer architectural effect in London.” Stock brick darkened by soot over the passage of time, closer in colour now to the Welsh roof slates – accidental homogeneity. Originally the frames of the timber sash windows holding mouth blown hand spun glass would’ve been painted black; they’re all white now. Solid to void relationships are perpendicularly predictable, correctly so. A pleasing wallage to window is maintained.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Bollards © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Terrace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Wittlesey Street © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Theed Street © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Flank © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Shopfront © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London House © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Who says repetition is monotonous? Who says repetition is monotonous? It creates rhythm. And order. Strength and safety in numbers, arithmetical progression. Ah… the terrace. That arrangement of buildings enjoying continuity intimacy, expressing conscious couplings by the noblest concepts of civic design. The two bay houses of Roupell Street coincidentally correspond to the height and width of the arches of the massive railway viaduct which ponderously plods its elephantine progress across this patch, carrying wistful commuters longing to live in this coveted corner of SE1. Each house has a butterfly roof with two pitches nosediving into a central valley gutter that drains to the rear. The gables on the grander three bay Theed Street and Whittlesey Street houses are hidden behind one continuous high, no make that very high, stone coped parapet with three blind mice windows. Mono pitched roofs descend into cat-on-a-hot-tin-slide returns.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Yard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Character is derived from uniformity and regularity of appearance. Regimented form contributes to cohesive sense of place, place having lost its definite article. Come closer. Character is also derived from the quiet details. Draw nearer. Stucco cornices and pediments, arches over openings, half moon fanlights, iron knockers, tall chimneys holding slender pots shrouded in a spider’s web of aerials, striped bollards guarding granite kerbs like Lilliputian lighthouses.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Door © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The period of domestic architecture from which of all others we have most to learn is the Georgian,” ponders Trystan Edwards in his textbook Architectural Style. “The essential modernity of the Georgian style should be widely recognised. If we do not derive full benefits from this tradition, the failure will certainly be justified by the extremely disputable suggestion that such a manner of building is unsuitable to our present social circumstances. Its reliance on the virtue and dignity of proportions only, and its rare bursts of exquisite detail, all expressed as no other style has done, that indifference to self advertisement, that quiet assumption of our own worth, and that sudden vein of lyric affection, which have given us our part in civilisation.” Houses built to last. Roupell Street – so Georgian; so English; so reticent, gentlemanly and polite; abstracted; understated classical authority; so not suburban; so not Poundbury; so real. Hark, it’s the architecture’s Camino Way to Santa Barbara.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Bootscraper © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Architects Architecture Country Houses Hotels Luxury People

Rathmullan House + The Tap Room Donegal

Aalto Pitch | Lucid Camera | A Play on Words | Studium et Punctum

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“The Photograph belongs to that class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying them both,” Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida.

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“Ireland is a staging point beyond Europe and the New World,” Professor Finola O’Kane of University College Dublin told us. Nowhere does it feel more so than in Donegal. A place of wild geese: the constant iterative of land carries a long shadow. A depth of field. Like its distant neighbour Castle Grove, Rathmullan House has been a hotel for more than half a century now. The house was originally built in the 1760s by the Anglo Irish Knox family (really Scots Irish as they hailed from Scotland but the term Anglo Irish is liberally applied to Plantation settlers). Anglo Irish: aristocrats | no portmanteau | universally accented | no translations. Rathmullan House later became the country retreat of a Belfast merchant family. The Batts doubled the size of the house in 1870.

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Its long Victorian stuccoed façade is anchored by a central canted bay window and one at either extremity. This proliferation of projections is rivalled only in the Province by Benvarden House in Ballymoney with its two bows and two canted bays. At Rathmullan House they act as framing devices, freezing the corrugated surface of Lough Swilly below the tattered theatre of a thundery sky mid afternoon. Honeycomb punctured vertical bargeboards peek out from the side elevation dormers, silhouetted against a sky turned powder blue. All changes again with the descent of a crimson tinged sunset: bloody inland.

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“Every photograph is a certificate of presence.” Roland Barthes

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An enfilade of five antique filled commodious yet intimate rooms stretches across the façade. “Almost all the furniture was auctioned when the Batts sold the house. There are just two original items. My grandmother bought the tub chair and the painting of Charlotte Sarah Batt was bought by a lady who discovered it was too big for her home so returned it to Rathmullan House!” says Mark Wheeler who runs the hotel with his wife Mary. “Henry McIlHenny bought much of the furniture for Glenveagh Castle.” Luscious plasterwork, some polychromatic, adds richness to the rooms.

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In 1966 the first generation of the current hotel owners, Mark’s parents, employed the architect Liam McCormick to add a dining room extension with tented ceilings. “Liam was a great sailor,” explains Mark, “and the ceilings are hung with the silk used for yacht sails. Their shape was inspired by the Indian arches in the Rajah Room.” The dining room is formed of interlocking octagons, pagoda-like structures taking the Victorian chamfered bays to their logical geometric conclusion. “The hotel is a popular wedding venue for architecture students,” smiles Mark, “ever since Liam McCormick’s Burt Church won building of the year!” He also designed a smattering of cuboid holiday pavilions in the wooded grounds.

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Such is the Photograph: it cannot say what it lets us see.” Roland Barthes

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Rathmullan House was a departure from his oeuvre. Before his death in 1992, Liam would complete 27 churches in Ireland. Each is recognisably by his hand: with one sweep he felled the cluttered gothic norm with a spare modernist form. Abstraction wasn’t Dr McCormick’s primary goal, “I wouldn’t say it’s studied. My resolution of problems tends to have a sculptural end. I grew up in a physically dramatic countryside; this sort of background inevitably comes into play when I design, and the churches have nearly all been in a rural setting.” The stark white shapes are as integrated into the Donegal vernacular as whitewashed cottages, their outlines as distinctive as Muckish Mountain. The closest of Liam’s seven Donegal churches to Rathmullan are Donoughmore Presbyterian to the south and St Peter’s Milford Catholic to the west.

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Enough waxing lyrical taxing diction. Pizza awaits us in the vaults of Rathmullan House. A stone oven baked base piled high with wild and exotic mushrooms, fior di latte mozzarella, marinated friarielli, garlic, parsley and aged Pecorino to be precise. And then a moonlit walk along the two mile beach at the end of the garden. A rare curlew’s forlorn and faintly human sound assumes an eerie resonance across the still sand. The freedom of the country, far away from the London vertigo.

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“Whatever it grants to vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible: it is not it that we see.” Roland Barthes.

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Luxury Restaurants

Heron Tower + Duck + Waffle Restaurant London

Windows on the World

1 Heron Tower Duck + Waffle © lvbmag.com Stuart Blakley

As its name suggests, Duck + Waffle isn’t the most glaringly obvious choice for a chronic coeliac, devout vegan and puritanical pescatarian. But then this restaurant puts the extra in front of ordinary. A high speed glass lift swoops customers like a ravenous transparent vulture from street level up 40 storeys in sixteen seconds of ear popping heart stopping stomach churning vertigo inducing awe inspiring spirit lifting butt clenching knicker bocker glory.

2 Heron Tower Duck + Waffle © lvbmag.com Stuart Blakley

The view from our table reminds us of Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida. “The Photograph belongs to that class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying both: the windowpane and the landscape.” The great indoors and great outdoors as one. Filling the foreground is the sharp grey homogeneous city, all metallic silver angles and bottle green glass shapes. A morning mist lingers over the blurred strange hinterland beyond, merging with the hazy blue sky toward an uncertain horizon. The tip of the glacial Gherkin is our neighbour. West Coast Cooling.

3 Heron Tower Duck + Waffle © lvbmag.com Stuart Blakley

4 Heron Tower Duck + Waffle © lvbmag.com Stuart Blakley

Under a sea of yellow waves billowing across the ceiling, rough luxe, loud music and smooth service collide. Classic comfort dishes originally styled, it’s the sort of place does all day breakfast. Duck egg en cocotte it is then, a soft delight of wild mushroom strips, truffle and Gruyère with soldiers standing to attention. Essex beets and goats’ curd to follow, nuts giving it crunch. Hash browns and sourdough bread and elderflower cocktails please. Lunch ends on a high, well it would, with cinnamon sorbet.

Duck + Waffle Hash Brown © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com