Architecture Art People

Two Temple Place London + Sussex Modernism

 Retreat and Rebellion


“It’s a virtue of the venue,” affirms Dr Hope Wolf. “There should be friction between an exhibition and its setting.” A lecturer at the University of Sussex, Dr Wolf is the curator of a major London exhibition on Sussex Modernism. It explores two questions. Why were radical artists and writers drawn to rural Sussex in the first half of the 20th century? Why was their artistic innovation accompanied by domestic, sexual and political experimentation?


That venue. Now owned by The Bulldog Trust, Two Temple Place is an extraordinary neo Gothic mansion nestling next to Victoria Embankment. Its tip to toe carvings and coloured glass form quite a backdrop to, say, the De La Warr Pavilion architectural model. “It’s mostly a contrast but sometimes there’s less than you think,” she points out. “The Victorian emphasis on arts and crafts is a connection that runs through to Eric Gill’s work.” What a brilliant juxtaposition in the staircase hall though: three musketeers atop newels gazing down on Salvador Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa!


“Designed by John Loughborough Pearson to satisfy William Waldorf Astor’s fantasies, Two Temple Place is something of a dream house. But his vision is demure when compared with the explicitly sexual imagery on display.” The curator acknowledges this tension in her choice of first exhibit. It’s a marble mini coffer decorated with an eroticised nude and filled with poems by the likes of Ezra Pound. In 1914 he and five other young poets presented to the Sussex writer Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, whom Ezra called “the last of the great Victorians”. The admiration wasn’t mutual. “Wilfrid was a traditionalist. He hated the artwork and poems,” says Dr Wolf. “He kept the coffer but positioned it facing a wall to hide the nude.”

Retreat and Rebellion is a multimedia exhibition. While Dr Wolf lectures on British Modernist Literature and is a Director of the Centre for Modernist Studies, she has a background in history. “The University of Sussex takes a multidisciplinary approach to learning. This exhibition was a chance to include literature and music as well as art. There’s lots of media in the upstairs gallery but all the artists – Serge Chermayeff, László Moholy-Nagy, Henry Moore, John Piper and Eric Ravilious – actually knew each other.”


Those questions. This exhibition argues that a rural retreat provided an escape from the metropolis to explore alternative living. It illustrates how the regional setting both amplified the artists’ and writers’ contrary energies and facilitated their attempts to live and represent the world differently.


Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

l’Écrivain Restaurant + Baggot Street Dublin

We Used to Meet on Baggot Street Beside the Old Hotel

Baggot Street Arch @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A Michelin starred restaurant named after the French word for ‘The Writer’ is an appropriate choice to hook up with a widely published philosopher. Excuse us! This isn’t a mere tête-à-tête à Terre à Terre. More like the geniuses of the place as a widely acclaimed architect joins us for lunch. Trois grand fromages. l’Écrivain has been on the go for 26 years which in hospitality terms isn’t so much a lifetime as multigenerational (pop ups are so last decade). We enter through an arch, darkly, past a mews bush, and into an oasis of light tranquillity off Baggot Street Lower.

The 16A would pull away and leave that diesel smell | And you’d be standing there by that Baggot Street hotel

Georgian Dublin © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

This street is a glorious survival of 18th century Dublin. It has a special architectural coherence. It is not a planned façade, yet is an architectural entity. It is not merely one damned house after another. Rhythm, proportion, balance, joy. These erections aren’t dripping in pearl necklace string courses; they’re grounded by crown jewel doorcases. Shorn of extravagance, the calm brick elevations contrast with the vitality exploding around each panelled entrance door. The grid is only broken by these regular interruptions of semi rotundity on the piano nobile above the areas. Georgian architecture. Has it been surpassed? No. Does it stand the developer’s value engineering test? Yes. Are we being didactic? Never.

And then that day we made our way down by the Liffeyside | In a bar we had a jar and watched the rain outside

Like London’s Chez Bruce, chef Derry Clarke is still the patron managing a team of chefs rather than a chain figurehead. That hasn’t stopped him penning two bestselling cookbooks and becoming a judge on Irish reality TV series Fáilte Towers (no, seriously). His wife Sallyanne manages front of house. After a sparkling (wine, conversation and sequins) reception in the ground floor bar we ascend to the first floor dining room. It’s a barn-like space for uncluttered minds to while away languid afternoons on banquettes and soft chairs. A Knuttel painting fills the gable end. Geometric glass panels – Mackintosh, Mondrian, Modigliani, Moholy-Nagy mash – diffuse the lavender glow of an early Celtic twilight.

We finished up our pints and we paid the barman’s bill | Walked back up the Liffey in the silence and the chill

Two pan seared scallops with smoked celeriac and pickled samphire (€11.50). Hake with glazed parsnips, velouté of cep mushrooms and salted grapes (€22.50). St Tola goat’s cheese mousse with rye crostini, figs, candied macadamia nuts, aged red wine vinegar and honey dressing (€8.75). Dark chocolate violet and blueberry macaroons (prodigal). Form and content at one: looks good, tastes good. Franco Irish feel good factor on a plate. l’Écrivain – it’s somewhere to write home about.

But still at times when I lie down I’ll dream and start to dance | With the long-gone ghost of Baggot Street | And an echo of romance

l'Ecrivain Restaurant Dublin © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley