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Zaha Hadid Architects + Modern Art Museum Shanghai

The World From An Aeroplane Known

The only club you’ll find these days on Upper Street is the sandwich variety but what Islington lacks in nightlife it more than makes up for with the daytime artisanal individuality that’s packed into Camden Passage. This pedestrianised paradise may be parallel with Upper Street but that’s where the connection ends: the only chain you’ll find on Camden Passage is a handmade piece of jewellery. The Segal family run restaurant Frederick’s has graced Camden Passage for more than half a century. Its spacious light filled contemporary interior, lending regularity of form to fitness of function, comes as a revelation after the decorative three bay Victorian street front.

We’re here for lunch and a launch in the private dining room which opens onto an anticipatory strip of lawn. “This is our first event out for a year!” welcomes Patrik Schumacher, Principal, Zaha Hadid Architects. “We’ve gathered some friends to celebrate with us the remote opening of ‘ZHA Close Up – Work and Research’, Zaha Hadid Architects’ first exhibition in mainland China. We got our first professional breaks in China – we’ve so many projects there now.” During a Le Chêne Marchand Sancerre reception we’re treated to a live screening of the sell out exhibition at the Modern Art Museum Shanghai.

“The Chinese are just loving Zaha Hadid Architects’ work,” promises Shai Baitel, Artistic Director, MAM Shanghai. “This exhibition shows how it is global and timeless. The work is never compromising, always creating a new language. Today’s dessert is inspired by Zaha Hadid: geometric shaped pastries brushed with a very bitter Iraqi oil!” He proclaims, “Multisensory is all good!” as we receive a spray of Zaha’s fragrance.

Zaha continually pushed forward; she was always evolving,” Shai summarises. “Geography versus movement translates into this scent. It contains Indian and Saudi oud; the mixologist is French; and it is made in Italy. Zaha was enigmatic: she was very feminine but never married. This fragrance is genderless.” And what fills the air is an abstract fifth dimension built upon organisation and articulation; organised articulation; articulated organisation.Órla Constant has flown in from Lady Kitty Spencer’s wedding to join our table. “Kitty wore three wedding dresses on the day: all Dolce + Gabbana. She was like a sublime Cinderella!” As for Zaha: “I was so privileged to have met her. She’s left such a legacy.” Órla is Relationship Director of Centrepoint. “Prince William chose us as his first charity. He’s very emphatically linked to us and the young people. He’s an amazing ambassador. We’re really out there as a charity!”

Zaha Hadid Architects Director Woody Yao also joins our table. He’s back from the 10th anniversary of the opening of Roca Showroom in Imperial Wharf which he designed with fellow Director Maha Kutay. That opening party seems like a hot minute ago. “I joined Zaha’s practice in 1994,” Woody relates. “She was one of the most genius architects of all time. The way we move around is all about Zaha genius. She stuck to her authentic voice. Zaha inspired generations of architects. She’s in our DNA! Technology changes; so does the way we do drawings but we carry that same spirit. We’re more like a movement than a style.”

“Architecture frames social interaction,” writes Patrik in his 2012 Volume II The Autopoiesis of Architecture. “The design environment matters: it frames all interactions. Only on the basis of the designed environment as complex systems of frames can society be reproduced on the level of complexity it has attained.” One chapter is titled “World Architecture within World Society”. Today is a global adventure: the world from a virtual aeroplane known.  Everywhere outside Frederick’s­­­, floodlights rake the sky.

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Architecture Luxury People Restaurants

Irish Georgian Society London + Forman + Field

St Patrick’s Celebration

It’s never held on the actual day to avoid clashes with myriad other invites. So this year once again the night after St Patrick’s Day the Irish Georgian Society celebrated in style with well delivered talks over well delivered dinner. Best known for seafood, Forman + Field came up trumps with the evening meal. Proving how diversified the company has become, the vegetarian option was Peter’s Yard crispbreads with field mushroom and tarragon pâté; vegetarian shepherd’s pie with courgette and pea salad; and apricot tarte tatin. Artisanal; traditional; delightful. As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would say, “Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!”

Lance Forman explained, “Forman + Field is a family business. We scour the British Isles for small scale producers and farmers who share our passion for doing things properly, with integrity and respect for natural ingredients. We’ve been around for almost 120 years so we know how to cure and smoke. We’re the original salmon smokers and the only smokehouse left from the generation that invented smoked salmon as a culinary luxury. Yes, here in London, not in Scotland or Scandinavia.”

Irish Georgian Society London Trustee Robert Jennings gave a lecture on the Society’s 2019 events. The first event discussed was a walking tour of the “reassuringly the same” Jermyn Street, St James’s. “Shops like Floris have been here for centuries,” he remarked. “Arriving in 1885, Turnbull and Asser is quite a newcomer. Made to measure shirts there start at £275. Next door, Paxton and Whitfield fromagerie is Irish Georgian Society heaven!” The annual 20 Ghost Club Tour (to the west of Ireland in 2019), combining vintage architecture with vintage cars and vintage wine, included a visit to a tin tabernacle. “We don’t just do grand houses.” There were of course still plenty of grand houses on the agenda including Lissadell in County Sligo. “It’s either bleak or pure depending on your point of view.”

Donough Cahill, Executive Director of the Irish Georgian Society, spoke next about education, scholarship, buildings at risk and conservation projects. He expressed dismay at the closure of the Georgian House Museum on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Street. “Will Dublin be the only Georgian city without its own Georgian house museum? Bath and Edinburgh both have their own.” A success story was the campaign to halt the demolition of the 18th century former Kildare Street Hotel. Irish Georgian Society London Chairman John Barber, Deputy Lieutenant of the London Borough of Newham, concluded the evening. He declared, “We’re all going to have another great year!” As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge might say, “Bíodh bliain iontach agaibh gach duine!”

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Architecture Country Houses

Holy Hill House Strabane Tyrone + Ballymena Castle

The Big White House | Relics of the Old Decency

Holy Hill House Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Holy (pronounced “Holly” as in Holywood, Country Down) Hill House is a Planter’s house of comfortable grandeur. Set in the wilds of Tyrone, its shining white walls are testimony to the efforts of Hamilton and Margaret Thompson. They purchased the estate in 1983. “My family were tenant farmers here with 20 acres, half of which was peat land,” Hamilton reminisces. “We bought the house along with 230 acres. But we didn’t want anyone overlooking us so we bought a few surrounding farms too!”

Holy Hill House Strabane © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The last in the line of the Sinclair family was Will Hugh Montgomery, High Sheriff of Tyrone,” says Hamilton. “He was a confirmed bachelor until he met Elizabeth Elliott, a doll from Philadelphia.” Will died in 1930 but Bessie continued to live here along until 1957. Bessie was a snob! She wanted to marry someone with a title and army rank and with Will she got both.” Upon her death in 1957 the estate was inherited by a Sinclair relation, General Sir Allen Henry Shafto Adair, who subsequently sold it to the Thompsons. Hamilton notes, “The Castle of Mey was a Sinclair property. They’d quite a few bob between them. One of their other former homes has been in the news lately: Anmer Hall, Prince William and Catherine’s home. Adair Arms in Ballymena is named after them.”

Holy Hill Front Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The very doghouses are listed!” he exclaims. A village of early 19th century limewashed rubble stone outbuildings embraces the rear elevation of the house. The laundry still has its mangle; tongue and groove panelling lines the coachman’s house; and the stable stalls are fully intact. A saw mill, forge with bellcote, byres and walled garden add to the complex. “I wanted to keep it as authentic as possible,” says Hamilton. “The estate would originally have been self sufficient. Years ago there weren’t any supermarkets!” Metal cockerel finials top the stone entrance piers to the courtyard.

Holy Hill House Bay Window © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Holy Hill House bears a passing resemblance to Springhill, the National Trust property in Tyrone. The harled front, a roughly symmetrical grouping of windows centring on the middle bay, slates on a secondary elevation, a Regency looking bay window and so on. But while Springhill is gable ended, the double pile hipped roof of Holy Hill swoops down from the chimneys to the eaves like a wide brimmed garden party hat. The roof contains one of Holy Hill’s hidden glories. More anon. Single bay screen wings topped by ball finials elongate the entrance front. A 1736 map by William Starratt in the library shows the main block of the house. So it’s at least early 18th century but the rear part likely dates from the previous century. Sir George Hamilton, brother of the Earl of Abercorn at Baronscourt, built a house here but it was destroyed in the 1641 Massacre of Ulster. Reverend John Sinclair then bought the estate in 1683 and the building he erected was to become the family seat for a quarter of a millennium. That is, save for a sojourn when the Sinclairs retreated behind the Walls of Derry during the Jacobite conflict.

Holy Hill House Side Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Holy Hill House Courtyard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The glazed entrance door set in a lugged sandstone architrave opens into the entrance hall which leads onto the three storey staircase hall. The Thompsons, though, use a more informal entrance through the left hand screen wing. Antlers and maids’ water cans hang from the white walls of this hallway. Above a sofa is the first of Holy Hill’s hidden glories. A stained glass window of great provenance. Over to Mr Thompson, “I found the 10 stained glass windows in a shed outside. They’re from Ballymena Castle, once home to the Adairs. When the castle was demolished in the 1950s, Sir Allen brought the windows with him to Holy Hill.” They are now installed throughout the house: some as external windows; others as internal doors. Each stained glass panel is a story board telling the history of the Adair family in their Ulster Scots context. A low ceilinged sitting room in the older part of the house is made even lower by a colossal timber beam. ‘Count Thy Work to God 1900 Everina Sculpsit.’ So engraved the evident carpenter and Latin scholar Miss Sinclair.

Holy Hill Outbuilding © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hamilton put back the separating wall between the entrance hall and drawing room. The ante room – “Ideal for a glass of sherry!” – is now the library. Delicate ceiling roses and cornicing have been reinstated where missing. “The entrance front faces east,” says Hamilton. “So we generally keep the window shutters pulled.” A new kitchen was installed in the former library at the back of the house. This allowed the basement Victorian kitchen to be retained as a museum piece. Clocks chime on the multiplicity of skyward landings on the 19th century staircase. Time doesn’t stand still, not even at Holy Hill. The dining room is pure magnificence. Crimson flock wallpaper; a higher ceiling; that bay window; and the dining table from Flixton Hall, another former Sinclair residence.

Holly Hill House Rear Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

And now for Holy Hill’s highest hidden glory. The front top floor bedrooms have extraordinarily high coving which swallows the roof space above. The top floor bedrooms to the rear have domes instead. As a result, on what would normally be the nursery floor is a lofty suite of cathedral guest rooms. “Adrian Carton de Wiart stayed here in the 1920s,” says Hamilton, pointing to a copy of Happy Odyssey by the author. “Mrs Sinclair liked entertaining. She had 15 staff. Five lived in the house.” Down to the ground floor. The lowest hidden glory is a Victorian loo. “The Sinclairs built a passageway to a privy,” smiles Hamilton, “so when nature called they didn’t have to run to the end of the garden.” Off said passageway, stone flagged steps lead to the rabbit warren of former servants’ quarters and cellars. “We’re seven feet underground,” says Hamilton in the billiard room, once a servants’ hall. The vegetable store has an earthen floor. “Bessie buried the family silver under here in case of a German invasion.”

Holly Hill House Ballymena Castle Stained Glass Window © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s been a sad year for country houses of Ireland. Dundarave, Glin Castle, Markree Castle and Mountainstown all sold for the first time in their history. Most of the contents of Bantry House and some of Russborough at risk. Not so Holy Hill House. It has never looked smarter, gleaming inside and out, even on a drizzly Ulster summer day. The big house stands tall and proud, surrounded by an apron of soft emerald banded lawn.

Holy Hill House Kitchen © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

John Sinclair was agent to the Earl of Abercorn. On 20 June 1758 he wrote, ‘Inclosed I send your Lordshipp an account of the halphe years rent due at May 1757 which I hope will please. William McIlroys I think I may get, but I fear Harris Hunter never will pay; about five weeks agoe he went to Scotland and is not yet returned; his mill is in bad repair. Gabriel Gamble is returned in arrear; he will not take a receipt for his halph year’s rent; he says the boat cost him much more and expects to be allowed all his cost; Mr Winsley has not paid for his turf bog for the year 1757; he has three acres, a part of which he hopes your Lordshipp will allow for his house, fire and desired me to let your Lordshipp know he was willing to pay what you pleased to charge him but did not incline paying untill I acquainted you. James Hamilton of Prospect has one acre and a halph, a part of which he also hopes you will allow him for his fire; the remainder he is willing to pay what your Lordshipp pleases. If the manner in which the account is drawn is not agreeable I hope your Lordshipp will excuse me as I am not acquainted with the proper method but shall for the future observe your Lordshipp’s directions if you will please to instruct me.’

Holy Hill House Landing © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley