August 25, 2006

London's Guildhall - a study in contrasts

North of Gresham Street, around its own square, you can find London’s Guildhall.

“As the home of the Corporation of London, Guildhall has been the centre of City government since the Middle Ages.

The word 'guildhall' is said to derive from the Anglo-Saxon 'gild' meaning payment, so it was probably a place where citizens would pay their taxes. The present Guildhall was begun in 1411 and, having survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, it is the only secular stone structure dating from before 1666 still standing in the City.”

This is a much rebuilt construct, however, with Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian additions. The whole is extremely balanced and harmonious.

The picture above is looking north, late in the afternoon. To the left (east), an addition was built in 1999 to house the art gallery. This is not an awful building, as new buildings go. It is similar in scale and outward material. The attempt to be ‘modern’ while also suggesting a hint of gothic massing, however, is kind of squalid. But it is apparently against some unwritten law to try to match the original building in all but the most superficial, witless way.

But hey, things could be/have been worse. To the right (west) of the Guildhall rises this inexcusable crime against humanity. In full brutalist display, this is the sort of building people were getting awards for in the 1960s (I cannot find info/data on this…thing). Extending the clothing metaphor I used in my ‘subjectivity’ post, this building is a 1970s Bulgarian polyester suit, itchy and badly cut, ugly beyond compare.

And now, some detail (effectively the entrances or what surmounts them) for each of the three buildings. at this point I think the material comments itself.

One last note of interest: London's Guildhall, the heart of medieval London, underwent renovation. The yard in front was excavated to provide new cellars, and to the right, a Roman amphitheatre was discovered.

Still preserved under the entrance way to the amphitheatre, was the original timber drain, its wood perfectly preserved, and still carrying water. There was even a 'silt-trap' whether the silt was encouraged to settle, and could be cleaned out.

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