Figurative, Abstract, Classical

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The apparition of Joel Shapiro’s suspended sculpture ‘Verge’ hovering since November 2008 between the (soon-to-be-completed) paired facades of the architect Eric Parry’s 23 Savile Row, London calls to mind the placing of Sir Joseph Epstein’s ‘Madonna and Child’ (1953) on the new bridge between the paired facades (prior to 1771) that served as the Convent of the Holy Child in Cavendish Square a few hundred yards to the north. Both sculptures, despite their differences of idiom and attitude to meaning and representation, share the material weight of cast bronze. But above all they complement the classical backdrops against which they sit – sober, versatile, eternal.

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Sir John Summerson speculated in a footnote in his seminal ‘Georgian London’ that the grand columns and pediments of the Cavendish Square buildings were a fortuitous exploitation of building materials already prepared and on site for an earlier (1743-56) but abandoned project for the Society of Dilettanti.

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So farewell then, 2-4 …

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CiA are saddened to witness the demolition of 2-4 Oxford Road in Manchester. It provided an atmospheric and convivial, though cramped, studio space in the early hopeful years. We need more spaces like that in the city not less.

Editor’s note: Projects conceived at 2-4 included schemes for Bradford, Davis, Genoa and Llangadfan. 2-4 Oxford Road was the birthplace of Camlin Lonsdale Landscape Architects and the site of Eleri Mills’ Manchester studio.

Notes from Rome

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James Robertson, the Rome Scholar in Architecture, is approximately half way through his period at the British School at Rome. His research on the ecclesiastical architecture of Jack Coia has revealed many parallels in the twentieth century churches of Rome. James writes

“I have been getting together a fairly comprehensive list of churches contemporary with Coia, and up to about 20 years earlier, as some of these earlier Italian buildings seem to have some similarities to those by Coia. There seem to be several distinct groups, or types of church, starting with a kind of brick neo-Romanesque, through to the neo-Classical, semi-rationalist / fascist, full-blown rationalist and then a group which does not seem to fit properly into any of the above! There is one in this group by a rather obscure architectural historian called Bruno Maria Appolonj-Ghetti. He designed a church in Rome called Ss. Martiri Canadesi, which Fellini used in his film ‘La Dolce Vita’.”

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The church interior, then recently completed, is used in the film as the setting for an encounter between Marcello and his intellectual friend Steiner, who plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue on the church organ.

James is also researching at the Scots College, searching for evidence of the influence of Rome-trained clergy on the architectural direction of the Archdiocese of Glasgow and their commissioning of Coia.

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Experience & imagination: These were the things I saw

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XXXII The Temple of Nike from Mars Hill, Athens

This is the grandest grouping of the Acroplis. The way in which the whole, in solemn square masses, piles up-the temple dominating all-is marvellous. It is finer, I am sure, in ruin, than it ever was in perfection.

Lithograph and description by Joseph Pennell from his book Pictures In the Land of Temples (William Heinemann 1915). According to his introduction to the book Pennell went to Greece because I was told by a Boston authority that I was nothing but a ragtime sketcher, couldn’t see Greek art and couldn’t draw it if I did. He goes on to say: These were the things I saw. Had I known more I might have seen less-for it seems to me that most artists who have gone to Greece have been so impressed with what they were told to see that…they have looked at the land with a foot-rule, a translation, and a dictionary, and they have often been interfered with by these aids…When I got to Athens I fell among friends, who answered my only question that “I wanted to see temples that stood up”.

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XXXI The Temple of Nike, Athens

Pennell is perhaps best known for his great First World War poster showing New York bombed by enemy aircraft:

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Lines & Colors