Friday, 13 June 2014

Picture post 29 Gropius in London - modernism in the city


Walter Gropius, father of the Bauhaus movement during Germany's short lived Weimar Republic period fled to London in 1934 following the 1933 German election and Hitler's rise to power. Gropius' time in the UK was very short - leaving in 1936 for the States. During his time in London he worked with Maxwell Fry and the city still has at least two buildings that he had a hand in designing. The house at 66 Old Church Street in Chelsea, built in 1935-36 and designed for politician and playwright Ben Levy is fairly well known. However, I only recently learned that he also remodelled the facade of 115 Cannon Street in 1936. 

Just two minutes from Monument Station on the District Line and currently occupied by Sushi chain Ni-haw, 115 Cannon Street was previously home to shirt retailers T. M. Lewin. Echoing the former Daily Express building at 133 Fleet Street with its black vitrolite and lovely glass bricks it stands out on this busy thoroughfare and I understand was only recently restored with some missing elements being sympathetically replaced. The glass bricks serve a function as well as being attractive as they allow natural light into the basement whilst maintaining privacy and perhaps acting as a "modesty" control to protect the dignity of passing ladies. The clean, fresh look of the building belies its age and is further evidence of the enduring "modernity" of this architectural style. Vitrolite fans might also like the former  umbrella and walking stick store - T. Fox and Co at 118 London Walk, just a short distance from Cannon Street.




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