Monday, 28 October 2013

Georgian Group Architectural Award / Shortlist / Giles Worsley Award for a New Building in a Georgian Context

We were delighted to be able to name this award, introduced in 2006, in honour of the distinguished architectural historian Dr Giles Worsley, who served as a Trustee of the Georgian Group for many years. This year we also remember his late father, Sir Marcus Worsley, a fine custodian of Hovingham Park in Yorkshire and a member for many years of The Georgian Group’s Council.

The award is an especially apt tribute to Giles, as he himself inspired it. He was, as we know, equally comfortable with historic and contemporary buildings and he sensibly saw past, present and future as part of the same continuum.

The first of our three shortlisted schemes is in Aubrey Road, Holland Park, where a mews house in the classical idiom has replaced a utilitarian garage in grounds of an 1820s house. Its public face is pedimented with a Diocletian window above a full-width front door imitating a typical mews garage door: but this is a mere curtain-raiser to the exquisiteness of the robust and muscular garden front. The seriousness of purpose it suggests is gratifyingly realised in the main internal space: a small but perfectly-formed sculpture gallery with clear Soanean echoes in the recessed arches, all handled in a way that gives a deceptive sense of spaciousness. It stands in a noble tradition of enlightened private patronage, of the kind that makes historic streetscapes in the inner south-western suburbs of London places of such civilised architectural variety.  

Trinity Church Terrace is an impressive infill development in a fine late Georgian enclave in south London, an area whose visual integrity is under increasing attack from the glass towers of the City and its borders. Initially the local authority sought a new insertion in a contemporary idiom but the developers, to their credit, pushed the case for an historicist scheme that responded to its immediate context. The resulting terraces sit comfortably and easily between two delightful Georgian squares, linking them again rather than driving a wedge between them, as a less contextual approach might have done. What we have here is considered, well-detailed, unmeretricious architecture that has value in itself but acquires added value when judged against  what might have happened had the local authority’s initial impulse been indulged: the narrow escape from the kind of ham-fisted, cacophonous, fussy residential architecture evident in the streets round about is not the least of the reasons to celebrate this scheme.

Our final project is an elegant classical lodge for a Regency country house in Gloucestershire: a deceptively simple building, spatially arranged to perfection with its cruciform plan, each axis terminating at either end in a broken pediment. The deep block-modillion cornice gives depth and solidity and the whole conveys a no-nonsense robustness, appropriate for a perimeter building that serves in part as a point of surveillance, interception and interrogation. Such a building might have been a utilitarian afterthought where quality was skimped, but instead it is celebrated as a public face of a largely hidden estate. It scores highly as a miniaturised embodiment of the Vitruvian principles of commodity, firmness and delight. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

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