diamond geezer

 Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Open House: HAMMERSMITH & FULHAM

Open House: Hammersmith Town Hall

When Open House comes round, I like to 'do' a town hall. It's always good to see inside to take the pulse of local democracy, even when the council in question isn't necessarily your own. Hammersmith's edifice on King Street is one of many with its roots in Thirties optimism, a chunky brick almost-cuboid with European influences whose style was once dubbed 'Swedish Georgian'. A walk around the perimeter reveals several intriguing details, such as a set of steps double-ended with carvings of Old Father Thames, a row of five sculpted reliefs above intricate metal gates, and a huge loading bay door several feet off the ground for the winching-in of scenery.



The town hall's southern end used to face glorious gardens leading down to the Thames, until the Great West Road dual carriageway was forced through in the 1960s and the view from the Mayor's Parlour was irrevocably ruined. A decade later an ugly office block was plugged onto the opposite end, facing King Street, although this is now due to be demolished. It'll be replaced by a civic square of shops and flats, to generate extra cash, while fresh offices are to be built nextdoor on the footprint of a knocked-down cinema. Or at least those are the current plans - you know how local government is.



However uniform the brick exterior looks, the interior is divided into three very different parts. One end is for the people, and includes the obligatory Assembly Hall, an enormous room with ridged-skylight roof and a sprung floor for collective dancing. The entrance hall is very impressive, a barrel-vaulted space with murals of local Thames-related scenes painted into the recesses, and would have been the chief way in for the public before that ugly annexe removed the original staircase to the first floor. When the walls were painted, Hammersmith Creek still existed close by and was even navigable.



The centre of the building is mostly hollow, facing a central courtyard where cars and minibuses can be parked, and (by modern standards) a colossal waste of useful space. Walking along its outer corridors reveals the true town hall, a chain of drab rooms inside which unsung but necessary services are based. And the far end is the democratic bit, including the chamber where councillors sit, as yet untroubled by microphones, pushbuttons or any form of electronic infrastructure. You can always spot the local visitors on Open House trips to town halls, because they want a photo of themselves sitting in the Mayor's chair. But it's the marbled antechamber which is the town hall's finest room, which is why we saw it laid out with white-draped chairs, the floor artfully scattered with flower petals, awaiting hitchers at £650 a time. Times change, and town halls change with them. [6 photos]

Open House: Polish Social and Cultural Association

Britain's largest foreign-born community has its cultural focus in a Brutalist warren on King Street, Hammersmith. Its roots were put down well before Poland joined the EU, instead supporting first and second generation Poles displaced by the Nazis or Communism either side of World War Two. In particular it was built to house the émigré government's irreplaceable library, which the British government had lost interest in, hence the site of a disused church was snapped up and reformulated into what passed for cutting edge architecture in 1971. It's all very Brutalist, and totally 70s, if stroking concrete is your kind of thing.



Wait over there and the tour will take 45 minutes, they said, but it actually lasted an hour and three quarters! That's partly because there were so many different facets to see, but also because the lady taking our group round was the Head of Culture at Polski Ośrodek Społeczno-Kulturalny, and she's ensured the building's packed with it. Artworks adorn every corridor and staircase, because why keep your best stuff hidden, and the tales she stopped to tell provided a perceptive insight into the country's volatile history. The lending library forms the heart of POSK, while a separate room houses the world's finest collection of the works of Joseph Conrad. It's kept locked, but apparently Jeremy Corbyn's a big fan of the author and sometimes pops round for a peruse and a cuppa.



The most surprising space is a full-on theatre where plays and concerts are staged, and to which Polish schoolkids from the rest of the country are sometimes bussed. The basement was originally a youth club but is now a Jazz Cafe, with weekly speakeasies you'd be very welcome to attend. Ditto the popular first floor cafe, where the menu may be exclusively Polish but the clientele doesn't have to be. But you'll not be permitted access to the rooftop bar with its football scarves and '70s vibe, that's members only... although we were allowed though to its terrace to look down over Hammersmith and neighbouring Ravenscourt Park station. All in all a fascinating insight into a deeply rich cultural institution, because sometimes Open House is all about opening up to people, not their buildings. [5 photos]

Open House: Greenside Primary School



Why take time out to visit a Shepherd's Bush primary school? Because it's a Goldfinger, that's why. Hungarian Ernő is better known for the Trellick Tower, but also brought his Modernist touch to the rebuilding of a couple of bombed London schools after the war. Westville Road School was reborn in pre-cast concrete modules, handily assemblable in 24 days flat. Its classrooms were strung out along a simple corridor,, with large afternoon-facing windows with photobolic sills to reflect light up onto the ceiling. Its assembly hall was built from 8'3" panels, and linked to the main school via a twisty covered walkway. Extra rooms have been sympathetically added to support later growth, and awnings were needed to blot out the sun, but the school still operates in Goldfinger's original buildings, and children still keep their books in his chunky wooden drawers.



Now known as Greenside, the school's pride and joy is a rare mural painted by architect Gordon Cullen. Ernő asked him to depict images which would educate and inspire on a wall, and Gordon settled on a selection of seven. For technology he plumped for the latest cutting edge steam train, an ocean liner and a de Havilland Comet (this being the year before it started suffering catastrophic in-flight break-ups). For history Dover Castle, for science the inner solar system (looking somewhat like a boiled egg), for geography a map of the world and for 'nature' what better than a frog and two blue tits? The mural's suffered from small children brushing by, but was properly restored in 2014 and should last long into the future. [5 photos]


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
853
our bow
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv