I’ve always been equivocal about decoration and ornament in architecture. Possibly because it requires much knowledge of craft, and an orderly imagination But a recent visit to the V&A (always too brief, there’s just so much to enjoy) made me re-think when, in passing through Ironwork, I saw a section of lift gates from a Louis Sullivan building (sorry, no more detail than that) and I was bowled over by its simple elegance:
I was on my way to the newly-reopened Cast Courts, full of remarkable replica castings of everything from small figures to the whole of Trajan’s Column (in two parts, to fit the still impressively tall space). I was particularly taken by a section of carving from a Norwegian Stave church, not just for the skill with which it had been cast and painted to look like the orginal (I can only assume, as the church is long since lost to fire - thank goodness someone took that casting).
OK, so it’s not architectural, but my eye was also caught, taking a shortcut through Japan, by this very elegant silk fabric for a 19th century kimono.
Maybe I’m going to have to be braver with the finishing details in the future?
I've been reading Robert Hughes' brilliant book on the history of Barcelona. His breadth of interest and erudition, coupled with a very antipodean directness of speaking, opens so many windows onto this remarkable city in particular, and, more widely, Catalunya's unique character and its uneasy relationship with the rest of Spain. And, of course, architecture and architects figure bold in his viewfinder. Not just Gaudi, although he merits a whole section to himself, but everything from the solid virtues of the casa pairal to the moderniste extravagance of Lluís Domènech i Montaner's works. I first came across Robert Hughes when he presented his TV series on Barcelona and the Olympics of 1992, I've been a real fan ever since - I’m still catching up on his earlier work.
Just recently discovered the rather charming village of Nunney, near Frome. Who knew that it had an imposing 15th century castle, described by Pevsner as "aesthetically the most impressive castle in Somerset"? I don’t know a lot (well, anything) about Somerset castles, so that might not be such a big deal, but it’s certainly quite an eye-opener in its modest location. And The George’s street-straddling pub sign is worthy of mention, too.