Pitzhanger Manor London + Anish Kapoor

Master of Mirrors, Master of Light

Pitzhanger Manor Party Relaunch © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s the GSM rule. The thicker the invitation card, the better the party. The relaunch of Pitzhanger Manor proved the point. Sir John Soane’s former country house – post a £12 million facelift (or rather major surgical enhancement by Jestico + Whiles working with Julian Harrap Architects) – on a stormy night was filled with lights and flowers and music and guests.

Pitzhanger Manor Party Column © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Lord Lieutenant, Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,” began Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chair of The Trustees. “The house was built 220 years ago. The library, 80 years ago. The garden room, three years ago.” He spoke in the garden room now rebranded Soane’s Kitchen. You guessed, it’s a café by day, venue by night. Designed by Jestico + Whiles, Soane’s Kitchen is an elegantly understated pavilion set in the walled garden.

Pitzhanger Manor Party Eagle © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Lantern © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Ealing © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Light © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Chinese Wallpaper © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Chinoiserie Wallpaper © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Piers Gough © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sir Sherard continued, “Every house is unique. There are degrees of uniqueness. Artfully antinomian eclecticism? That’s Pitzhanger. Not for Soane the menu de siècle. He dined à la carte. Pitzhanger is a cocktail of Georgian and gothic eccentricity. Austere and extravagant.” He praised the artist who hand painted the spectacular upper drawing room wallpaper: “Alistair Peoples, champion of Chinoiserie wallpaper!”

Pitzhanger Manor Party Anish Kapoor © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The inaugural exhibition in the library turned art gallery is by Anish Kapoor. Sir Sherard acknowledged, “Anish Kapoor sets a very high standard of excitement and artistic imagination.” The former Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan ended by saying, “Pitzhanger is at the intersection of art and architecture and design. It is Soane’s enduring legacy. Two centuries on, he stands so tall. Pitzhanger – the jewel in the crown of the rapidly reviving Queen of the Suburbs! A wonderfully uplifting zig in a world too full of zags.”

Pitzhanger Manor Party Anish Kapoor Exhibition © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Anish spoke on the “amber melancholic Turneresque light” of Pitzhanger’s stained glass windows. “It’s like a fading yellow page of ethereal importance,” he observed. “I tried to play with it too. I do what I do. Let the conversation happen if it must.” The night ended well: a goody bag of colourful macaroons courtesy of Coutts.

Pitzhanger Manor Party Anish Kapoor Art © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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St Ferréol Church + Old Port Marseille

A Reverse Chronology

St Ferreol Church Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Marseille is over in a flash: fleeting days in the sun, days a mere handbreadth, mere phantoms in the sun. To paraphrase Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, we’ve zigged our way through the zaggers. Our last place of discovery is an historic building in Vieux Port. We’re taking a moment to rewind the years and decades and centuries.

St Ferreol Church Marseille Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Ferreol Church Marseille Chapel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Ferreol Church Marseille Altar © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Ferreol Church Marseille Bust © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

  • 2019: Lavender’s Blue descend on St Ferréol Church.
  • 1979: A statue of the Holy Family by Yves Le Pape is added to the third chapel on the right.
  • 1875: The façade is rebuilt, incorporating a statue of the Immaculate Conception, as part of the construction of the Rue de la République.
  • 1844: Augustin Zeiger builds and installs the gothic style organ.
  • 1801: The façade and first bay of the church are demolished to make way for road widening.
  • 1800s: The Jesuits take over the running of the church.
  • 1700s: The multicoloured marble altar is installed.
  • 1700s: The bell tower is erected.
  • 1600: A bust of the Patron Saint is placed in the third chapel on the left.
  • 1588: The vault is completed.
  • 1564: The tomb of the Mazenod family is established in the third chapel on the left.
  • 1542: The Augustinian church is dedicated on 15 January.
  • 1379: The building is transferred to Augustinian monks.
  • 1100s: Knights Templar erect a building on the current site.
  • 200s: St Ferréol is martyred for refusing to offer a sacrifice to idols

St Ferreol Church Marseille Plaque © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

 

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Palais du Pharo + Marseille

The Phocaen City

Palais du Pharo Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Napoleon III’s waterside pad hogs one of the best spots in the city. Marseille’s best dressed palace is now a conference centre for its best dressed delegates. Hector-Martin Lefuel, known for his work at the Louvre, was commissioned in the early 1850s to design a summerhouse fit for an Emperor. Napoleon III never actually stayed in this palace. After his death, Empress Eugénie donated Palais du Pharo to the city. A people’s palace.

Pharo Palace Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Marseille Palace Vieux Port © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Marseille + Catalans Beach

Avec le Temps

Plage du Catalans Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Corniche begins.

Catalans Beach Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Marseille + The Doors

Fallen Arches

At the beginning of the 19th century, French writer Stendhal observed, “The house doors remind me of those in London. They are of polished wood with brass knockers, and raised by two steps off the pavement which is separated from the street by a running stream of clear water.”

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Marseille + Marilynne Robinson

A Seraphic Calling 

“We know only what we know, only in the ways that we know it or can know it.” MR. On a morning of utter unimpeachable freshness, it’s time to enjoy a latitudinal view of experience. No curtailment of grace, or majesty, thank you. Efficacious, beautiful, vital, satisfying, glorious. “We wander the terrain of a very remarkable freedom.” You guessed. MR again.

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Sofitel Vieux Port Hotel Marseille + Paul Cézanne

Unstill Life

“Well, life is full of surprises,” proclaims essayist and novelist Marilynne Robinson. Couldn’t agree more. We’ve just woken up in Marseille. South of France. A night in Provence. There’s more. Breakfast in bed in the Mediterranean city’s best address. Perfection. Nowhere better to enjoy the experiential rhapsodies of reality. So far, so great, Sofitel Vieux Port. The Paul Cézanne inspired five star retreat. Marilynne believes, “Beauty is a strategy of emphasis.” Sofitel mirrors the artist’s strengths, offering a fine balancing between tradition and innovation, suffused with light and imbued with beauty; a distinctive manner of looking, a novel system of application. Pétanque, anyone?

Protestant work ethic gone astray, it’s over to Wallpaper* to extol the delights of Sofitel’s Les Trois Forts restaurant: “The restaurant at the top of the Sofitel Vieux Port doesn’t just have one of the best views in the city – taking in, you guessed it, three forts – it also has one of the greatest chefs in France running the kitchen. Dominique Frerard is a painstaking, ultra meticulous, details guy of the first order and highlight decorated for it.” Meanwhile, Sofitel’s famous feather down pillows (intrinsic to the temporal, a present pleasure) form the perfect companions to considering the mysteries of consciousness. The view’s pretty dreamy, too.

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La Tourette Marseille + Fernand Pouillon

The Divine Architect

“I am content to place humankind at the centre of Creation. We are complex enough, interesting enough… I find the soul a valuable concept, a statement of the dignity of a human life and of the unutterable gravity of human action and experience.” So says Christian philosopher Marilynne Robinson. Fernand Pouillon was the architect of this influential Postwar housing scheme overlooking Fort St Jean at the tip of Marseille’s Vieux Port. Completed in 1953, it quickly became something of a prototype. How to do modernism. A lesson in proportion. Rising to 21 storeys, precast concrete decks with cross walls in shuttered concrete and external walls faced with stone casing produced a lasting effect. La Tourette continues to offer sleek slices of desirable urban living.

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Marseille +

Webs of Moment and Meaning and Memory

American writer Marilynne Robinson is enthralled by this “roaring, surging universe”. Witness, the fury of the Mistral. Here’s to zoomorphia: cathedral as zebra.

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Marseille + Corniche President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Onward to Camelot

A pericope scooped from Marilynne Robinson’s writings: “We came from somewhere, and we are travelling somewhere, and the spectacle is glorious and portentous.”

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