The City and the Pillars
What does Pevsner have to say? “The most spectacular piece of Regency development in Southampton… The Crescent starts at London Road and curves northwest, composed in the main of broad three bay three storey stuccoed detached houses linked together by screen walls, mostly sufficiently close to each other for the street, except in a few places, to appear as a piece of unified townscape. The houses vary in detail but are mostly the same in general composition, typical of Southampton with their elements of classical decoration almost without refinements…”
A little piece of Brighton gone west; a miniature Regent’s Park flown south. On the cusp of the maritime city’s decline as a spa resort and its rise as a merchant port, riding the crest of this wave, businessman Edward Toomer (1764 to 1852) fortuitously bought land to the southwest of the verdant pearl that is Asylum Green. Even more fortuitously, his son Samuel (1801 to 1842) was an architect. This provincial John Nash was responsible for designing many of the houses on and around Carlton Crescent.
The area has a unified appearance, thanks in no small part to being wilfully stuccoed to the nines (except for tile hung flank walls and returns), but was actually developed over two decades beginning in 1825. It is first mentioned in that same year in the Hampshire Chronicle, “Carlton Crescent has this season made its appearance and contains eight handsomely built residences; being detached, these will, when finished, form by far the handsomest line of houses in Southampton.” They still do.
Posted in Architects, Architecture, Developers, People, Town Houses
Tagged asylum green, brighton, carlton crescent southampton, edward toomer, hampshire chronicle, john nash, lavender's blue, london road, pevsner, regents park, samuel toomer, stuart blakley, the city and the pillar
The last hurrah. Armed with a camera, a lust for life and a lack of vertigo, it’s all about a 26 second ascent to the 34th floor of The Shard, roughly halfway up the UK’s tallest cloudscraper. The vertically ever decreasing floorplates of architect Renzo Piano’s glazed spike mean there’s increasingly a ravishing view from every direction: out, up, down, and of course, voyeuristically from the loos. The framing’s all terribly well conceived. London is all aglow; it’s rainbow’d. “The photographer is supertourist,” writer Susan Sontag believed, and where better to indulge in a spot of supertourism than the Shangri La Hotel in the English capital? Especially an end of epoch party from noon to sunset. Ms Sontag again, “Photographs really are experience captured.” Canapés as photographic art. Well, what isn’t? “Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art.” She’s on a (camera) roll. “Photography is a kind of overstatement, a heroic copulation with the material world.” Click, click, slicing the flow of quixotic times passing. Susan Sontag once scribed, “Today everything exists to end in a photograph.” Some captured endings are as sharp as the tip of The Shard.
Just Like That
It is just an ordinary Wednesday night at Mary Martin’s. Poland’s top model Katie and fellow runway success Yasmin from Sierra Leone and Lebanon are swapping notes and tips and dresses and jewellery. Dring dring. The phone goes. Afrobeats is blasting. Dring dring. It’s Teedum Nke-ee Mr Nigeria on the line. Good news from Ghana. In absentia, Mary has just been awarded the highest recognition in African fashion: the Continent’s Citation of Honour. And? “We admire you for your accomplishments, consistent efforts and contributions to the fashion industry both home and on the international stage. We say AYEEKOOO!”
The Tapestry of Dawn
“Your house is so cinematic!” Film Director Stephan Pierre Mitchell
“This is a museum! When you wake up that’s how the house makes you feel.” Model Yasmin Jamaal
“Creativity is creativity.” CEO Big Deal Films Dhanny Joshi
“You always bring the party with you.” MD Astrid Bray
Lose the prosaic. Live life à la Maud.
Fabulosity has a new.
As dedicated fully signed up staunchly supportive loyal members of the Taiwanese Tea Appreciation Society, we were duty bound one wintry Saturday afternoon in Taipei Soho to dip and sip our way through the tasting menu and brew list of XU Tearoom and Restaurant. Time for a power tea: some like it hot (floral Ming Yue Baozhong); some like it cold (refreshing XU Sparkling Tea); we like it spiced up (plum Shoo Royale). In the upstairs dining room, closed thick velvety curtains and vertically ribbed Mackintoshian panelling create a darkly romantic setting for us to savour the pescatarian savouries:
We’ll always have printemps Printemps.
Fortune Favours the Few
She may have one of the hottest addresses in Paris (Place des Vosges is of course Henri IV’s early 17th century grande projet of arcaded shops with residences above fronted by four palatial façades set around a garden square in the style of an Italian Piazza) but Elisabeth Visoanska, the glamorous Founder and President of the eponymous haute cosmétique company, loves to travel. In a revelatory exclusive, Elisabeth shares, “Travelling provides the opportunity to witness natural marvels and wonders, expanding our understanding and appreciate of this world.”
Nous Emmener à l’Église
In the very heart of the village of St Paul in the very heart of the quartier of Le Marais in the very heart of the 4th Arrondisement in the very heart of Paris is St Paul and St Louis Church. There is nowhere more atmospheric to be on a late Saturday afternoon in the depths of winter than this candlelit thin place resonating to the thrilling grandeur of organ playing.
Someone, somewhere, recently asked us what the sign INRI means above a crucifix. The acronym stands for the Latin phrase ‘Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum’. John 19:19 explains, “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews’.”
Posted in Architecture, Art
Tagged bastille, cardinal de richelieu, georges eugene haussmann, hotel st pol, inri, jesus nazarenus rex judaeorum, jesus of nazareth, king of the jews, lavender's blue, le marais paris, paris commune, rue st paul, st louis church, st paul, stuart blakley, victor baltard
The 14th Arrondisement hosted the vanguard of 1920s avant garde Paris. Writer Alice Toklas called it “the city of boulevard bars and Baudeloire”. Poet Guillaume Apollinaire went further: “a quarter of crazies”. Marianne Faithfull now calls it home, from riding in a sports car to missing the moon. Behind Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s homogeneity and square cut gentility lies the mysterious courtyard life of Paris played out under the shadow of Montparnasse Tower. It’s a 32 second lift ride to the 59th floor of the tower to view the sacred horizontality from the profane verticality.
The skyscraper was completed in 1973 to the design of Eugène Beaudouin, Urbain Cassan, Louis de Hoÿm de Marien and Jean Saubot. The tower’s height, all 210 metres, was not universally welcomed. It didn’t quite accord with Baron Haussmann’s rule that no building should be taller than the width of the boulevard on which it stood. Two years after Montparnasse Tower’s completion, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing banned buildings over 32 metres in central Paris. In recent times, the limit has been relaxed to 50 metres but only on a case by case basis. Wallpaper* provides a contemporary reassessment, admiring the tower’s “wonderfully gridded curtain wall” before adding, “The redevelopment of the down-at-heel area around Gare Montparnasse in the early 1960s was, by and large, a piece of inspired city planning.”
Posted in Architecture, Luxury, Town Houses
Tagged alice toklas, eugene beaudouin, georges eugene haussmann, guillaume apolinnaire, jean saubot, lavender's blue, louis hoym de marien, marianne faithfull, montparnasse tower, president valery giscard destaing, stuart blakley, urbain cassan
Comme Il Faut
“I don’t like to dress alla moda,” said Gae Aulenti in 1971. “The moment it’s loudly announced that red is in fashion, I stop wearing red. I want to dress in green.” Gigi by Colette reads: “Everything depends on the attitude.” One of very few postwar Italian female architects, Gae had attitude. She died in 2012 aged 84. Herbert Muschamp, then architecture critic for The Times, called her “the most important female architect since the beginning of time”. In 1986 she converted a Parisian railway station and hotel into a museum. Gae had form. She was a protégée of Carlo Scarpa – he singlehandedly reinvented museum conversions in the mid 20th century. A grand central aisle lit by the barrel vaulted glass ceiling of Victor Laloux’s original Beaux Arts design respects the original cavernous volume. Use of contemporary raw materials – wire mesh grid anyone? – emphasise her industrial designer roots and portray an honesty of expression learned from her master. And as for her insertions and interruptions and interventions? Such verve. Such vigour. So very self assured. She is post postmodern. But still, the architect managed to unify the diversity of spaces by using the same rough stone on walls and floors throughout. Gae had élan. “I do admire all of Gae’s work,” admits top architect John O’Connell, “and it weathers well too.” Musée d’Orsay, a museum of mostly French art from the 2nd Republic to the 2nd World War, is itself great art: building as artefact.
Come on Gloria
And are you quite pleased to see the Jardin des Tuileries? As ever snappy, Nairn’s Paris states, “The eastern end, next to the Louvre, is a mini Versailles of formal planting: the western end, next to the Place de la Concorde, one of the most soothing places on earth. Nowhere else in Paris is the city’s uniqueness presented with such conviction. Because this end of the garden is, simply, a gravelled space interrupted occasionally with grass and thickly planted with trees in a formal pattern.” A sustainable lawnmower – a tethered goat – keeps the grass trim. Every perspective in these distinctive gardens of sacred and human geometry resembles a Sabine Weiss frame. Photography collector and dealer Peter Fetterman believes, “Aged 95, Sabine Weiss is the last great photographer of that great humanist period. She recently had a retrospective at the Pompidou.”
A Boulevard of Dreams and Things
“We met at the little bar across the place from Dior’s called the Fontaine-de-something and had one – two – three Champagne cocktails on my expense account. Then we had lunch.” Shamrocks and Unicorns, Lord Kilbracken
“The Rue de Rivoli is very straight and unaltered from end to end: three simple storeys above an arcade,” according to Nairn’s Paris. “But it feels quite different from the autocratic straightness of the 18th century. That was for show; this, basically, is for convenience, and there is a fine, underplayed urbanity in the way Percier and Fontaine consistently refused to hot up what is in fact a very long elevation. Impersonal but not inhuman; the mile long covered street never gets on top of you, and life can take what shape it likes inside the framework.” Life takes on a luxurious shape inside No.228 Rue de Rivoli: Le Meurice, an urban Versailles.
“I love Le Meurice!” professes chic Parisienne Maud Rabin over Alain Ducasse Selection Champagne and almonds in Bar 228. Fellow Parisienne Elisabeth Visoanska, forever epitomising chicness too, reckons, “Le Meurice is a Parisian palace injected with the modernity of Philippe Starck. It’s a clash of two worlds. Yesterday there was a giant ice sculpture in the middle of Bar 228!” Bookending Paris in spring, it’s our second midwinter visit in a row to the five star plus hotel; likewise, we graced Hôtel Meurice in Calais with our presence over the last two midsummers (Calaisfornians know how to street party!). Living joyfully and fearlessly, forever in search of beauty and the unbeknownst, we’re alive to every sensation and experience. Paris just keeps on sizzling.
Posted in Architecture, Fashion, Hotels, Luxury, People, Restaurants, Town Houses
Tagged 228 rue de rivoli, alain ducasse, elisabeth visoanska, hotel meurice calais, lavender's blue, le meurice paris, lord kilbracken, nairns paris, philippe starck, shamrocks and unicorns, stuart blakley, versailles
Elle Fait La Pluie et Le Beau Temps
“The rain’s very important because that’s when Paris smells its sweetest. It’s the damp chestnut trees.” Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
De Temps en Temps
Continuing the bookending theme of a year well spent: Easter in George V, Christmas in Charles V. The former, westward upstream of Notre Dame; the latter, eastward downstream. One, extrovert art deco; the other, discreet Swedish rococo. Charles V Hôtel is in St Paul, a village embedded in the city between the River Seine and Rue St Antoine. It’s on the site of Hôtel St Pol built by Charles the Wise in the 14th century. Even back then, St Paul was super fashionable. Later hôtels particuliers there are aplenty. Within a polished stone’s throw of Hôtel Charles V are Hôtel d’Aumont (now offices), Hôtel de Sens (now a library) and Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre (now European House of Photography). Next door to Hôtel Charles V is La Mâle d’Effeenne, fashion designer and visual consultant Nico Thibault Francioni’s treasure trove of a shop. Nico calls it a “univers de choix”. Ian Nairn wrote in his eponymous guide to the French Capital: “Paris is a collective masterpiece, perhaps the greatest in the world.” St Paul is a sophisticated slice of that masterpiece. Hôtel Charles V (petit boutique five storeys with just two to six bedrooms per floor) adds some fairy dust. Bises de Paris.
Posted in Architecture, Art, Fashion, Hotels, Luxury, People
Tagged charles the wise, european house of photography, george v hotel, hotel charles v, hotel daumont, hotel de sens, hotel henault de cantobre, hotel st pol, ian nairn, la male deffeene, lavender's blue, nico thibault francioni, notre dame, river seine, rue st antoine, st paul, st paul le marais paris, stuart blakley