Reflections on glass and stone
Outside the builders are laying bricks and installing windows. In my studio all is calm. I've been in listening mode and am currently transcribing two audio interviews.
The first was with Joanna Sutherland, Associate Director at Haworth Tompkins and project manager for More West housing development. It's fascinating to hear her talk about the visual appearance of the building taking shape opposite Latimer Road station. She explained the significance of a special Dutch brick called Bronze Grun.
"The appearance of the brick, the tonal variation across the brick and the right mortar colour are absolutely crucial to the success of the project."
It was not however easy to replicate trial samples and meet the original planning requirements.
"We were in no way going to allow anything to go through that wasn't perfect. And if you look at mortars, different mortars of brick, it completely changes the appearance of the brick. So even now when you still see the area that has got the salmon pink, you can see it's a nice brick, but it doesn't look very good. And where the mortar's right, it looks fantastic."
My second interview was with Terry Bloxham, Assistant Curator for Ceramics and Glass and the V&A. She gave me a superb tour of stain glass from the medieval period to the present day. This provided context on a Nathaniel Westlake panel, The Vision of Beatrice, that I'm using as inspiration for my project designs.
"Westlake is the culmination of the Gothic revival. Of doing it in the medieval manner. He is a medieval artist."
"In the panel we've got little pieces of glass, careful chosen. It's not just take that one and put it there to make the picture. But to get the right balance of light coming through, maybe the ones on the bottom are thicker, thinner at the top. Before you put it all together in the lead framework, other techniques are used, like painting, and staining and etching."
The Vision of Beatrice illustrates a scene from Dante's Divine Comedy. This is the climatic moment when Dante's love has become divine and he can be transported from purgatory into heaven.
Recently, I met buyers of one and two bedroom flats at the development. Young professional workers who were excited about moving into the area. They wanted to know about local facilities and views from their flat. I could comment on the former. Hopefully they were pleasantly surprised to hear about the the complex social history of the area and having the Notting Hill Carnival right on their doorstep.
I wonder if they will experience divine love (or otherwise) in their homes. Let us hope so. Future artists and historians will interpret and tell a story. In time.