I am unsure of where my interest in architecture started, but I often think of it as the very crux of my cultural being. I love music, films, video games, paintings/sculpture/installations both classical and modern, but I feel that it’s my appreciation of buildings, both in terms of form and function, that defines my aesthetic self. When cruising the On Demand TV channels, nothing piques my interest and excitement quite as much as a documentary about a structure, architect or architectural movement.
It’s a great interest to have because it’s (a) easy and (b) everywhere. Walking around London and you find that this is definitely the case with more or less every corner turned a trove of interest and intrigue. However, familiarity breeds apathy, and I often find myself walking around the same parts enjoying the scenery without actually marvelling in it. For my money, the Houses of Parliament (resplendent in their Victorian Gothic finery) is as good an example of architectural brilliance as you’re likely to find, yet, as I see them almost every time I visit, they have lost the vim that they really deserve.
However, upon wandering the streets of Chelsea (close by South Kensington tube station) I stumbled across an absolute marvel, located at 81 Fulham Road.
Michelin House, completed in 1911 as use for a tyre depot and now used as a top flight restaurant and furniture retailer (both affiliated with Sir Terrance Conran), cannot help but be taken in and noticed. The architectural style is very hard to pin down, being too industrial for nouveau and too flouncy to be moderne/deco. Vast stained glass windows of Bibendum (Michelin’s rotund mascot) reflect aquatic blues and greens, giving the impression of a grand church to the god of industry. In fact, the name BIBENDUM is the first thing that you really notice about the building, as that is the name the emblazons both sides of the building. (When arriving home I searched for more information using a tentative Google search of “Bibendum building London”.)
It is an absolute pleasure to experience such things with the same rigour as many enjoy countryside views and vistas. To my mind, there is every bit as much to enjoy in the urban landscape as there is in the rural one. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, of course, but I think that it is something that one should consider when idling in the big (or not so big) smoke.