Florin Court

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Forgive me if this post seems at all self-indulgent, but Florin Court is one of my favourite London buildings and I’m yet to write about it. Is it the luscious art deco curves, or the fact that it was home to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot for much of the television series that draws me to these apartments? Probably a bit of both, to be honest…

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Built in 1936 by Guy Morgan and Partners, Florin Court (better known to Poirot fans as Whitehaven Mansions) is a delightfully modern(e) addition to the mish mash of architectural styles to be found in historic Charterhouse Square. With the Tudor buildings of old Charterhouse along the north of the square, and the Georgian beauties interspersed elsewhere, Florin Court more than holds its own on the eastern side.

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This ten-storey apartment block – composed of 120 flats – is also home to a roof garden, a basement swimming pool (pictured here), a gym and, intriguingly, a small library. Its original incarnation also included a diner and a cocktail bar. Florin Court’s interiors underwent a mostly sympathetic redesign in the 1980s by Hildebrand & Clicker architects. The foyer and staircases are more plain than I expected – though I’m a big fan of the cloud stair rail, a motif which is also seen on railings outside the building.

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The apartments themselves are said to be on the small side. Still, if it’s good enough for Poirot…And speaking of which, I was told while photographing Florin Court that Poirot (and a certain Ariadne Oliver) had recently returned to film some scenes in the entrance way and lobby – so Florin Court looks set for one final fling on the small screen.

Charterhouse Square, EC1M, straddles the divide between the City and Islington, and is located just north of Barbican tube station.

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The Shed

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“All theatres are, in a sense, temporary…The ones I particularly like are less impenetrable monuments, cathedrals of culture, than petri-dishes of ideas and emotions, swirling, expanding universes. They’re built to house performances that will, by their very nature, happen once and then change. No theatrical event is repeatable; that’s what makes live performance so exciting”
– Ben Power, Associate Director, National Theatre

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Anyone passing South Bank recently could hardly fail to notice its latest addition – a bright red, wooden fortress-like building. This is in fact the National Theatre’s latest innovation – a temporary theatre space known as The Shed. Designed by architecture firm Haworth Tompkins, this structure took just 18 weeks to erect and is built to last less than a year.

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Its vibrant red colour creates a strong contrast with the grey, brutalist concrete structure of the main National Theatre venue. With its four chimney stacks reaching into the skies along the river, The Shed immediately reminded me of Battersea Power Station, just up river from here. Its towers are actually an energy-saving mechanism, as the stacks avoid the need for mechanical ventilation by drawing air in naturally from under the seats.

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I’ve been waiting weeks for the unseasonal snow and rain to pass so that I could photograph The Shed in the bright sunlight and blue sky that would set it off to great effect. After keeping one eye on the forecast over the entire Easter weekend, I was finally rewarded with some decent weather around 3pm on the Monday. The clouds present enhanced the power station effect, appearing at times like plumes of smoke from the chimneys. When viewed from Waterloo Bridge, the structure’s almost cuboid shape really comes to the fore. Later, the fortress imagery reasserted itself when editing the photos, as they reminded me of ones of Stoke Newington Pumping Station, the design of which was based on a castle.

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The Shed will play host to a number of experimental theatre productions, priced at only £12 or £20 per ticket. Performances start on April 9th.

http://theshed.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

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