Art Deco Bloomsbury


It may not be particularly fashionable in architectural circles, but I’ve long had a rather large soft spot for Art Deco buildings. So when I heard that Yannick Pucci (aka @ypldn) was running the first of his new Art Deco walking tours as part of the annual Bloomsbury Festival it went straight into the diary. I don’t want to give away all of Yannick’s secrets here, so this will be more of a pictorial post. And the buildings shown here are by no means all of the ones included on the walk – yet more deco delights await you in Bloomsbury.


Having said that, I do want to write just a little about my favourite stop on the walk: 7-11 Herbrand Street. This stunning white, black and green example of Art Deco started life as a Daimler car hire garage and also did time as a car park – the circular section on the right was the ramp for cars. Built in 1931 by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners (who were also the architects behind Perivale’s Hoover Building and the Victoria Coach Station), this structure has a little bit of everything for the art deco fan (zigzags! tiles! patterns! circular motifs!) and really is worthy of its own blog post. Today it is home to advertising giant McCann London.


UCL School of Pharmacy (detail), Brunswick Square – (Herbert Rowse, 1937-60, delay due to war):


Clare Court, Judd Street (TP Bennett & Son, 1920s):



Tavistock Court (detail), Tavistock Square (circa 1934-5):


Gower Mews (1930s) – the first Art Deco mews street I have seen – the other side is Victorian, which makes for quite a contrast:


And last but most certainly not least, the magnificent Senate House, University of London. Designed by Charles Holden (the architect of over 50 tube stations, and much more besides), this 19-storey mammoth was indeed London’s first skyscraper. It was taken over by the Ministry of Information during World War II and famously inspired George Orwell’s vision of the Ministry of Truth in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.


The good news is that Yannick will be running more Art Deco treks around Bloomsbury in the future. He has just added new dates in November (the 2nd and the 30th); also keep an eye on the Art Deco walk page on his blog. This fabulous tour also covers other significant architectural sites in Bloomsbury in passing, so is highly recommended for all lovers of London’s architecture.



Florin Court


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…


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.



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.




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.