Thursday, 2 May 2013

Admiralty Arch

Architect: Aston Webb, 1906-11

The principal national memorial to Queen Victoria, and ceremonial gateway to the processional Mall, which also pragmatically provided additional government office space.

A bold and monumental gateway to the Mall, Aston Webb’s Admiralty Arch is a statement of Edwardian confidence and posthumous monument to Queen Victoria commissioned by her son, Edward VII. Designed as a component in Webb’s masterplan for the Mall, the grand Portland stone edifice was just one of the many imperially-minded grand urban projects executed during this period, such as Webb’s Monument to Queen Victoria outside Buckingham Palace, and the large-scale redevelopment of Holborn. Originally home to members of the upper echelons of the Royal Navy, the Arch was both gateway and governmental building, a hybrid form articulated by the use of giant order Corinthian columns separating three arches at the centre and more tightly spaced fenestration on the flanking arms.

Composed of two back-to-back concave facades (on passing through the arch, the anticipated convex front fails to materialise) attached to large flanking blocks, the structure gracefully handles an awkward plot, successfully resolving the entrance to Trafalgar Square and the connection between the Mall and the Strand – the Royal route between the Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral. Adorned with exaggerated Neo-Baroque motifs such as heavy rustication and rich sculpture, with pedimented elevations boldly concluding each arm in the manner of Bernini, the Arch is surmounted by a heavy attic storey and Latin dedication to Queen Victoria, the nation’s figurehead of imperial strength.

Recently vacated by the Cabinet Office the building has been acquired by Prime Investors Capital for conversion into a luxury 100-bedroom hotel by Blair Associates architects.

Best time to visit: the interior of the Arch is not open to the public.

Address: The Mall, London SW1A 2WH.

1 comment:

  1. Bland edifice, along with the equally-bland, Buckingham Palace executed in boring Portland Stone - like the rest of the Mall with the dreadfully stuccoed buildings in the middle, a missed opportunity - hardly any sculpture or decoration anywhere. Our European cousins would have created a much better use of the space making it an even better tourist destination.