Tuesday, 14 May 2013

All Souls Langham Place

Architect: John Nash, 1822-24

One of the key focal points of Nash's new Regent Street, intended to lead the eye around an awkward corner where it joins with Portland Place.

At the time of its construction, many commentators pilloried Nash’s All Souls. The architect was depicted impaled upon its spire, and admittedly the church's portico is disturbingly suggestive of a dunce’s cap atop Bramante’s famous Tempietto in Rome. Yet the building has become a familiar and loveable landmark, particularly when seen at night dramatically illuminated against the contrasting backdrop of the new Broadcasting House extension (by Richard MacCormac and others).

Nash was the preferred architect of George IV, enjoying a wealth of commissions throughout London, but this is the only remaining London example of his ecclesiastical architecture. However, on close inspection, the building is filled with surprising architectural anomalies and unresolved details, ranging from lack of an east window to the disembodied putti that adorn the portico's adapted Ionic capitals. The strange arrangement of the portico is further complicated by the way the engaged columns of the circular peristyle awkwardly run into the wall of the church's rectangular body. However Nash was not a details architect, being more concerned with a building’s scenic effect. It is tempting to imagine that he would heartily approve of the new floodlighting.

Heavily damaged in World War II, much of the church's Bath stone exterior and plaster interiors have been restored. One recent restoration project worth noticing is the rust glass mosaic floor of the portico, laid in honour of "peace and victory" following World War I.

Best time to visit: open to the public Monday-Friday 9:30am- 5:30pm; various Sunday services and musical events.

Address: Langham Place,  London W1B 3DA.

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