Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Historic room returns home after travelling to USA

58 Artillery Lane in Spitalfields, London UK

It was John Harris in his book 'Moving Rooms, A Trade in architectural Salvages' who chronicled the export, on an almost industrial scale, of many historic rooms before protection by listing, mainly to destinations in America. Some, it seems, were never unpacked and others never put on display. One such room is 58 Artillery lane in Spiterfield which was bought by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1923 for $4,000. It was later decommissioned and has since been acquired by the Spiterfields Trust for repatriation.

Sainsbury and his architects – a practice called 6a, fronted by Tom Emerson and Stephanie MacDonald are bring back this old house to life and its neighbour number 56 Artillery Lane in a way that conjures something of the spirit of Spitalfields' history without sentimentalising it.

Several fires damaged these handsome Huguenot houses over the decades. The two buildings have been gently restored. One room boasts a joyous Rococo interior, with pedimented doorcases, Chinese-patterned cabinet window tracery and garlanded fruit and flowers. Behind the buildings, the architects have dug down a metre and a half to create two large, modern galleries. One occupies an old courtyard, its flat roof crowned with a pair of skylights. The other noses its way under a banal, concrete-framed office block, dating from 1972, which is shoehorned into the back of the site. A picture window looking into the alley brings daylight into this second gallery. Above it all, an upstairs flat is lived in by Rebecca Levy, whose family have rented here since 1925.

Above: Preparing Raven Row By David Grandorge

[photos from Raven Row Gallery achieve]


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