VIEW­POINTS Pubs: Icons of London Streets Ra­jnish Wat­tas

Architecture + Design - - Contents - Text by: Ra­jnish Wat­tas

Amidst London’s eclec­tic mélange of streetscap­es— rang­ing from Vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian ed­i­fices to gleam­ing modernist steel and glass skyscrap­ers or post mod­ern ex­trav­a­gan­zas— one con­stant is the ubiq­ui­tous, quaint pub fa­cade.

A cruise down the Thames de­fines London’s sky­line most vis­i­bly. His­toric fa­cades are punc­tu­ated with avant- garde creations rang­ing from the Tate Mod­ern ( trans­formed from a di­lap­i­dated power sub­sta­tion in mute brick fa­cades to a brilliant art cen­tre by Her­zog & de Meu­ron) or a Nor­man Fos­ter de­signed ‘ tor­pedo look­ing’ Gherkin or the lat­est land­mark loom­ing large over the city: ‘ The Shard’ de­signed by star ar­chi­tect Renzo Pi­ano. Its tow­er­ing pyra­mi­dal translu­cent glass tower— the tallest in London— is a city land­mark.

But at the street level, the city cher­ishes its his­toric pubs with their hall­mark her­itage fa­cades. There’s no bet­ter place to savour the great Bri­tish tra­di­tion of grab­bing a pint than in some old London pubs. Pubs ( short for pub­lic places) are deeply en­meshed in the

Bri­tish cul­ture and have been age- old hubs for so­cial rub. No won­der then that these timeless icons of the

‘ Island na­tion’ re­main stand­ing to this day in their pris­tine ar­chi­tec­ture and re­galia. Over time they evolved into meet­ing places where the pub­lic would con­gre­gate,

gos­sip and dis­cuss im­por­tant com­mu­nity mat­ters, and so the pub­lic house or ‘ pub’ the short name was born! They have epit­o­mized— and as they still do— fa­mous lit­er­ary hang­outs, arty in­ter­ac­tions or just plain net­work­ing!

The most con­spic­u­ous el­e­ment you no­tice of pub fa­cades are their colour­ful signs or their in­ter­est­ing names. “The signs date back to 1393 and King Richard II of Eng­land, who ruled that land­lords must clearly in­di­cate that ale was sold on their premises vis­i­ble to in­spec­tors who could check the qual­ity of their ale. “Lit­tle fact: Wil­liam Shake­speare’s dad was an ale in­spec­tor”, notes a his­to­rian! Also, the in­ten­tion was to ap­pear as eye- catch­ing, at­trac­tive and wel­com­ing.

Some of the typ­i­cal el­e­ments of their fa­cades are mostly black gran­ite fronts with quaint or­na­men­tal let­ter­ing in gilded fonts. Also use of ce­ramic tiles is com­mon. An­tique lamps, coat of arms badges and in­signia of their re­spec­tive brew­eries and hang­ing flower bas­kets are the usual adorn­ments. They are well lit at night, with rows of lamps along their frontages to be eye- catch­ing at night. As Mark Girouard ( 1984) puts it, they were ‘ ar­chi­tects who… were more likely to be found in the saloon bar than the stu­dio’.

Con­trary to the ex­trav­a­gant fa­cades, the in­te­ri­ors are rather func­tional and som­bre with low lights. Leather up­hol­stered so­fas and func­tional ta­bles are the typ­i­cal fur­ni­ture. The bar is of course a pic­ture of raz­zle- daz­zle of bottles, glasses and mir­rors. Taps ooz­ing dif­fer­ent types of ales and beers from kegs beneath quench the thirst of the parched and the hun­gry. And of course a lot of me­men­tos boast­ing of their hoary past and ances­try are dis­played like badges of honour and pedi­gree!

One no­table his­toric pub, The Wal­rus and The Car­pen­ter, is lo­cated close to the fa­mous obelisk- like struc­ture of

Pubs ( short for pub­lic places) are deeply en­meshed in the Bri­tish cul­ture and have been age- old hubs for so­cial rub. No won­der then that these timeless icons of the ‘ Island na­tion’ re­main stand­ing to this day in their pris­tine ar­chi­tec­ture and re­galia.

The Welling­ton with hall­mark out­door sit­ting

The Globe near Covent Gar­dens with beau­ti­ful hang­ing flower bas­kets

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