martes, 10 de diciembre de 2013


Stortorvet is a central square in Oslo. It was originally developed in the first half of the 18th century but almost all of the buildings from that time have disappeared. One exception is found at the corner of Møllergata where a timber-framed house has stood since around 1700. The church was built in 1694-97 but was substantially altered in 1848-50.  

The three late 19th century buildings on the west side of the square were demolished in late 1950s/early 1960s and replaced with a modern building. They are photoshopped back into existence in the image above.  

This image gives a closer look at the building on the corner with Grensen. It was built in the 1870's by architects Hermann Schirmer and Jacob Nordan. In this image is also visible the remaining house from 1700. 

This building from around 1902 is actually still standing, but the facade has been modernised and the building is almost completely unrecognisable.

An earlier photoshop of the same building.

For more information about historic Oslo, buy my book, Det Tapte Kristiania, here.

lunes, 9 de diciembre de 2013

Churches in Oslo

Gamle Aker Kirke is the only medieval church in town, not counting the royal chapel at Akershus festning. The exterior was restored by architects Schirmer and von Hanno in 1861. Earlier images from prior to 1861 show the tower shaped quite differently. It survived the many fires of Oslo, because it was not in Oslo. It only came within city limits in 1859. 

As far as I have understood, the church is fairly representative for medieval churches in Oslo. Most of them were built in the 11th and 12the century, and were for the most part pre-gothic. The royal church dedicated to the virgin mother was in brick, not stone, and was at least partially gothic, but the rest of the churches were generally older. In its heyday, Oslo had nine churches, excluding the one above. But after countless fires and plagues, there was only the cathedral left when the old city was finally abandoned in 1624.

The second oldest church in Oslo is from 1796. You could argue that the cathedral is older, since it was originally built in 1697. However, the cathedral was given a completely new look in 1849-50, and doesn't look at all like an 18th century church. In fact, Oslo Kirke looks somewhat similar to what the cathedral used to look like: the tower crowned with a simple pyramid-shape. They are both brick churches, though Old Town is plastered and the cathedral was/is not.

The earliest church on this site was built by the Franciscans in 1290 as part of the cloister that was located here. The church was one of the first in Norway to be built in brick. It was converted to a hospital in 1536 and destroyed during a Swedish attack on Oslo in 1567. A new hospital was built in 1581 and the first floor of this building was used a church. 

A new church was built in 1734, at a time when Oslo was no longer the main urban settlement in the area. However, Oslo retained a small and fairly prosperous community with its own congregation. This church was destroyed in a fire in 1794. Building of the new church was completed two years later. Alterations were made in the 19th century but the church was restored to original in 1934-39.

The cathedral (Vår frelsers kirke) was originally built as the second church of Christiania. The first one was built in 1632-39, but was demolished already in 1686. A great fire had started when lightning hit the spire, but the decision to raze the church was primarily on military grounds (defences of the city were reoriented towards the fortress and, the church happened to be situated too close).

As part of the reorientation, the outer bulwarks around the city were removed, and in one of the earliest sections to be removed, a site was found for the new church. It was built in 1694-97, and much of the yellow brick from the old church was probably reused, originally imported from Leyden in the Netherlands. In 1774-75, the facade was plastered and painted white. 

The church as it looks today, however, is pretty much the work of the German architect Alexis de Chateauneuf. He was originally invited to offer assistance and advice for the rebuilding of the church, but soon offered his own plans, which were adopted in works carried out in 1848-50. The tower was extended, in red brick in contrast to the old yellow, and capped with a new spire. The spire may have been inspired by Kronborg Castle, which de Chateauneuf would have seen on his way from Hamburg. A new gothic portal was added and the vault in the nave were decorated in gothic ribs. The latter was removed during restoration work in 1933-1951. The new chapel to the south, by Arnstein Arneberg, was also added during that period.

The 1840s was a turning point for Norwegian architecture and ushered in a lot of German ideas. Both Linstow and Grosch had recently visited the country and took with them ideas inspired by Schinkel and others about medieval styles and non-plastered brick facades. Heinrich Schirmer also settled in Norway, and supervised the construction work in 1848-50.

It was decided around the time that de Chateauneuf visited the city that a second church needed to be built. The municipality wanted to give the assignment to the German architect, but to be fair to local architects and master masons, a competition was arranged. This was probably the first of its kind in Norway. 

Tullinløkka was one of the first sites to be considered, as this was state-owned property, but it was decided to find a place with a higher terrain. Hammersborg had already been considered as a suitable spot for the various institutions needed for the young state, a Norwegian Acropolis. A wooden church, Christchurch, had also been built in the 17th century as a temporary solution for the new town of Christiania (demolished in the previous century). The municipality bought the property called Sorgenfri in 1849. This included the top of the hill, but for some reason a site further down was chosen. Maybe because the more prominent location included the main house of Sorgenfri while at the lower part there were just some barns that needed to removed. The municipality used the main house as a hospital, and the site was considered twice for a new city hall, in both cases competitions were arranged and winners picked, but nothing was ever built.The plan was also for the church, named Trefoldighetskirken, to lie on the axis of Theatre street, but the owners of the plots were unaware of this or didn't care, so new buildings were built that shifted the angle of the street by the time the church was finished. De Chateauneuf also suggested to completely rebuild Hammersborg. However, the municipality doesn't seem to have ever seriously considered this option.

The church has a dome, apparently inspired by the baptistery in Pisa. The general style is gothic and the size of the towers are reduced to enhance the appearance of the dome. De Chateauneuf developed the plan in 1849-50. He soon left Norway and died in Germany in 1953. Supervision of building work was left to his assistant Wilhelm von Hanno. Due to cost and structural considerations, von Hanno reduced some of the details in de Chateauneufs plan. The church was completed in 1858. 

By that time, yet another church had been built in the same area. The catholic cathedral, St Olav domkirke, was finished in 1856. There were hardly any catholics in the country at that time, but Queen Josefine was catholic and much of the financing came from her as well as donations from various other sources. The architect was Heinrich Schirmer. Meanwhile, von Hanno and Schirmer had become partners and were among the city's most prominent architects in the 1850s. From having only one church, Christiania now had four, if we also count Old Aker Church, bought by the municipality in 1852 and formally within city limits in 1859.

Whereas new churches were built in Christiania, new churches were being built in Aker as well.

Prior the 1850s, there was only one church in the whole of Aker, and this was sold to Christiania in 1852. Therefore, replacement churches were built in 1853-55 and in 1857-60.
Vestre Aker kirke was built on a property at Ullevål. The architect was Heinrich Schirmer and responsible for construction were the master masons Carl, Alfred and Albert Unger, all brothers from Prussia. The combination of German-born architects and masons thus continued. The result is typically German, red-brick gothic.The involvement from Schirmer is a bit unclear when it comes to the second church. It appears that Østre Aker kirke was built by the Unger brothers, according to some designs that Schirmer had developed for the previous church. The second church is located at Ulven. The border between the two congregations went through Torshov and Sinsen and just to the east of Grefsen. Both became Oslo churches when Oslo was expanded to include all of Aker in 1948.

Schirmer also built another church in Aker, completed in 1855. This was the church at Gaustad Sykehus. In this case, however, the project was financed by the state and not Aker municipality. This probably meant there was more money. So, the tower was capped with an ornate copper spire, and sandstone was used in the facade as well as brick. The style is usually described as gothic, though there is a clear influence from dutch renaissance. The building is actually an administration building, but it also contains the church.

In 1859, the city of Christiania was expanded considerably. All of the area known as Bymarken or 'Byens Grund,' as it was called, became officially part of the city. The city even expanded across the river to what was known as 'Landets Grund,' belonging to Aker. There had been a settlement east of the river called Grønland at least since the 17th century, and Aker wanted to get rid of it because it was poor and put a strain on resources. It belonged to the city, it was argued, because the basis for a settlement in the first place was tied to the economic web of the city. Christiania was reluctant to accept this. At some point, it was considered to give Grønland the status of city in its own right, under the name of Akerstad. However, in the end Christiania relented, and even demanded more land from Aker, as it was realised that both sides of the river up to Sagene would be valuable land for factories.

A congregation for Grønland was created in 1861. A competition was arranged for the building of Grønland kirke, won by Wilhelm von Hanno in 1864. The project also included a fire station and a school. The ensemble was completed in 1868-69. The style has been described as romanesque. 

The boundaries for the new congregation was the river and Trondheimsveien in the west (People in Grünerløkka had to cross the river to Old Aker Church) and Strømsveien in the east. Oslo was part of the same congregation though it already had its own church and the boundary between the two was Munkebekken (also known as Nonneelva, Klosterbekken or Hovindbekken).

Three new congregations were created in 1874: Johannes, Jacob and Paulus. 
Construction for Johanneskirken started already in 1868, but took ten years to complete due to difficulties with the foundations. The church was designed by Georg Bull, and built in yellow brick. It was built on the same site as the first church in Christiania. The congregation was for the west part of Kvadraturen and Pipervika. Continuing problems with the foundations meant the church had to be closed at the beginning of the 20th century, and was finally demolished in 1928. Bull was also the architect for Jakobskirken. This church is still there, though it was long threatened with demolition. The plot was purchased by the municipality already in 1824 and was used as a graveyard until 1880. The church was built in 1875. The congregation was for the old communities of Vaterland (including Sagbanken) and Fjerdingen, as well as the still developing, Hausmanskvartalene. Though Bull was the first Norwegian-born in the 19th century to design churches in the capital, there is continuity in style. Bull studied engineering in Hannover and architecture in Berlin. 

On the other side of the river, a community sprang up from nowhere in the 1850s. After 1859, however, this area was subject to the city's building regulations, and it was no longer allowed to build in wood. The owner of the land, Hans Frederik Grüner, had argued for a long time that it was unrealistic to insist on brick. Eventually, he sold most of the land to Thorvald Meyer and Carl Michelet. Michelet sold his share at the end of the 1860s, as dismal demand seemed to prove Grüner right for most of the first decade. In the 1870s, however, Christiania experienced its first spectacular building boom, and Grünerløkka grew rapidly. Initially the congregation in Grünerløkka was housed in the bethel house Hauges Minde at Olaf Ryes Plass, which was completed in 1874-75. The new church was complete in 1877. The architect was Danish-born Jacob Nordan. The name was changed from Paulus to Petrus in 1892, due to the rapid growth of Grünerløkka and Sofienberg. The name Paulus was switched to a newer church. The name changed again in 1962 to Sofienberg kirke.
Originally, the new congregation covered the whole area between the river, Fossveien, Sannergata, the city boundaries of 1859 and Trondheimsveien.

As a side note, I could also mention that a church was built for Krohgstøtten Hospital in 1859, according to a design by Christian Grosch. It was demolished in the 1950s.

City boundaries were expanded again in 1878. The main reason was to stop satellite towns from developing just outside the borders. These were poor areas dependent on the city in terms of employment and commerce. Christiania had always had such communities: Vaterland, Grensen, Vika, Hammersborg etc. It was easier and cheaper to build in wood, so people tended to settle outside the borders to avoid having to build in brick or with timber framing. After 1814, when the city really began to grow, new ones appeared: Enerhaugen, Ruseløkkbakken and Bergfjerdingen. It was thought in 1858 that problem would be dealt with, that the city boundaries were so vast in comparison to the city itself that the distances would discourage any new settlements outside the border. This was obviously a miscalculation. New mini-towns continued to crop up: Kampen, Rodeløkka, Vålerenga. Therefore, a belt area around the 1878 borders also required the use of brick in construction, and this measure actually solved the problem in the end. 

The second expansion of the boundaries in 20 years meant that the city was still inheriting fully fledged communities, requiring amenities and a church. First out was Kampen kirke. A site was cleared due to a fire and construction began in 1879. The church was designed by Jacob Nordan and was completed in 1882. Overseeing construction were master masons J. Paulsen and F. Johannessen. The congregation was officially created in 1880. It covered an area between Hovinveien, Sørligata, Jens Bjelkes gate, Sverres gate, Åkebergveien and Strømsveien up to the city boundaries.

In 1888, the economy slowly started to recover from a long period of stagnation. At the same time, a second generation of Norwegian-born architects began to emerge. It was in this year that Henrik Bull and Christian Fürst won their first competitions in Kristiania (Fürst won the competition for Sagene kirke). Both of them were still residing in Berlin, and they sent in respective proposals from abroad. As such, this was similar to the beginnings of the career of Christian Grosch, who sent in a winning proposal for Christiania stock exchange while still in Copenhagen, back in the 1820s. Bull was also second generation in a more direct sense, as he was Georg Bulls son.

The crisis of the 1880s had brought construction at Grünerløkka to a standstill. However, development had been so rapid in the 1870s, and was expected to resume, that it was evident that a new church was needed. The Old Paulus Church, completed in 1887, was renamed Petrus and the old name transferred to the new church: Paulus kirke. This way, Grünerløkka and Sofienberg each got a church. They would soon need it, as many of the city's new arrivals settled there, In 1886, Grünerløkka had only 13 600 inhabitants. In 1900, there were 22 000. Sofienberg had 7 800 in 1886, but 21 000 in 1900. Several of the most populous streets in the city were in Grünerløkka. Thorvald Meyers gate, Markveien and Toftes gate were three of only five in the entire city, with a population in excess of 3000. 

The new church was completed in 1892. The boundaries to Petrus was established in 1897, and followed Toftes gate, Helgesens gate, Teglverksgata, Verksgata, and Fagerheimsgata, to Sannergata. Verksgata doesn't actually connect to Fagerheimsgata, but there seems to have been plans for a square to bridge this gap: Christies Plass. There is football field there now, called Dælenenga.

The congregation for Sagene was established already in 1880. In fact, Sagene had been a separate community for hundreds of years. As far back as the 1500s, there had been a settlement making a living from the sawmills along the river. When Christian IV established the city of Christiania, Sagene was the suggested alternative for people who could not afford to build in brick. What was known as Sagene back then was much more extensive, and stretched almost as far south as Grünerbrua. At the beginning of the 1800s, there were about as many people in Sagene as in settlements such as Vaterland, Vika and Grensen. Northern and Eastern Sagene was outside Bymarken, but was transferred to Christiania from Aker in 1859. Nonetheless, new settlements in places such as Moløkka, just on the outskirts of the new boundaries were still being built in wood, until the boundaries shifted again in 1878. 

The site selected for Sagene kirke had previously belonged to Dannevigsløkka, outside Bymarken but inside the boundaries established in 1859. The plot and what would later become the park Graabeinsletten, was apparently owned by the municipality for some time, as it was used to store gravel from the 1850s onwards. As mentioned previously, the church was designed by Christian Fürst, who also had designed the new church for Arendal, completed in 1888. A this time, Fürst was an assistant at Paul Wallots office in Berlin, and was possibly involved in some way in the design for the German Reichstag. The altarpiece at Sagene is a copy of the altarpiece from the cathedral of Antwerpen.

The next church to be built in Oslo was in Vaterland, in 1899. The architect was Heinrich Jürgensen and the style has been described as Venetian late-gothic. Unlike the predecessors, the facade was plastered with only some of the detailing in exposed brick, and the church was not free-standing but incorporated into a city block. It was a so-called småkirke, an idea created in Britain and adopted in Denmark. The point was to have small congregations, so as to create a closer bond between the church and the working classes. This may also give some insight as to why the municipality was so keen to build new churches in the east, as the dangers of moral degradation were seen as most pressing in those areas. A similar church was built for Tøyen (Halfdan Berle, 1906-07) and in Pipervika (Harald Aars, 1911). Aars also planned a complex with church at the corner of Nordbygata and Lakkegata for the city anniversary in 1924, but nothing came of it. Both Vaterland and Pipervika have been demolished, but Tøyen is still standing. The small churches were also meant as response to the emergence of free and non-municipal churches. Evangelisk lutherske frikirke was built in 1885 by Carl Konopka, and still stands in Lakkegata 47. A catholic church was also built at the back of Urtegata 29 in 1896 by Ole Sverre, demolished in the 1960s.

Although churches such as Vaterland and Tøyen were built in brick and plaster, the new movement for the main municipal churches were for the facades to be dressed in stone. The late 1890s was in many ways the apex of German influence in Norwegian architecture but counter-trends emerged simultaneously dedicated to the creation of a more national style. People such as Hermann Schirmer pointed to the fact that Norwegian medieval churches were dressed in stone, and although influenced by English and Scottish traditions had a character of their own. The first church to be built according to the new principles was Vålerenga kirke in 1902. It is dressed in granite with details in soapstone, and has the tower placed asymmetrically. The architects were Heinrich Jürgensen og Holger Sinding-Larsen. The church was damaged by fire in 1979, and re-consecrated in 1984.

The 1890s was a massive growth spurt for the west, leading to the creation of two new congregations: Fagerborg and Frogner. 
Construction for Fagerborg kirke began in 1901 and was completed in 1903. The architect was Hagbarth Schytte-Berg, who triumphed in a competition among 54 proposals. The church is dressed in granite (details in polished granite), and though the style is clearly medieval, it is usually described as also incorporating elements of jugend. The church is located in Stensparken, at Norabakken. The name Stensparken comes from an estate called Steinn, later Sten. The municipality bought the plot in 1896 from what was then called Reisersens løkke. From 1825 to 1868, it had been used as a rubbish dump and sewage pit, and was probably municipal land during that period. Stensparken was part of Bymarken and was incorporated into the city in 1859. The park was developed from the 1890s to the 1940s.

The congregation was officially created in 1897. The borders to Uranienborg, Gamle and Vestre Aker were Bogstadveien, Hegdehaugsveien, Oscars gate, Pilestredet, Thereses gate and Kirkeveien.

At the same time, new churches were being built in Aker: Ullern and Grorud. Both were by the architect Harald Bødtker, who had become Akers kommunearkitekt. For Grorud, Bødtker collaborated with Halfdan Berle. The congregation for Grorud was only created in 1947. Much older churches already existed at Nordstrand (Jacob Nordan, 1886) and Sørkedalen (Christian Grosch, 1865).

A plot for the planned Frogner kirke was found in 1894, at Gimlehøyden, on a property known as Jørgenslyst or Gimlehøi. The congregation was created in 1898 and a proposal was chosen in 1902. In the 1890s, the church was probably planned as a free-standing structure. But by 1902, it was already decided that it would be built as part of a city block. This was probably a cost-saving measure, the municipality could get some cash by selling of the remainder of the land to developers, and it was possibly also a political gesture to show that modesty also reigned in the west, especially considering the difficult economic climate after 1899. This way, only the front would be dressed in stone, while the back, hidden behind other buildings, could be in plain brick. The competition in 1902 was won by Ivar Næss and the church was finally consecrated in 1907. As with Fagerborg, the facade is dressed in granite, with polished detailing. Næss' original plan was for the church to be pulled back from the street, so that the neighbouring buildings would create a forecourt in front of it. In 1915, when the respective plots were sold, the architects ignored this and pulled back the facades of those buildings too, creating a uniform line. The developers on the other side of the street had also pulled the buildings back from the street, so that Bygdøy allé is much wider in this section than elsewhere.

In 1916, a number of new congregations were created close to the city centre. Most of these do not seem to ever have had a church and were in the end dissolved, due to the dwindling populations in the central parts of the city. Wexel congregation was dissolved already in 1929, while Hauges and Matteus congregation were both dissolved in 1938. In the case of Markus, a church was built and consecrated in 1927. 

The architect behind Markus kirke was Sverre Knudsen, who choose a baroque style instead of the usual medieval. The style is apparently inspired by Swedish architecture, and has been described as nordic neo-baroque with elements of neo-classical. The facades are in plastered brick; stone dressing had going out of fashion ever since Tøyen Småkirke in 1907. The entrance portal is in granite though. Exposed brick had also made a comeback. Lovisenberg was built for Diakonissehuset in 1912 and Harald Aars also designed Vestre Frikirke in 1920. 

A plot was found on a property called Høiens Grunn, located in an area that was built up in the 1890s. The difficult topography had left a gap, but this also meant that the construction of the church would be slow and difficult (1923-27). Some of the bedrock is still there, and the church is accessed via a staircase from street level. 

The original borders of the new congregation were between Pilestredet, Dalsbergstien, Frydenlundgata, Ullevålsveien and Nordahl Bruns gate. A part of Gamle Aker has since been incorporated while a different part has been given to Trefoldighetskirken. 

Majorstuen Church was also built around this time, in 1926, but was only made a full congregational church in the 1960s.

For more information about historic Oslo, buy my book, Det Tapte Kristiania, here.

domingo, 8 de diciembre de 2013

Soho Square

The square was developed in the late 17th century in the area known as Soho fields, in the parish of St Anne. The name Soho appears for the first time in about 1636 and appears to be derived from a hunting call, and the area had indeed been used as hunting grounds. It had in the previous century been known as St. Giles's Field, later Kemp's Field or Bunch's Close, and belonged in the middle ages to the custodian of the leper hospital of St. Giles in the Fields. It was seized by the crown during the dissolution and became part of the royal park of the palace of Whitehall.

The land was granted on lease to the earl of St. Albans in the 1660’s and was further leased to Joseph Girle, who obtained a licence to build. The lease was nonetheless passed on to Richard Frith who started the actual building, along with his associate William Pym, from 1677 onwards. The square was known as Frith’s square in the early 1680’s, but was soon renamed King’s Square after a statue by Caius Gabriel Cibber of King Charles II was placed at the centre of the square in 1681. The rate books suggest that 14 houses had been completed and were occupied by 1683. This number rose to 23 by 1685 and to 41 by 1691. With the exception of Monmouth House on the south side of the square, all the houses followed an identical brick design: three stories high, with segmental pediments over the doorcases, horizontal bandcourses between the floors and presumably flat gauge arches over the windows. The windows were sash but some of the houses had mullioned-transomed windows in the top storey. The fronts were capped with a modillioned eaves-cornice of wood and the sloping roof had pedimented dormers.

The land was granted as freehold in 1698 to the earl of Portland. However, the south side remained under the ownership of the crown and the last part of these properties was only sold in 1955. The Portland freehold was still subject to the lease agreement made to the earl of St. Albans, which only expired in 1734. The earls of Portland granted reversionary leases and a number of houses were rebuilt or improved after 1734. In 1790, the third duke began to sell the plots off as freeholds, and by 1805 only the garden square remained as Portland property.

Three of the original houses in the northwest side of the square were demolished in 1735 and new ones subsequently built by the carpenter John Sanger. Two of these houses still stand: 38 Soho Square, at the corner of Carlisle Street, and 2 Soho Square. The building between them, 1 Soho Square, was demolished and a new building erected in 1904-05. The new building was designed by E. Keynes Purchase. Sanger's houses are both heavily altered. The shop front of number 38 belongs to the mid-19th century and the facade of 2 Soho Square is hidden under a coat of plaster. 3 Soho Square was built in 1903 to an art nouveau design by Charles H. Worley. The previous building was built for Edward le Neve in 1735 after the demolition of the original house. Numbers 4-6 was erected as one single building in 1801-04 for John Trotter, who used the building as a warehouse and later as the premises for the famous Soho bazaar. Trotter's bazaar was the first commercial building in the square but did not look out of place next to the other residential houses. The shop front was altered in the late 19th century. The original houses on 4-5 Soho Square had been demolished and replaced with new houses in 1726.

The white building in the corner was built circa 1929, replacing a previous house from 1745-48. The previous house had a facade framed with a brick arch capped with a triangular pediment. The second storey windows were Venetian while the windows in the third storey were shaped as a lunette. The Venetian windows had balustraded aprons and ionic columns. The door case was flanked with doric columns and was capped with a triangular pediment. On both sides were flanking windows. The design is thought to be inspired by Robert Taylor. The house was used as residence for the Spanish ambassador and was later occupied by John Trotter. The original houses at 8-9 Soho Square were only demolished to make way for the new French Protestant church in 1891-93. The previous church for Huguenots was located in St. Martin's le Grand but was demolished in 1887 to make way for the extension of the General Post Office. The church was designed by Aston Webb, with a front in brick and terracotta.  The stone tympanum of the central doorway was inserted in 1950. 10 Soho Square was originally built as two separate houses, which were united in 1696. The ground floor has been entirely modernised, and the upper stories have also been changed. Most notable is the addition of painted storey-bands and the window sills have also been lowered. Nonetheless, the house is one of the square's few survivors from the original construction. The building at the corner of Soho Street is from the early 20th century and replaced the original house there. 

On the other side of Soho street, both 12-13 Soho Square were demolished and rebuilt in 1768-69 by Henry Homer. Both were given new street fronts in stucco sometime after 1857. 12 Soho Square still retains the look from the mid-19th century but the corner-building at number 12 has been demolished and replaced with a modern building. 14 Soho Square was probably rebuilt in 1796 but it's unlikely that the original building was entirely demolished. The front was remodelled in the early 20th century with a gabled top storey, but this has since been removed. 15 Soho Square is one of the few surviving houses in the square. The ground floor has since been stuccoed and the top storey is a later addition but the rest of the brick front may be mostly original. It is in yellow brick with red dressings, the windows have flat gauges arches and the floors are separated by moulded brick bands. The four plots 16-19 in the northeast corner have all been demolished and replaced with a new building, presumably sometime in the late 1960's. The previous building at 16 Soho Square was built in 1891 to a design by J. T. Wimperis and Arber. It was by built for Orme and Sons and included showrooms and workrooms with a billiard saloon in the basement. Orme and Sons manufactured billiard-tables. 17 Soho Square was possibly still the original house, though the front was quite altered: with a ground floor in rusticated stucco, wrought-iron balcony on the first floor and a parapet in front of the roof. The demolished house at 18 Soho Square on the east range seems to have been from the mid-19th century, while 19 Soho Square was rebuilt in 1883 by the architect Rowland Plumbe for Burroughs and Watts. It was a four storey red brick building.

The present 20 Soho Square was built in 1924-26 by Ernest M. Joseph for Crosse and Blackwell. The original house was larger than most in the square  and was probably started as two separate houses, subsequently united in the course of construction. Thos assumption is based on the irregular spacing of the windows. The house was seven bays wide and the roof had a balustrade. The house was rebuilt with a new design by Robert Adam on behalf of John Grant, who purchased the property in 1771. Adam rusticated the ground floor and added ionic pilasters to the first and second. He had originally intended corinthian pilasters and a doric porch was also omitted on grounds of economy. The first floor had iron balconies and the facade ws also topped with a frieze executed in the Adam manner and a tall balustrade. The site of 21 Soho Square was also one of two houses that had been united shortly after or during construction. It was briefly the Spanish embassy in the 1770's and was later used as a hotel, probably in reality a brothel. The house was altered or rebuilt for Crosse & Blackwell in 1838-40. The current shopfront is from 1927–28 and designed by M. W. Matts. 

The building on the south corner of Sutton Row is the St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church and was built in 1891 by architect John Kelly. The premises had been used as a catholic chapel dedicated to St. Patrick since 1792. The upper floor of Teresa Cornelys' assembly rooms in Sutton Row was removed to create the chapel. Cornelys had been famous for balls, masquerades and operatic performances but was arrested for failing to honour her debts in 1772. The original house on the square, Carlisle House, was demolished in 1794 and replaced with two new houses. The southern of these still stands and is used as the presbytery to the church.

The building adjoining the presbytery to the south was built in 1913–14 by the architects Taperell and Haase. The next building was erected in 1938–39 and was designed by Gordon Jeeves. It replaced three former houses. Both 23 and 24 Soho Square were rebuilt in 1734–5 by James Surman. Number 23 had a four-storey front with a bowed balcony on the first-floor middle window and a classical doorcase on the ground floor. Number 24 had a porch with doric columns and cast-iron balconies on the first floor, probably from the early nineteenth-century. The original 25 Soho Square was demolished in 1758 and a new house was built for William Robinson. This was the 'Little House' of the two adjoining houses Robinson had built. The'Great House' to the south still stands, though the rusticated ground floor has been altered quite substantially. The two fronts were almost identical with Venetian windows on the first floor. The front of 26 Soho Square is quite narrow but the site extends to the back of 1 Greek Street. The original house on the corner with Greek street was demolished in 1742 but the owner soon went bankrupt. The new house was subsequently built by bricklayer Joseph Pearce in 1744-46. It became the House of St. Barnabas-in-Soho in 1862, created for the relief of the destitute and homeless. A chapel was built and an inscription inserted into a bandcourse of glazed tiles. The inscription was once removed but has been re-introduced. The upper part of the walls also seems to have been partially rebuilt in yellow brick and the roof has been changed to a mansard. Otherwise, the house appears pretty much as Pearce built it.

The building at 27 Soho Square, Nascreno House, was built in 1937-38 by architects Douglas and Wood, but the current neo-look is probably from a later date It occupies the site of the former houses 27-28 Soho Square. The original 27 Soho Square was subdivided into two separate houses around 1790 and was shortly after rebuilt by Richard Pace. The site of number 28 originally belonged to Monmouth House and was only built after the demolition of Monmouth in 1773. A new passageway was laid out through the cleared site, which today is called Bateman's Buildings. 28 Soho Square had a standard brick front with flat arches of gauged brickwork over the windows, a plain bandcourse at first-floor level, and a frieze under the cornice. Both 28 and 29 Soho Square were completed in 1775 on opposite sides of the new passageway. The latter was demolished in 1867 and replaced with an extension for the neighbouring hospital for women. The hospital had occupied the adjoining house of 30 Soho Square since 1851. The original house had been partially rebuilt in 1730 and the two houses were given a common facade in stucco in 1909-10.

The house that originally dominated the south side of Soho Square was Monmouth House and this was also the only house from the beginning to deviate in style from the other houses in the square. It was incomplete when the duke of Monmouth was executed in 1685 and would only be finished by William Batesman in 1719. In the intervening years, Huguenots used it as a chapel and it was also considered as the site for a new church. The facade built for Batesman is usually attributed to Thomas Archer. The front had end bays with corinthian pilasters placed below the ends of a giant broken pediment. These were linked by balustrades to the much smaller central pediment. The porch had corinthian columns and a balustraded balcony. 

The south west corner of the square is dominated by 20th century buildings in a mock-Georgian style. 31-32 Soho Square was built in 1936-37 by architect Gordon Jeeves for Twentieth Century Fox. The previous buildings on the plot had both been rebuilt in the 1770s. 31 Soho Square was a large mansion with a brick front including a rusticated ground ground floor and a porch of ionic columns, both presumably added in the late 18th century. 32 Soho Square was rebuilt in 1773-1775 and may have been the work of Robert Taylor. The front had a Venetian window motif in the third floor. The entrance was flanked with columns and sash windows under an semi-elliptical arch. The windows above were separated by ionic colunms while the Venetian windows had composite. 33-34 Soho Square were both demolished in 1950 and replaced with Parkwood House, designed by Leslie Norton. The same architect built the adjoining building at 35 Soho Square in 1955-56 on very similar lines. 36 Soho Square still stands though it was refaced in the late 18th century. 37 Soho Square, at the corner with Carlisle Street, was rebuilt in 1766 and the shop front is from the 19th century.

lunes, 18 de noviembre de 2013

West Smithfield & Charterhouse Square


Looking at old maps of London from the late middle ages to early modern age, there is only one open space that really catches the eye. West Smithfield was located just outside the city walls. The location was already used as a horse fair and the Kings Friday Market, when a grant was given to establish a priory and hospital in 1123. A royal charter allowed the priory to set up Bartholomew Fair, an annual three-day event. It was the biggest cloth fair in the country in its heyday, and only stopped in 1855 on grounds of debauchery. West Smithfield was also used as an execution ground and for tournaments. Smithfield was a site for duels and was favoured as a place of torture by theologians. Many people were burnt here: Henry VIII burnt Catholics, Mary burnt Protestants and Elizabeth burnt Anabaptists.

St Bartholomew the Great became one of the biggest churches in London, but was seized by the crown in 1539. The nave of the church was demolished and the cleared area was replaced with a churchyard. The demolished space was subdivided into tenements and developed in the early 17th century. Most of the timber-framed houses were demolished in the early 20th century on grounds of public health. The gatehouse built on top of the old church entrance, on the other hand, was stripped of plaster and the timber frames were revealed and restored.

St Bartholomew the great became one of the biggest churches in London, but was seized by the crown in 1539. The nave of the church was demolished and the cleared area was replaced with a churchyard. The demolished space was subdivided into tenements and developed in the early 17th century. Most of the timber-framed houses were demolished in the early 20th century on grounds of public health. The gatehouse built on top of the old church entrance, on the other hand, was stripped of plaster and the timber frames were revealed and restored.

Giltspur Street was formerly known as Knightsriders Streets from the knights riding to the tournaments in West Smithfield. At the back can be seen the dome of Old Bailey (The Central Criminal Court).

 A formal charter was granted in the 14th for a weekly market. At the same time, the worshipful company of butchers was founded and slaughtering within the city walls was banned. Smithfield consequently developed a market for meat and livestock.

A new market building was designed by Horace Jones and construction began in 1866. It was completed two years later, extended in 1873-76 and further annexes were completed in 1888 and 1899. The four statues represent London, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Dublin. 

Weddel House (left) was increased in height from six to nine storeys just before the Second World War. The other buildings in this view are all Victorian. Number 12 is decorated with an iron shop front with capitals advertising an old pub. Number 11 has giant stone pilasters and spandrels of red brick. Numbers 9-10 is from 1890 and has a flying arch gable linking two dormer windows.

The corner building, number 8, has Gothic-Moorish detailing in windows and roofline.


Charterhouse Square was originally the outer precinct of the Charterhouse, a Carthusian priory founded in 1371. The Charterhouse became a private mansion in 1538 after the dissolution of monasteries, and was converted to a hospital in 1611. The former outer precinct remained open ground, and was  used as a churchyard. It is usually marked in old maps from before the 18th century as Charterhouse precinct, Charterhouse Yard, Charterhouse Close or Charterhouse Churchyard. 

The ownership of the land stayed with the freeholder of the Charterhouse, but the buildings surrounding the yard became fragmented after the dissolution. The area was initially an aristocratic area but was completely redeveloped from 1688 to 1705, and became steadily middle class. The new residents took the initiative to improve the open space, with crossing walks and trees. This was done in 1715 and 1742 and gave the space the look of a typical London West End square.

17 Charterhouse Square was partly built on top of a medieval gateway. It was built in 1716 for the physician to the Charterhouse, Henry Levett and the cost of building was paid by the Charterhouse governors. The front is in brick with red-brick dressings. The doorcase is of timber and is decorated with corinthian pilasters and a segmental pediment. To the left stood two similar houses but these were demolished before the end of the century. The succeeding houses have also been demolished and the building which stands here today was only completed in 1902, as Charterhouse Hotel.

The Charterhouse was converted into a private mansion in 1545 by Edward North. The great hall and chamber were built during this time. The complex was later altered and expanded when it became an almshouse and school after 1611.  

Most of the houses on the north side of the square were developed in 1810-25; but two of them actually go back to the late 17th century, despite heavy alterations. Prior to this period, there was a large mansion in this corner of the square known as Rutland House. 

The road dividing these houses from the larger building at the back is called Rutland Place and was created in the 1820s. The building was built after the war, despite its mock-Georgian appearance. It was designed by H. C. Wilkerson & Partners in 1957-59. The previous two houses were Georgian in appearance but included some last remaining Tudor elements, such as a fireplace.

Florin Court was built in 1935-37 as a residential development in the art deco style. The architects were Guy Morgan and Partners. The building has a roof garden and swimming pool in the basement.


Bartholomew Close was called Middlesex Court in the 18th century and Little  Bartholomew Close in the 19th century. The close is dominated by 43 Bartholomew Close, originally built as a warehouse for Israel & Oppenheimer  to a design by Walter Pamphilon. The prior's house was built on this site in 1517 and was later owned by the earl of Middlesex. It was destroyed in a fire in 1830 and replaced with a row of cottages, known as Cockerill's Buildings. These and a few other adjoining buildings were demolished in 1912. On the north side of the Close stood the parochial schools, built in 1888 to the design by Aston Webb.  Also visible from the close is the Lady Chapel of Bartholomew the Great.  The church appearance is a result of a number of alterations, with walls of mediaeval ragstone rubble, freestone dressings, a brick tower from 1628 and 19th century flint.

lunes, 7 de octubre de 2013

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Lincoln's Inn Fields was built on the initiative of William Newton, who obtained a lease from the crown in 1629 for the property known as Cup Field. This land had previously belonged to the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell but was confiscated during the reign of Henry VIII. It was briefly reinstated during the time of Queen Mary but reverted to the crown under Elizabeth I. The adjoining land to the west, Purse Field, was obtained by Newton in 1638. The fate of this property was similar to that of Cup Field. It belonged to the Hospital of St. Giles but was confiscated in about 1537.

Previous attempts to build in the area had been frustrated by government policy. A provision was made to prevent any buildings on new foundations within three miles of the city gates. Nonetheless, Newton managed to convince Charles I to give him a licence to build 32 houses, probably on the grounds that it would increase the value of the land, which still ultimately belonged to the crown.

Newton had some of the houses built himself but sold most of the plots to builders. By 1641, new houses had appeared on the south and west side of Purse Field in the west. New houses in Great Queen Street was also built as part of the this development. 

However, Lincoln's Inn had lodged a complaint with the House of Commons and further construction was not allowed to proceed. Newton tried to appeal, but the matter was left unresolved when the civil war broke out in 1642.

The north side of Purse Field was completed in 1653-57. The land had by this time passed from William's brother, Humphrey Newton, to Arthur Newman.  The north and south sides of Cup Field, on the other hand, were acquired by William and James Cowper and Robert Henley. The remaining plots were built up in 1658-59. The surrounding streets were named Newman's Row, Arch Row and Portugal Row.

Despite the relative uniformity of elevations, there is no record of a binding clause, in Newton's lease agreement with the crown nor in the contracts he made with developers of the individual plots. It is assumed that conformity came as a result of voluntary agreement.

A plan to build a church in the middle of the Fields were proposed in 1699 by Cavendish Weedon, with a church design by Christopher Wren. The plans were never carried out.

The building known as Lindsey House (59-60 Lincoln's Inn Fields) was built in 1640 and is the only remaining of the original facades. It was long thought to have been built for the earl of Lindsey, but is more likely to have been built on a speculative basis by David Cunningham. The design has been attributed to Inigo Jones, but there is no evidence of this. The elevation is in stone and brick, with a portion of the cornice in wood, but the brick has since been stuccoed over. The house was divided into two in 1751-52, a party wall was driven through the property and a new double entrance was created. Other alterations to the facade include the missing female bust on the central pediment and the lowering of the first floor windows. These were previously aligned with the pilasters and did not dip below the pedestals.

The adjacent house (57-58 Lincoln's Inn Fields) has a very similar facade, but this is not the original. It was built for Charles Talbot circa 1730 by the architect Henry Joynes. The work was criticised at the time for breaking the symmetry of the row. Previously, Lindsey House had been the tallest structure, with adjoining houses to the south and north slightly lower and the row's remaining houses slightly lower still. Talbot's rebuild, however, is taller than Lindsey House. The entrance was altered in about 1795 when the house was divided into two and a party wall was driven through the property. The portico was designed by John Soane. The original house was built in 1639-40 by Edward Bellingham.

To the left stands Queen's House, and at the corner of Sardinia Street the LSE New Academic Building. Both were built as part of the Kingsway development in the early 20th century. Queen's House was built by architect M.E. Collins in 1913-14, while the New Academic Building was built as offices for the Public Trustees in 1912-15. It has previously been known as Stewart House and was designed by architect Henry Tanner. 

The previous houses, five in total, were built by John Gorst and David Murray, in a style similar to Lindsey House. The elevations were mainly in brick, with ionic pilasters, and stone in capitals and bases. The pilasters were decorated with Tudor roses and fleur-de-lis. A provision was made in the respective sales agreements with Gorst and Murray that an archway should be built under the houses to provide access to Princes Street. All the houses survived until the 20th century except for 56 Lincoln's Inn Fields, which had been replaced with a plain brick facade. The door case was constructed in wood with Ionic columns supporting a broken pediment. The remaining four houses had suffered various alterations, such as projecting bay windows, partial reconstruction after fire and plain attic storeys. 

The building adjoining Lindsey House to the north was demolished in 1746-49 and replaced with two new houses with plain brick and stucco facades. These were pulled down in 1910 and a new building was erected, probably to the design of architect Paul Hoffman. But the current building is from about 1980 and is not much taller than Lindsey House. The next building is one of the earliest reinforced concrete buildings in London. It was designed by architect William Simmons and was completed in 1886-88. 

The facade of 64 Lincoln's Inn Fields has pilasters and is vaguely similar to Lindsey House. However, the stuccoed front is from the early 19th century. The narrow frontage of 65 Lincoln's Inn Fields is a bit older and was completed in 1772. The architect for this is recorded as a Mr. Leverton.

The large mansion on the corner is Newcastle House, formerly known as Powis House. The original building was destroyed in a fire in 1684, and a new house was built to the design of William Winde. The owner at the time was the earl of Powis who had to leave the country after the downfall of James II. The house, still not entirely finished, narrowly escaped being destroyed by a mob and was selected as the official residence of the keepers of the great seal. Works were subsequently carried out according to instructions by Christopher Wren. In 1705 the house passed to the dukes of Newcastle and the keepers of the great seal moved to 51-52 Lincoln's Inn Fields. Alterations were subsequently made by John Vanbrugh. The house was divided into two parts in about 1771 and the facade suffered further changes. However, in 1906 the two parts were reunited into one and in 1930-31 the original facade was restored by Edwin Lutyens and Dendy Watney.

On the north side, most of the buildings are from the 18th century and none of the originals remain.  Numbers 1 to 12 were all built by Arthur Newman in 1653-57. The remaining houses to the east were only built after an agreement was reached in 1657 between the Society of Lincoln's Inn and William Cowper, Robert Henley and James Cowper. 

Numbers 12-14 were united into one by John Soane and is today a museum. Number 12 was purchased by the architect in 1792 and the two other houses were pulled down and rebuilt by Soane in the period up to 1824. Numbers 15-16 are more typical 18th century houses. Number 15 was probably built around 1742 and has a doorcase with ionic columns and a pediment. The building on the right (17-18 Lincoln's Inn Fields) was completed in 1872 by Alfred Waterhouse.

martes, 17 de septiembre de 2013

Hansteens gate 2

Hansteens gate 2 was built on a property formerly known as Sophienberg or Arbins løkke. Development began in 1856 when a small parcel of land was sold at the far western corner of the property. The building on this plot was constructed on behalf of a foundation, established to provide housing for non-married women (Kong Oscars Minde). The building was constructed according to designs by architect Christian Grosch and was completed in 1861. It was demolished to make way for the American embassy, completed in 1959, to a design by architect Eero Saarinen (this building is visible in the far right corner of the building above). The rest of the property was inherited by Carl Thorvald Schiøtt, who sold of a number plots to developers. New apartment buildings were constructed in the 1870s and 1890s, after an economic slump in the intervening decade. The corner building, Haanstens gate 2, was included among the four buildings along Drammensveien (Henrik Ibsens gate) to be completed in the first building phase. 

I don't know the name of the architect or the specific year of construction, and the steep roof seems to be a later addition. This may also be the case for the projecting bay window on the corner. The building was demolished and replaced with a new office building in 1967. I believe the architect was Jon Engh. Hansteens gate 4 and 6 was also demolished as part of this development.

For more information about historic Oslo, buy my book, Det Tapte Kristiania, here.