Clerkenwell has long been a part of London during my working life, and I have a great affection for what I always thought of as the working centre of the great city. It has changed almost beyond recognition in some areas, but it has retained a strong beating heart. Design Week – a tad over-egged since it takes place over just three days certainly showed how much hard work can be found in such a small area, a considerable effort had gone into creating a warm and buzzing atmosphere, and creativity abounded. I joined fellow photographer and resident of the area, Geoff Dann to explore what was on offer. I started by going to the bottom of Charterhouse buildings which was a cul de sac I once knew very well indeed as I used to park there when I first set up ‘SOLUTIONS photographic’ in 1986. Back then the Ahrend showrooms which inhabit the building now, was a Car Park on a former bomb site belonging to St. Bart’s hospital.
The staff of Ahrend were extremely friendly and helpful, and more than happy for me to wander around taking photos, and I duly entered my votes for the best exhibits by architects in their Art Competition, and this visit was made before meeting up with Geoff. Later we not only made another tour of Ahrend, but we also met up with one of my former colleagues, retoucher John Swift in the very building from which I started my solo career. Back then I sat in a deckchair with a pile of telephone directories by my side and a monolithic ‘luggable’ Motorola mobile phone atop this ‘desk’ as I rang around drumming up business from all over the country.
Geoff particularly wanted to visit the Priory Church in St John’s Square opposite another of my earlier haunts when I had been Sales Manager for Longacre Colour Labs, and although it did seem somewhat irreverent for their to be exhibition stands within the very chapel itself, there was a cabinet maker who was very happy to discuss with Geoff, the making of custom furniture which involved both modern digital techniques with old-world craft skills – one cabinet, a steal at £8,000!
We also visited a company whose range of bathroom furniture featured a magnificent SuperLoo which promised to cleanse the sedentary occupant front and back when flushed – a snip at a mere £7,000! There we met up with photographer Gareth Gardner who was exhibiting some of his work downstairs and with whom we had a chat. In toto, we enjoyed our visit there; there were several bathroom variants, the baths often complete with water!
Brewhouse Yard had changed to such a degree, I even had to ask Geoff what had been there previously, even though I then well-remembered the brewery as it was somewhere my father frequented when he worked for Allied Breweries! Earlier, before I had even entered Ahrend, I got a call from Charlie Campion of the John Thompson Partnership whom I had met during the Chaulington Planning Weekend, and he very kindly agreed to meet up at lunchtime even more generously taking me to a restaurant where we had a very enjoyable conversation as he had his lunch and I joined him in a white wine.
The further two highlights of the day were our visit to the new Zaha Hadid Gallery, and where we arrived in time to be invited to the inner sanctum on the first floor where they housed a vast range of maquettes which showed how many of their projects were developed, this was a guided tour so we learned the story of their organic growth from concepts that evolved from constant research and refinement. Once again we were allowed to photograph in the two floors; ground and basement, but photography was naturally strictly out of the question on the first floor. Our stay here was far longer than anywhere else! The Americans would have justly described this as ‘awesome’.
We also paid a visit to Milliken who had three excellent speakers who covered the 3D Modelling scene, and that was very interesting and well presented with some very open and honest commentaries of how journalists loved hype, but were less than interested in practicalities.
There were two areas: the Farmiloe Building and the House of Detention where entry was restricted only to those with registered badges, something neither of us wished to do as we like to control the access others have to us, so sadly that meant there were areas we never visited. I felt that was unnecessary intrusion; I am happy to let anyone know who I am and what I do, but I receive enough spam in my email without extending this reach further. I do feel the Organisers let themselves down in this instance. I hope this is something they reconsider for the future.