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Friday, 28 December 2012

An architectural experience

Tuesday, December 28th., London.

Yesterday morning I went over the Wesleyan Westminster building with Rickards. he is now gradually getting hold of me again as a great artist.

Rickards and Lanchester - original design conception
With regard to the building - cornices, showing horizontally through scaffolding. Huge upright girder half way through a doorway. Huge tripod of derricks going up through reinforced concrete floors, and so on. Iron tufted bars for reinforced concrete. Pools of water. Going up and down ladders. Cement-y dirt and mud. Sticky feeling on hands afterwards. Vibration of talking in crypt-like basement. Sound of people in street talking as if in building. Sounds of water and mysterious sounds actually in building. Whole structure penetrated by ventilation flues - looked like Oriental places for chucking down women - into underground rivers. Contractors' and architects' offices on entering. Clothes and boot brushes. Effect of grand staircases sketched out in stone and brick. The centre of the building was only a vast emptiness, with a long iron girder poised on either side - supporting, ultimately the galleries. Blue light, distinctly blue, coming down into basement through holes.

The Methodist Central Hall Westminster is a multi-purpose venue in the City of Westminster, London. It serves primarily as a Methodist church and a conference centre, but also as an art gallery and an office building (formerly as the headquarters of the Methodist Church of Great Britain until 2000). It contains twenty-two conference, meetings and seminar rooms, the largest being the Great Hall. 
Central Hall was funded between 1898 and 1908 by the "Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Fund" (or the "Million Guinea Fund", as it became more commonly known), whose aim was to raise one million guineas from one million Methodists. The fund closed in 1904 having raised 1,024,501 guineas (£1,075,727). Central Hall was to act not only as a church, but to be of "great service for conferences on religious, educational, scientific, philanthropic and social questions". Central Hall hosted the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. It was designed by Edwin Alfred Rickards, of the firm Lanchester, Stewart and Rickards. Although clad in an elaborate baroque style, to contrast with Westminster Abbey, it is an early example of the use of a reinforced concrete frame for a building in Britain. The interior was similarly planned on a Piranesian scale, although the execution was rather more economical. The hall was eventually finished in 1911. The domed ceiling of the Great Hall is reputed to be the second largest of its type in the world. The vast scale of the self-supporting ferro-concrete structure reflects the original intention that Central Hall was intended to be "an open-air meeting place with a roof on".

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