March 02, 2004
The wraps are coming off Sainsbury's

On October 1st 2003, five months ago in other words, I did a posting here about a new Sainsbury's that had just opened near where I live, the odd thing about being that although the Sainsbury bit on the ground floor had just opened for business, the stuff above still needed lots more work. How long, I wondered then, would it be before the rest of the building was unveiled.

Well, I went past it again yesterday afternoon, and they are now taking the wrapping off the top of this edifice. Here's how it now looks:


And here's how things look at the far end, further towards Victoria Station:


The Elusive Camel survives, in a manner often practised by London pubs, dwarfed like New York churches by the surrounding hulks of relative modernity, purveying the comforts and consolations of an earlier time in history, comforts perhaps all the more necessary in the newer times.

I think I'm going to like this building a lot.

Maybe I want to like it, because here I am discovering it. I mean, there must be a thousand pictures of the Gherkin, but how many internetters have singled out this humdrum palace of trade for praise? And maybe I want to like it because this is the part of London where I take a lot of my exercise, and I've been happy here.

But I think that my liking is real, and based on more than happy personal associations. Although the grammar of the building, so to speak, is banal – the bricks are very ordinary, the roofs nothing at all grand – the combined effect looks as if it will be very pleasing. It all adds up to a fine albeit appropriately modest example of the pseudo-vernacular style, which, despite the qualification before the hyphen, is a not at all contemptible way of doing architecture. Better a nod towards a place of pleasing higgledy-piggledy picturesqueness than a geometrically crude lump of ugly honesty, which merely says: yes I am corporate lump aren't I? This, on the other hand, is a corporate lump with the good manners to disguise its economic nature, without actually going to the length of seriously pretending to be five different buildings.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:46 AM
Category: Architecture