…in the detail

Last month I went to a school reunion at my old school in north London. While we oohed and aahed at the indoor swimming pool and the drama block (and noted how much money schools can attract when they become fully private), I was particularly struck by the herbaceous borders … and the drainpipes.

The old building which forms the core of the building has wonderfully ornate lead drainpipes, as shown here:


Although there has been talk about the return of decoration in architecture, that almost always relates to facades. Decorating ‘functional’ elements just seems alien to us. But what pleasure there is in these ornate downpipes! Are they a nostalgic reminder of my school days? No, I never noticed them. At that age I was far too concerned with what was going on in my head or in my friendships to look around me. I feel that my aesthetic sense didn’t develop until I was about 25. But we are not all the same. A schoolmate who said her schooldays were very unhappy remembers the hoppers at the top of the newer drainpipes, decorated with the school initials. She used to study them through the window rather than paying attention to her lessons.

And what about the herbaceous borders? Again, I am much more aware now than then, though I think they have been improved. Here you go:





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