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English architecture of the 1930s was relatively unadventurous compared with that which was being built in continental Europe and the United States. The only buildings that can stand with the modernist structures across the water were built either by emigres fleeing the turmoil of pre-war Europe e.g. , the De La Warr Pavilion of Erich Mendelsshon and Serge Chermayeff, or by the small group of British architects e.g.Wells Coates, Maxwell Fry and Owen Williams, who were influenced by their continental and U.S. colleagues. The majority of English architects in the 1930s built very traditionally and acknowledged modern trends mainly by the application of decorative elements such as metal window frames with horizontal glazing bars, inappropriate flat roofs, or "Moderne" features using stripped down decorative elements, often drawn from classical precedents. A very few architects embraced the decorative tics of Art Deco, a style that had more success in the decorative arts than in architecture.
The other day, on one of our visits to Hull, we visited the Paragon railway station hotel (now the Royal Hotel, formerly the Royal Station Hotel), a fine stone building of 1849 by the architect G. T. Andrews. This is one of the few central Hull buildings that largely escaped the devastating bombing that the city suffered in WW2. A serious fire in 1990 saw careful rebuilding and consequently today we can admire its composition, carving and imposing facade. We can also enjoy the Art Deco doorway that was added to the entrance from the station concourse in the 1930s. This very theatrical entry has a rounded arch that echoes those of the older building. However, it is simplified, involves white glass illuminated from inside, and has decorative "curls" at the bottom. A glazed "overdoor" is also in very simply composed stained glass. The classical setting is acknowledged by the royal coat of arms that surmounts the doorway, and by the discreet brackets at the top left and right. Decorative metalwork can be seen in the ventilators in the centre of the steps. The whole composition feels like something lifted out of a 1930s cinema, or an American city, and in this context inserts a welcome note of gaiety that all too few people seem to notice.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 48mm (72mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On