Wednesday, 10 April 2013

200words: Strawberry Hill

“..for you are like whitewashed tombs..” Matthew 23v27
“My buildings are paper..”
(Horace Walpole, August 1761)

Following nearly in the footsteps of Robinson, I quit my Vauxhall for Strawberry Hill pondering if two hundred words of commentary on such a romantic London cannot but be tinged with Keiller’s jaded utopian discontent? It is too easy, almost, to despise Walpole's confectious pile: this many rendered thing, mawkish with its belaboured slathers of fake frippery and indulgent organised silliness. Stark, awkward, castellated and now aggressively white, the renovations appear cynically determined to emphasise the shallow intellectualism of the ornamental language games wrought by this melancholy man of letters. What was he looking for? In its new birth, his now spruced-up, pimped-up, papier-mâché pastichery begs to be found endearing and eccentric by the clientèle targetted by the recent committee of curators conspicuously marketing to the revenue stream of wedding cake styled wedding venues. Modern marriage is a gothic tale, it seems: nostalgic in extreme, aesthetically melodramatic, and finally tragically pessimistic. What are they looking for? Inside, one meanders vacuously between little islands of opulence, obsessively gilded period features, doubly garish in their isolation, swimming in a sea of Baltic pine flooring. The effect combines the nouveau riche extremity of Harrods’ gaudy spectacle with the charmlessly generic, utilitistically plain, utterly unlived-in feel of an international conference centre. What was I looking for?

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