Home > Architecture & Urban Design, Design, History, Things I Like... > Elephants in Greenwich and deceptive columns….

Elephants in Greenwich and deceptive columns….

I forgot to put these photos up…

And and I went for a bike ride a couple of weekends ago and as we took a short cut through the grounds of Greenwich University we came across this magnificent animal… A 4m+ high elephant with a castle on his back.. all made entirely out of plastic and then painted to look old and broken…

It seems that a film version of Les Miserables is currently being made there and Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawskmoor’s fine buildings are once again considered to be the ideal backdrop to create that period feel… (in this case an early 19th Century France)

I say once again, as there always seems to be someone making a film there.. Last year it was Johnny Depp and the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, when huge areas were hidden behind massive green screens which we could clearly see from the other side of the river. If you look you can also see the buildings playing a starring role in The Kings Speech, The Golden Compass, BBC’s Great Expectations, the recent Sherlock Holmes films with Robert Downey Jr, and The Iron Lady in which Meryl Streep takes on the role of the evil, depraved villain….

Speaking of the University of Greenwich campus buildings and specifically The Old Royal Naval College, I was told a likely story years ago by my architectural history teacher at Leeds, that I only recently discovered was absolutely true…

After Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor had presented their proposals for the great hall sometime during 1698, the client was concerned that the lintel above the wide span of the full height opening into the hall, would not be sufficient to hold up the massive dome above. Despite the architects arguments that there was more than enough structure, the client insisted that additional columns be placed in the opening. Very reluctantly, as he felt they diminished the effect of the huge opening into the main space, and after a number of heated exchanges, Wren agreed to the extra columns.

The last laugh was Wrens however, as unbeknownst to the client, he instructed the contractor to make the columns too short, and there is to this day, a two inch gap between the top of the capital and the underside of the lintel…

They’re the two round columns in the photos below and support (or not) the dome to the left in the photo above. Who said architects were arrogant…

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