Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Craig Hamilton - A Chapel in the North of Britain

We have featured this talented but overlooked British classical architect here before, though unfortunately photos were rather scarce. He has now put up a website documenting his splendid work on a jewel-like private chapel on a British estate, and it is well worth your time to study it. It has not escaped official notice, earning the 2006 Georgian Group award for best new classical building--impressive, given the stiff competition in Britain these days. It is one of the more innovative bits of classical work I have seen in recent years, blending clever references to Soane and Michelangelo into a taut, thoughtful whole. Even the holy water stoup has been thought through intelligently. My only quibble would be a preference for a fixed, marble altar than the more table-like form selected (though it is very finely crafted), but this may have to do less with the architect and more with the client's requests.

It is, however, is pleasing to see the patron commissioned not only the building, but all its furnishings and plate from the architect, as well as hiring the brilliant Alexander Stoddard to do the statuary. This depth of artistic control is crucial to achieving a beautiful whole; it is not enough to provide a beautiful hand-crafted surrounding and then spoil it by placing a commercial plaster statue smack in the middle of it. In any case, it should not distract us from the essential literate thoughtfulness of the design, a far cry from superficial mall classicism and cardboard pseudo-Gothic. More, please.

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