1985 - Henley Regatta HQ
Henley's Royal Regatta is one of those sporting events that - like Ascot, the Lord's Test or the Boat Race - have become a part of the social calendar. Its prestige is reflected in the splendid building designed by Terry Farrell – one of Britain's leading architects - to house all the various functions of the Regatta organisation. The client's brief - for a building on three levels, each accommodating a specific function -was balanced by environmental consideration for its location, next to Henley's elegant 18th century bridge and in a town noted for its fine Georgian buildings. The structure - with an exterior executed for the most part in traditional materials such as brick and slate - replaced a ramshackle collection of buildings that had stood on the site for many years. What echoes of other architectural styles can you detect in the detailing of this building?
The design and especially the scaling of Terry Farrell's building are acutely sensitive to the character of the site. The line of the brick plinth on which it stands, for instance, is a continuation of the graceful sweep of the bridge. Such was the significance of the location that no fewer than 27 different planning and conservation authorities had to be consulted before the first brick could be laid. With a floor area of 12,000 square feet this is not an especially large building and the interior, like that of a ship, has been designed to make maximum use of available space. Inside the building, the river level has a wet dock and storage for the heavy equipment used to mark out the course of the Regatta. On the main level are offices, reception areas and the committee room - the latter is a generously proportioned room that, behind the triangular pediment and the impressive window, reaches up to the full height of the building. The entrance is at the side. Nestling under the eaves in the roof space is the Regatta Secretary's flat. As with many Postmodernist structures, the exterior of the building makes allusions to other architectural styles, rather than paying homage to any one school. Superficially, the building has a classical, almost civic quality, echoing the temples of ancient Greece. There is a nod, too, in the direction of the traditional Thames boathouse with its projecting front and, in the balconied front window, of the waterside palaces of Venice. But it is far from being a solemn building - its colours are cheerful and confident, its ambience perfectly capturing the elegance of its setting and the character of the event it supports. The bright colours of the exterior reflect the festive spirit of the Regatta, and the gay parade of blazers, club ties and summer dresses that - like the building itself -evoke pleasing, soft-focus images of an imagined golden age. However cosmopolitan its architectural influences, its execution in brick, slate and rendering makes it look as English as cream teas and straw boaters.
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