What I remember most about London when I first moved here from Toronto in 1996 were the unexpectedly brutal perspectives of the city. I fell in love with its lack of architectural guile.
London is a city with no guarantee of beauty unlike Paris, you never know what monstrosity is lying around the corner. This to me is a bonus. I knew as our estate agent ushered us into the courtyard off Hewett Street in Shoreditch that we would take on the space for our new gallery. It felt just right. Even a year later, I stop every morning and have at least a cursory glance at the view.
Pretentiously, the only words that sum it up for me are the French ’jolie laide’ (pretty-ugly) a strange mixture of the architectural splendour of Broadgate Tower, an endless corrugated iron wall and our 1970s beige brick building. This view is truly ’street’ in a way that all the Hoxtonian graffiti will never be. I love the juxtaposition of the old and the new, the designed and the made. The accidental nature of it excites me.
Our view reminds me of all this and of my first visit to Shoreditch in 1996, long before the arrival of the trendy boutiques and bars, but just as Tony Blair’s ’Cool Britannia’ was having an impact on the area.