And then there were light fittings…
How often do you notice a skirting board, or comment on how beautiful a light fitting is? Probably not often. These features are not exactly the most prominent parts of a room, nor do they usually inspire much interest. But for the Senate House development, every detail – no matter how small – must be carefully considered to ensure it is in-keeping with the heritage and style of the building.
Senate House, like the main SOAS building, was designed by the architect Charles Holden and was completed in 1937. Until 1957 it was the tallest office building in London, but at just 64m Senate House is dwarfed by the 308m stature of The Shard, the current tallest building in the European Union. The building is typical of Modernist architecture and Holden’s distinct style of pared-down minimalism. Every feature of Senate House is protected by its grade II* listing, including any additions or alterations made during the North Block development – even the new light fittings.
Before any alterations or extensions are made to a listed building, consent must be granted by the local or borough council to ensure that the character and historic value of the building is not going to be compromised by the development. All new features, such as the sample light fittings which have recently been delivered to the site, must be approved by London Borough of Camden’s Conservation Officer before they can be installed.
Many of the original fixtures and fittings were designed by Holden and crafted specifically for the building in the style of the Arts and Crafts movement, an early influence of Holden’s. The role of the Conservation Officer is to consider the history and significance of the design of each original feature, comparing the new samples with the originals to ensure the materials and appearance of the new light fittings are true to the originals and worthy of the listed building. Once they receive the seal of approval, they can be fitted.
Who would have thought that such an insignificant feature could be subject to such care and attention?