Foyer of the Strand Palace Hotel
1930-1 by Oliver P. Bernard
Reproduced with permission of English Heritage for the V&A
The V&A’s Art Deco exhibition in 2003 was a spectacular blockbuster show. True to its space, the exhibition was not just art on the wall but a plethora of objects; an array of everything that embodied the time, notably a magnificently large car and the entire installation of the old foyer of the Strand Palace Hotel. The foyer was perhaps most impressive because of the atmosphere it exudes, the inter-war boom of parties and Hollywood — the glitz, glamour and style that triumphed every aspect of aesthetic life. The foyer let us step back in time, surrounded and confronted by the brilliance of its overwhelming structure – each streamlined light-box glows invitingly; in darkness it must have looked fantastic. The echoing of line and shape, the climbing right angles that border the stairs, the perspective enhancing cornice that foots the ceiling; all backlit, all gleaming out impressively to the guest or passer-by. The four mirrors and diamond-shaped revolving doors then reflect the effect, bouncing back the light, evolving and echoing the lines, catching the design and playing it back in a crystal-like awe. The softness and lustre of this photograph encourages a romantic view of this opening into a time gone by, a hazy memory. In the flesh, its reality was overpowering; you have to wonder why, in 1969, they ever took it down.