Two hundred and forty two

Selfridges Store Lift

1928 by Edgar William Brandt (interior) & Birmingham Guild of Metalworkers Walter Gilbert and Louis Weingartner (exterior).
Museum of London

The ghosts of London’s building past are hidden throughout the city’s museums and galleries, coming out for style specific exhibitions as demonstrations of a time gone by. In the V&A’s celebrated Art Deco exhibition the old foyer of The Strand Palace Hotel was installed – stairs and a terrifically mirrored doorway, all glowing luminously in their light-boxed articulation (see postcard 36). In the Museum of London lies Selfridges store lift, installed in 1928 to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 1929. The interior was designed by Edgar William Brandt, a French ironworker who despite his decorative ironwork was perhaps best known for his weapon design, his company designing 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortars that were used and copied throughout, and subsequently, in World War II. Brandt’s work here is far from military based, casting brilliantly bold sunbursts on the lift’s cavern – the rays curling to cloud-like swirls as they surge outwards. The sun itself opens in the form of gold gilded swans (in the Japanese style) and the effect is impactful through this heavy but beautifully handled metal on dark wood. Contrasting to this oriental inspiration are the zodiac motifs that cover the outside of the lift, which are more delicate in design.  The zodiac figures, full of presence in their familiar and story-evocative poses, fill their boxes as magnificent outlines as if backed by a setting sun – the glow of yellow light behind providing a celebratory glory. The difference in the metalwork’s background, that of backlighting and wood, gives very different but significant impact, a shadowy and mystical interior to the brilliance of outside. The remaining simply outlined light boxes gives a similar imposing effect to the Strand Palace’s foyer; nothing perhaps captivates as well as light, giving architecture a luminosity that entices those who interact with it to a mystical sense of stylised decadence and unreality.

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