The Aeronauts go to Ronchamp


Three Mirage 2000 jets of L’armée de l’air fly north towards the Franche Comte/Lorraine border in this odd postcard from Ronchamp*. The aerial view is not particularly flattering to a building that was designed to be approached from the slopes below. The previous chapel on the site was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War and the remains were used as building materials in the new building. I suppose the chapel is being protected rather than threatened by the jets but what is the meaning of the title on the postcard back: flagrant delit?**

Mirage fighters were a feature of motorway travel in France in the ‘seventies and, flying in formation above the Autoroute near Dijon, evoked the over-dubbed delights of The Aeronauts*** a Saturday morning TV programme shown alongside Robinson Crusoe and The Flashing Blade.

*bought in the early ‘nineties and found in ‘the bottom drawer’
** in flagrante delicto
*** Les Chevaliers du Ciel in France (link)

Research Studentship




Pugin: the Search for the True Gothic

2012 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, one of the most important architects of the nineteenth century. His approach to the interpretation and creation of a neo-gothic architecture based upon an archaeological approach to mediaeval sources was the key influence on the development of Gothic architecture in the Victorian age. This in turn fed Modernist theories of the relationship between the component parts of architecture and functionalist approaches to domestic design, particularly in the Arts and Crafts movement.

The church of Our Lady and St Wilfrid and the adjacent presbytery represent a unique opportunity to study a group of Pugin’s buildings in something near to their original state. The church itself is a total work of art; a rich expression of ritual, archaeology, local material and rich ornament combined to produce a beguiling architectural whole. Adjacent to the church is the presbytery, a severe proto-functionalist house displaying Pugin’s concern for the plan as generator, rejecting superficial stylistic references. Both buildings were designed by Pugin but constructed without his personal supervision. This was typical of Pugin’s relationship with clients and builders, and the method was taken to its extreme when an exact replica of this church was constructed in Australia.

Pevsner considers the construction of this “small but first rate” church to be so significant that it caused “the vigorous field of ecclesiastical architecture (to be) hijacked into True Gothic”… “His little Catholic church at Warwick Bridge is a perfect document of the new attitude, the revival of an ideal English Gothic with religious fervour” and “It is here and more or less precisely in 1841 that archaeological accuracy begins in English church design.”

Research Question

How can the buildings at the church of Our Lady and St Wilfrid in Warwick Bridge be understood as the original model for a new approach to the understanding of true Gothic principles and a precursor of particular theoretical and practical approaches in Modern architecture.

Research Methods

There are particular opportunities for links with industry through collaboration with Francis Roberts Architects, an architectural practice with a reputation for sympathetic and skilful architectural conservation work. This relationship will aid the student and provide direct access to the parish priest, the parishioners, and expert historians and conservators.

Possible Aims and Objectives

Contribute to the understanding of Pugin as an architect and show how clients and builders remotely interpreted his designs. Compare the results with the original drawings.

Conduct a definitive historical and physical survey of the building. Access and analyse the building in relation to the documentary evidence. This search can use the Benedictine archive at Ampleforth and other sources 

Analyse the techniques used in construction and decoration. Contribute to the development of a conservation plan.

Situate the design of the church and the presbytery in its historical context and place it within a contemporary discourse. Acknowledge issues of practical art verses theory

Contribute to the stewardship of these buildings through an understanding of original construction techniques and contemporary methods of conservation and repair.

Review the available literature on Pugin.

Informal enquiries can be made to Sally Stone,

More information on how to apply: CLICK HERE (then select the ‘Art & Design’ tab)


St Wilfrid remains in Hulme


A flying visit to St Wilfrid’s RC Church in Hulme, Manchester designed by A.W.N. Pugin.

Pevsner writes: By Pugin, 1842, and memorable as a very early case of the archeologically convincing church … The exterior of the church is red brick, with lancet windows. It all had to be done cheaply – Pugin’s bane. But he allowed himself the touch of archeological fun of laying his bricks English bond, not Flemish like the hated Georgians.

The church was subsumed in the redevelopment of the 1970s and lost its relationship with low-rise terraced streets. The New Hulme has reinstated something of the original scale of the surrounding buildings.


The building was deconsecrated in the early ‘nineties and converted for use as workshop and business start-up units. The nave has been filled with a utilitarian free-standing structure – in theory the insertion can be removed and the single axial space would be revealed. The chancel and high-altar house a cafe.

Millions have been spent on the adjacent award-winning park and bridges but the exterior of this pre-existing monument continues to deteriorate and repair is probably beyond the resources of the present occupiers.


English Heritage inspectors continue to visit the Grade ll-listed building and are, in general, pleased that the building is heated and used.


Jack Coia and The Prototype Pavilion


Our colleague James Robertson continues his doctoral research on Jack Coia with a presentation on his work at the Association of Art Historians Summer Symposium at the Henry Moore Institute (24-25 June 2010) in Leeds. The conference theme is ‘Architectural Objects:Discussing Spatial Form across Art Histories’, and James’s abstract is below.

The Prototype Pavilion – Modernism, National Identity and Religion in the Context of Scotland

The national and international architectural expositions of the twentieth century gave designers the opportunity to craft on a small scale, with very distilled and often experimental forms of architecture. Through their participation in such varied architectural displays, designers would very often create work which in some way reflected the ‘mood’ of the nation or of the era. One such exposition, the international importance of which has not yet been satisfactorily documented, was the Glasgow Empire Exhibition of 1938.

A team of Scottish architects was commissioned to design the exposition pavilions representing industry and institution, in a nationally symbolic gesture of optimism following decades of economic and social depression. The pavilion of the Roman Catholic Church, designed by the Glasgow architectural practice of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, headed by the Scoto-Italian Jack Coia (1898-1981), was one of the most striking, unconventional and overtly ‘modern’ pavilions created at the exposition, particularly in a religious context, and in fact could be said to be seminal in terms of modernism in Scotland in a wider sense[1].

In collaboration with artist colleagues and student apprentices, and looking simultaneously to Scotland’s national past and to international architectural developments, Coia fused artistic and architectural themes with a provenance in contemporary Italian architectural projects. The de Chirico-influenced metaphysical painting of churches such as San Felice da Cantalice, Rome (Paniconi & Pediconi, 1934) and the political montages of the ‘Fascist’ architecture of the time, such as Terragni’s Casa del Fascio, Como (1932), are critically apparent, as are the quasi-religious architectural devices of the Exposition of the Fascist Revolution, Rome (1932). Coia effectively experimented on a small scale with architectural motifs at Empirex[2] which would subsequently evolve into the ‘architectural objects’ of much of the firm’s later, more celebrated work.

It can be argued that that Empirex allowed Scotland to experiment with, through the medium of a small-scale pavilion in a national exposition, and through Coia, the prototype for a Scottish national version of ecclesiastical modernism, with potentially direct connections to Rome, the Vatican and the Italian artistic and architectural milieu of the era.

[1] The Scottish Catholic historian, Peter Anson argued in 1939 that the pavilion ‘may mark the beginning of a new epoch in Scottish church architecture’

[2] Empirex was an acronym relating to the Glasgow Empire Exhibition

Leaning Tower of Plečnik

St Antun* Catholic Church, Belgrade. 1936-63. Architect: Jože Plečnik


A circular church with a circular tower that is now leaning slightly as can be seen in the gap between it and the neighbouring block.


Monolithic columns in the porch have capitals unlike any I have ever seen, what are they? Due to the crowded site this building is very hard to photograph.


Architect’s drawings as reproduced in Ferlenga & Polano (authors) Jože Plečnik, Progetti e città. Electa, Milano 1990*St Anthony of Padua