Uninformed Comment

Of galleries and arcades

Posted in Architecture, Geography, History, Old but cool by uninformedcomment on May 1, 2009

Another cool old foreign building, again with glassy domes:

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

This time, it’s the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a glorified shopping archade in Milan (Italy) which, according to Good Old Wikipedia, is “a covered double arcade formed of two glass-vaulted arcades at right angles intersecting in an octagon”.  By that, I think they mean it’s laid out in an X shape.

It was completed in 1877 after 12 years in the making.

The same year the Emanuele was finished, work started on another, similar gallery in Naples, the Galleria Umberto I, shown here shortly after  its own completion in 1891:

"Are they open yet?  Is there a sale on?"

"Are they open yet? Is there a sale on?"

Now, I’ve never been to Italy, much to my chagrin, and if I did I’d probably not be going to either Milan or Naples, but there are more modest examples of vaulted, glassy galleries in the cities of England, where they’re usually referred to as “arcades”.  There are two in the city where I live, incidentally:

Hepworths Arcade

Arcade, Carr Lane

Though those lack the splendour of their Italian counterparts, they’re charming enough buildings in themselves, and it’s gratifying that they escaped the ravages of local post-war development, not to mention the plentiful, previous Luftwaffe bombs.

A larger and better British example is the Wayfarer’s Arcade on Lord Street in Southport, which is probably the second largest and prettiest I’ve visited:

Wayfarers' Arcade, Southport

The finest one I recall, however, is not far from here in Leeds:

Arcade in Leeds

It’s very tempting, at least for an oldish fogey like me, to start droning on about how they don’t make them like that any more, and in a literal sense I’d be right, but one must consider the lack of modern equivalents in the context of who built them.  I’m not talking about the architects – surely, another Galleria Umberto isn’t beyond the abilities of modern-day Italian architects – but those who actually manufactured and assembled the fabric of the building.

Googling around, other British examples crop up in Preston, Birmingham, Okehampton in Devon, Stirling, Nottingham and probably many others, but we travel abroad again for the final photo, taken in the Párizsi Udvar in Budapest, and simply showing its marvellous domed roof:

Parizsi Udvar, Budapest

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3 Responses

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  1. Greg Goss said, on May 31, 2009 at 3:20 am

    But if you want a “glass roof”, it no longer has to be domed. In 1978, I was working as a security guard at a large “strip mall” near Vancouver, Canada. They were rebuilding the “strip” design to be an enclosed design by adding a fourth “anchor store”, and by enclosing a two storey “U” shape that was currently open to the rain. The roof for Guildford Phase Three was assembled out on the parking lot, then lifted into place in four huge sections by crane and a fifth huge section lifted into place by Sikorsky. If I’d known that they were going to “skycrane” the fifth piece into place I would have made the trip in on my day off.

    Anyhow, these roof sections were all double-layer gridwork of small beams set as equilateral 60 degree triangles — Fuller would have been proud of them. In the middle of each segment, a steel and glass pyramid rose to the point that the crane or helicopter used to winch them into place.

    No poetry in flat roofs with pyramids, but they still let the light in. Though they switched the clear glass to dark smoked glass for most of the pyramid panels, and most of the horizontal panels were replaced with aluminum “siding” sometime between 1978 and my return to Vancouver in 88.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-bh/3481623325/in/set-72157603528129539/
    (The diagonal post bracing in picture one of that series and inside the pyramid in the fourth pic are also new since the seventies — presumably part of quakeproofing — something that Vancouver and Italy need to worry about, but not the REAL Guildford.)
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guildford_shopping_centre_in_Surrey,_BC2008.JPG also shows one pyramid. I don’t know why the net doesn’t have any pictures that show off all five pyramids.

  2. uninformedcomment said, on May 31, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Interesting. Also somewhat confusing at first – I’d not realised that there was not only a Guildford in BC but also that, like its UK equivalent, it’s in Surrey. According to Wikipedia (and Wiki’s never wrong, right?) it’s no coincidence; it blames a homesick Englishman called Brewer.

    The amusing thing is, Guildford, Surrey, England has a reputation for absolute mediocrity (although not having been there I can’t confirm or deny that). The character of Ford Prefect, I recall, pretended to be from Guildford, presumably for that reason.

  3. Bill Kinkaid said, on July 5, 2009 at 5:56 am

    That description isn’t far off, though the same can be said of most suburbs on both side of the pond. Our Surrey has the same general reputation in Vancouver that yours does in London (especially with a fast growing population of upwardly mobile live-way-the-hell-out-there-but-complain-about-lack-of-services types) with a good healthy dose of lowbrow sleazy inbred Essex thrown in, especially in the older neighbourhood of Whalley, oops Surrey City Centre.


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