Picturing London

Artists' interpretations: County Hall

Perspective of County Hall under construction

Perspective of County Hall under construction, c.1920
Designer: Ralph Knott
Artist: William Walcot
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections

Almost opposite the Houses of Parliament stands Ralph Knott's County Hall, London's
centre of government for much of the 20th century. The 19th century Houses of Parliament is a Gothic fantasy, with its prickly attention-seeking silhouette. Contrasting with this exuberance, the 20th century County Hall is a classical mass, punched deep with voids, intensely sober in bearing.

William Walcot, a major architectural artist during the 1920s and 30s, began this watercolour by drawing a light architectural wireframe of the building in pencil. He then coloured over the image, concentrating on the fall of light upon the façade and river. County Hall appears grand and monumental, yet hastily drawn scaffolding still covers portions of the structure and steam shovels sit in front of the facade. Walcot managed to capture the building's theatricality even in the midst of the lengthy construction.

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