Sunday, 14 December 2008


A few more photographs from the Man of Mode's recent trip to Hungary and Poland. This time, some images from Krakow.

Friday, 12 December 2008

More Soviet era statues

After my previous post of Socialist Realism and the statue park in Budapest, here are a couple more communist era statues.

Marx and Engels, in the Alexanderplatz in Berlin. In the background stands the partially-demolished Palast der Republik, the former parliament building of the DDR which also housed restaurants and a bowling alley. It stands on the site of the Stadtschoss, the Prussian-era royal palace in Berlin, which was badly damaged during the war and what was left was pulled down after the war. There are now plans to rebuild the palace at the same location.

Lenin, in October Square in Moscow. Apparently this is the last remaining public statue of Lenin in the Russian capital.

There is also a statue park in Moscow with various Soviet era works. I'll post some pictures of that in due course.

Does James Bond hate architecture?

An article from the Guardian on the architecture of James Bond, describing Bond's hatred of modern architecture in particular. It also argues that Quantum of Solace has the best architecture of any Bond film.

Guardian article

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Paul Stuart

Paul Stuart store exterior, photo from NY Times

The NY Times has a story about Paul Stuart, the clothier and haberdasher on Madison Avenue. It's one of the Man of Mode's favourite shopping destinations in New York.

The store is next door to Brooks Brothers, and it feels like a more stylish, more upscale version of Brooks. The shop is decorated with antiques, including a large Flemish tapestry next to the entrance. The Times describes the overall appearance as being like "the giant walk-in closet of an Illuminati Grand Master".

Their selection of ties is stupendous, with an especially good selection of silk knit ties in every possible colour. They also have an excellent range of bow ties, if that's your thing.

Paul Stuart suits are cut in an elegant hybrid of Anglo American styles. The jackets have some shape at the waist, but are still relaxed and not too fitted. Most have side vents. The trousers are the best cut I've found in ready-to-wear, with a very elegant line -- again, falling somewhere between the looser American cut and narrower English style.

Cashmere navy blazer from Paul Stuart

Notably, their suits are available in the widest selection of sizes in the City. Not only do they offer short and tall sizes, but they also have medium-tall (something I've never seen elsewhere) and extra-tall. They also stock jackets in odd-numbered sizes, so if a 41 medium-tall fits you best, this is the place to go.

A couple of criticisms.

First, the article mentions the sweaters and ties in odd colour combinations. I find that their autumn/winter collections are always very nicely put together, but their spring/summer clothes invariably have some real clangers. It's usually strange mixtures of pastel colours, which might be OK in Palm Beach (probably their target demographic), but which don't appeal to me at all.

Second, the staff in the store can be very overbearing, even downright pushy. Most of the sales staff are incredibly charming and helpful, but I've had bad experiences with a few who were much too aggressive.

The store design doesn't help in this regard, making it difficult to browse without the help of a salesman. Downstairs, all the ties are all in glass cabinets -- although I've always found the sales staff here to be excellent. Upstairs where the suits are kept, the salesmen hover by the top of the stairs, and the floor manager immediately assigns a salesman to each customer who arrives. There are some first rate salesmen here, but there are a few who are way too pushy for a store like this. The hard sell, used car salesman approach doesn't work here, and Paul Stuart needs to take a closer look at a few of the people who work upstairs.

NY Times article - "Restraint feels right, doesn't it"

Paul Stuart
45th and Madison
New York

Monday, 8 December 2008

Socialist Realism

Like many other cities in eastern Europe during the communist era, Budapest was filled with socialist realist statues. These works glorified the proletariat and the Red Army "liberators" of Hungary, as well as the usual statues of Marx and Lenin.

Most of these statues were pulled down quickly after the fall of the communist regime in 1989. Hardly surprising after Hungary's experience under Soviet domination, including the Russian invasion of 1956.

Most cities destroyed their old communist statues, melting them down to make something more useful. However, Budapest had the foresight to preserve the old sculptures and put them on show in a statue park outside the city.

The park is marketed as pure communist kitsch, but I think that sells it short. There is a certain grandeur to these statues -- many of them are huge. But some of them are also successful as works of art, despite the political message that inspired them. I think my favourites are the first one shown above, which is an incredibly powerful image, and the last one below, with the repeating characters of the proletarian militia.

Sunday, 7 December 2008


A few photographs from the Man of Mode's trip to Budapest. It's a wonderful city, with grand Hapsburg era buildings befitting its former status as the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire. There are coffee houses, sumptuous thermal baths and a first rate opera house - where I saw a excellent production of Aida.

Szechenyi Baths, located in the City Park.

Hungary has many fanatical chess players, and some of the thermal baths even have poolside chessboards. These characters are fitting in an impromptu match at the railway station, with a chessboard propped up on the ticket barrier.

A furniture shop in the Jewish quarter.

Puppets for sale in the Christmas market.

Thank you to Heavy Tweed Jacket and The Epic

Just returned from my travels. I'll be posting some photographs in due course.

I was catching up on email and taking a quick look at a few blogs, and I noticed that Heavy Tweed Jacket has added The Man of Mode to his list of recommended blogs. Many thanks - much appreciated.

Edited to add:

Also many thanks to M. Lane from The Epic, for his generous reference to The Man of Mode. For anyone not familiar with that site, I highly recommend it.

Friday, 28 November 2008


The Man of Mode is travelling in Mitteleuropa for the next week or so.

Castletown and the Irish Georgian Society

A good article in yesterday's NY Times about the Irish Georgian Society, which has been restoring Georgian architectural treasures across Ireland for the past 50 years. Over the years, the IGS has battled indifference, and sometimes outright hostility, in its attempts to preserve the country's Georgian heritage.

At the head of the article is a photograph of Ireland's largest Palladian house, Castletown, in County Kildare (shown above, photograph from the NY Times).

NY Times article: A 50-Year Battle to Save Old Ireland

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Palladian Days

The Villa Cornaro, which I wrote about in my last post, is the subject of a charming book written by its American owners -- Palladian Days: Finding a New Life in a Venetian Country House.

Sally and Carl Gable bought the villa in the late 1980s and keep it as a second home. Despite the grandeur of the house, the book is a surprisingly down-to-earth account of buying and renovating the property and living in an Italian village.

The book successfully combines several popular genres. It's the story of a lawyer and his wife from Atlanta moving to a small village in Italy and dealing with the colourful aspects of life there - think Peter Mayle transplanted from Provence to the Veneto. It's also a story about property renovation, and all the frustrations, expense and eventual pleasure of doing up an old house. In addition to the usual troublesome builders and dodgy plumbing, there are nests of scorpions and 450 year old frescos to deal with. Finally, it's a travel guide to Venice and the surrounding region, with some recipes thrown in for good measure.

It's not a heavyweight architectural book by any measure, but well worth a read to see how a modern American couple actually live in one of Palladio's villas.

Available from

Villa Cornaro

Image from Hans A. Rosbach

After visiting a couple of Palladio's smaller villas, we turn to one of his grander houses.

The Villa Cornaro, located in the village of Piombino Dese just outside Venice, was built in 1552-53. Palladio's great innovation on the Villa Cornaro is the two-story portico and loggia, with its double set of columns under a projecting pediment. It's the most distinctive feature of the house, and Palladio used it to great effect on both the front and back of the villa.

It's a highly impressive device, signaling the importance of the house and its owner to the rest of the village. But it does more than that. It visually pulls together the upper and lower floors of the house into a unified whole. It's also practical, creating a comfortable, shady space.

Image from

This was absolutely radical when Palladio used it here for the first time. It has since become such a standard architectural device that it's easy to forget the significance of Palladio's invention.

Many of the grand antebellum plantation houses in the South were built in a Palladian style, and the two-story portico and loggia was a recurring motif. This is a particularly fine example: Drayton Hall, in Charleston, South Carolina, built in 1742.

Palladio's design is hugely flexible and adaptable. Drayton Hall took it largely verbatim from Palladio, but with a pair of steps leading up the the portico instead of the single wide set of steps on the Villa Cornaro. However, here's another version of the same motif, which has been adapted extensively but where Palladio's influence is still recognizable. Here, the portico is curved, with no pediment. There's a single run of double-height columns instead of the separate columns on the first and second floors. The White House, south facade. Built 1792-1800.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Made in England?

The standards for labeling products as "Made in England" seem to be amazingly loose.

The John Lewis department store has just withdrawn from sale a GBP 350 suit that it advertised as "Made in England." The suit was made by Wensum, a UK-based suit manufacturer.

Turns out that the suit wasn't really Made in England. Apparently, only the sleeves and buttons were sewn on here - the rest of the suit was made overseas. When this came to light, John Lewis did the right thing and pulled it from sale.

Incidentally, Wensum is little-known to consumers, but it's a major producer of men's suits. It makes a lot of the made-to-measure suits sold by by UK retailers - from the very high end stores down to the lower end shops with a M-T-M offering.

From the Daily Telegraph - John Lewis drops misleading "Made in England" suit

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Villa Poiana

Image by Hans A. Rosbach

After the Villa Saraceno, another of Palladio's smaller villas.

This is another early design from Palladio, from 1548-49, and is perhaps my favourite of all his buildings. It's a very restrained, even spare, classical design. It's so stripped back that it almost looks modern - or even postmodern, with its exaggerated use of simple shapes.

The only decorative element on the facade is the central arch with five oculi above the doorway. It's a simplified version of the design that Palladio frequently used for windows, with an arched central light flanked by columns or pilasters and a light on either side. Palladio used it so often that, even though he didn't invent it, it has became known as a "Palladian window".

As an example of Palladio's enduring appeal, here's a house in California directly inspired by the Villa Poiana.

David Pierce Hohmann architects

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Villa Saraceno

Image from The Landmark Trust

From Palladio's grandest villa, La Rotonda, to one of his most modest, Villa Saraceno. It's essentially a farmhouse, with the attic level of the house originally used as a granary. The photograph below shows various outbuildings (not by Palladio) next to the villa.

The house dates from the 1540s and is one of Palladio's earliest works.

Image from La Repubblica

Even though it's a much simpler building than La Rotonda, the design has been enormously influential. The basic design has been used for a number of country houses in England, and there are countless town halls and post offices in the United States whose lineage can be traced back to Villa Saraceno. The picture below is the post office in Salem, Massachusetts.

Villa Saraceno is unique among Palladio's villas in that it's possible to rent the house for a holiday. The building had fallen into disrepair and was acquired in 1989 by the Landmark Trust, a British preservation charity. The Trust restored the house and turned it into a holiday home that can be rented by the week.

The Landmark Trust

Monday, 17 November 2008

Sailing to Byzantium

The Byzantine Empire was a superpower of the Middle Ages.

The city of Byzantium was re-founded by Constantine I in 330 AD as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city (re-named Constantinople) became a major commercial, cultural and religious centre. It controlled an empire that stretched around the Mediterranean, encompassing swathes of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

The empire finally came to an end in 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks.

The Royal Academy in London currently has a major exhibition on Byzantium that is well worth a visit. One word of advice. It gets crowded at the weekend, and many of the exhibits such as jewelry, coins, metalwork and icons are quite small and hard to see among the crowds. I recommend visiting during the week or getting there early at the weekend.

In connection with the exhibition, I'm posting a few photographs that I took in Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul. These are all shots of Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine church that became a mosque under the Ottomans, and which was subsequently turned into a museum under the secular Republic of Turkey.

Byzantium 330-1435
Until March 22, 2009
Royal Academy of Arts

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Villa Rotonda and its progeny

Image from

Palladio's best known building is the Villa Almerico-Capra, also known as "La Rotonda". It's an imposing building, situated on a hillside outside Vicenza. Construction began in 1566 and continued after Palladio's death in 1580.

Image from

The layout of the villa is remarkably simple. As seen in the plan below, the house is a perfect square. Each side of the square has a matching facade, with steps leading up to a portico with columns and pediment. Inside, the floorplan is symmetrical, with the entrances on the four sides of the house leading into a circular central hall, topped by a dome.

Image from

Palladio's design has been hugely influential. Several houses have been built in more or less direct imitation of La Rotonda, and many more have adapted design elements from it.

In England, Mereworth Castle in Kent was designed by Colen Campbell in the 1720s.

A more recent design, again directly inspired by La Rotonda, is Henbury Hall in Cheshire, built in 1984.

Other houses that do not attempt to copy La Rotonda directly, but are still very recognizable as her offspring include:

Chiswick House in West London, designed by Lord Burlington and William Kent and built in 1726-29.

Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virgina, designed by Thomas Jefferson. Construction began in 1768 and was finally completed in 1809 when the dome was erected.

Finally, as proof of La Rotonda's significance, a scaled-down version of the house appears at Legoland.