Editor's Note. Readers will be aware that advocates for Bromley's new building at the Crystal Palace claim that it is in the spirit of the original, but in no way a copy of it. This has inspired our Chairman to some interesting thoughts. . .

My Garden Shed
A Landmark for the Millennium?

by Philip Goddard


Some years ago I decided that I needed a new garden shed, and being a great admirer of Greek architecture I was very keen to ensure that my new shed would reflect the style and spirit of the Parthenon, without trying to replicate the original, which would have been physically impossible as well as aesthetically undesirable. I believe I succeeded admirably in creating a building which is a modem interpretation of the style and indeed the spirit of the original yet which does not set out to become a pastiche as I will proceed to demonstrate.

Firstly, the Parthenon is a rectangular building and my new garden shed is also a rectangular building. I show below the footprint of my shed and that of the Parthenon. the striking similarity of which will be obvious to everyone, even including the experts at English Heritage (for sake of clarity I have omitted the pillars which surround the Parthenon, of which more later).

Secondly, the Parthenon has a sloping roof with a triangular pediment at each end, as does my garden shed. I show below the shape of the Parthenon pediment compared with that of my garden shed: the similarity of the two designs is, I believe, as striking as that of the footprint

The Parthenon was built of Pentelic marble whereas my garden shed is built of breeze blocks. At first sight this might seem to militate against the conclusion that the latter was in the style and spirit of the former. However, building my shed of blocks of Pentelic marble was not really a viable option given that they would have to have been quarried on the island of Naxos and then imported at vast expense. Anyway, Pentelic marble was a material at the very forefront of technological development in the 5th century BC. and since breeze blocks are a 20th century AD invention I feel that I can rightly claim that, like the Parthenon in its day, the materials used as well as the manner of their assembly (i.e. putting one block on top of another until you get to the roof line) reflect the innovative style and spirit of the original. Moreover. unlike the situation in the 5th century BC. modern building techniques have obviated the necessity to have a row of pillars all the way round the building to hold up the roof. so the fact that my shed does not have any pillars should not be understood as a significant difference but rather as a further indication of its innovative nature and therefore of its relationship to the spirit of the original.

One of the great features of the Parthenon was its non-transparency. In fact it didn't have any windows at all, and my shed doesn't have any either. My shed is lit by electricity, which can rightly be regarded as an up to date version of the flaming torches used to illuminate the interior of the Parthenon, which would not have met modern safety standards in any event. Access to the Parthenon was by way of double doors whereas access to my garden shed is by way of a single door only. However, in both buildings the doors are in the front elevation and open inwards. These similarities I firmly believe more than outweigh the apparent differences.

I also believe that the uses to which my garden shed is put are comparable in spirit to those of the Parthenon, bearing in mind the Oxford Dictionary definition which indicates that "spirit" can mean the prevailing tone of a particular period or time. The Parthenon was designed to house a large statue of the goddess Athene. from the workshop of Phoidias. one of the greatest sculptors of all time, when it wasn't being carried in procession around Athens by the citizens of that city, and my garden shed was designed to house a large lawnmower, from the workshops of Flymo, one of the largest suppliers of lawnmowers in the business today, when it isn't being pushed around the back lawn by myself. So far as the use of the building is concerned therefore this is vitally and essentially orientated towards storage. Lawn mowing has been part of modern culture for many decades, whereas nobody these days believes in Athene, so there wouldn't be much point in keeping a statue of her in my shed, even if you could still obtain one, which I doubt.

Naturally, a few malcontents have complained that the almost complete lack of any visual resemblance between the two buildings means that they cannot be in the same style, to say nothing of the same spirit. There is really no pleasing some people. However, I feel that I have already said enough to demonstrate not only how wrong they are but also that my garden shed is a true landmark building for the third millennium. Anyway, the experts at English Heritage agree with me. so it doesn't matter tuppence what anybody else thinks. does it?

Disclaimer: Any resemblances between the above and the report by the Chief Planner of Bromley Council, regarding the application for permission to redevelop the Crystal Palace site, to the members of the Development Control Committee, dead or alive, are not entirely coincidental.

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Philip Goddard is the Chairman of the Norwood Society. (see LINKS)
from - The Norwood Review - September 1999
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2/10/99 Last updated 3/10/99