In 1952 he replanned Parliament Square, while in 1936 he was one of three architects who designed the decorations for the George VI Coronation processional route. He always distinguished between short-term and long-term building. A restaurant, which might be redecorated every eighteen months, or ephemeral bunting on a processional way, could be bright and even garish. A building which was to last, had to use more natural, subtle colours. In the Queen Mary he employed fine wood veneers but, because these would fade and look sad after a number of years, he bleached them almost to white and came back with a different tone. To appeal to him a building had to have a fine scale and employ fine materials. In the RIBA building he used carved Portland Stone, fine marbles and reconstituted stone, brass and terrazo. In the case of St James's Parish Hall there was not that amount of money, but the brick, stone and concrete were carefully chosen for long life and subtle weathering. The building work, by Stevens & Sons, the local builders, was good and carefully supervised, while the profile from both roads was simple and yet surprising.

The Birchwood Avenue elevation is slightly different from the original drawing, with more sophisticated detailing. The limestone doorway has a broken pediment, the top corners of the door entrance are shouldered, and the bases sweep out in beautiful Art Deco curves, while from Fortis Green Road we see a splendid Dutch gable end, with two decorative tie-beam plates shaped to elaborate curlicues.

Wornum always took pleasure in contrasting simple, straight-line designs with sudden, unexpected curves. At the RIBA headquarters, in Portland Place, a building of large and noble rectangular Balls, there are two ferro-concrete pillars faced with fluted Ashburton Marble in bold curves. The same contrast can be seen in St James's Parish Hall, where every line is straight except the Dutch gables and the doorway pilasters. A delightful building and an asset to Muswell Hill.

In later life Grey Wornum was severely crippled with arthritis yet, when he was awarded the AA Society Gold Medal in 1952 for distinguished services to architecture, he gave one of the most witty addresses on record, brave, cultured, and charming


A cross-section of a pillar RIBA, Portland Place

 

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Architectural Association Journal. July/August 1957 p.59

Journal of RIBA, 6.11.1934

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