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AIA UK 2016 Bike Tour - Windsor and The Thames

Fiona Mckay

Departing from the recently restored grandeur of Paddington station, this year’s attendees arrived at Slough station for the first leg of the trip.
Arriving at often-derided Slough, we began unceremoniously with the recent improvements including the bus station, and the new cultural centre, the Curve. From there, we passed onwards towards Eton and noted the brief and sharp transition to more picturesque surroundings as we cross the bridge with its views of Eton College Chapel.

Arriving in front of Eton College Chapel, we ventured and viewed as much of the quadrangle as is permissible and ambled around the chapel itself. With a dash we took in the sights of the early 20th century library which drips with ornamentation.

At the suggestion of Chris Kimball AIA, we delved into the side streets of the town into which the Eton campus spills, to inspect the ‘Eton Fives’ courts. The courts are specific to this handball game which developed at the college in the Victorian era. Each court includes a buttress and step feature based on those found on the chapel itself.

Noting that the requirements of the college have continually contributed new architecture to the town, we paused to assess the crisp and modern contribution of Powell & Moya to the campus with their Bekynton dining hall (1972-1974).

Venturing outwards along Eton Wick, to meet the national cycle network route 4 as it follows the broad curve of the railway viaduct, Brunel’s oldest surviving railway bridge and take in the view of Windsor castle from this approach, before rejoining the Eton high street.

In Windsor, after ascending from the river bank to the castle, we were greeted by the Changing of the Guard marching down the high street, with a prime viewing spot secured in the porch of Windsor Guildhall.

Taking in the neat presentation of Georgian houses along Park Street, we previewed the next leg of the journey by viewing the northern end of the Long Walk, itself upon which cycling is forbidden.
Making our way down its length, we entered the Great Park at the far end and looped inwards to take in the 2.6 mile back towards Windsor Castle along the walk from the Copper Horse statue, framed by the double row of trees.

The park itself reveals the Grade I-listed Saville Gardens and its Stirling Prize shortlisted entry pavilion. All were pleasantly surprised to encounter the timber gridshell structure. The building is commended both for its design, and its condition nearly 10 years after completion. 

After this intensive morning, we stopped for a collegiate lunch at the Bailiwick to fortify ourselves for the afternoon of cycling and the return leg of the loop.
Sticking to the side streets of Englefield Green, we glimpsed the variety of the local architecture on our way to the Royal Holloway campus.

The gem of the Royal Holloway campus is surely the Founders Building. We took in both its elaborate Victorian Gothic facades, and the beauty of its heavily decorated chapel.

Riding downhill, and onwards chronologically, we stopped briefly at the Grade II-listed art deco Tower Garage to take in its well preserved 1930s streamlining and crisp white facades.
The next bend found a climb more arduous than its appearance on the map and perhaps a less paved (or traveled) section of the cycle network.
Again, moving chronologically, we visited the RAF memorial with its formal arrangement and its views framed to  encourage contemplation. Its vistas and viewing deck overlook the river valley from a high perch, with the constant stream of aircraft taking off from Heathrow. 

Author: Alex Miller AIA

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