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November 2nd 2002 - The Times Print E-mail

The Times, November 2nd, 2002

More than just bricks in a wall for rock duo

FOR fans of Pink Floyd who have bought the records and got the T-shirts an altogether classier memento is now available. Produced in a limited edition of just five, it is a small development of all-singing, all-dancing luxury London flats.

The scheme near Hyde Park has been funded by Nick Mason and Rick Wright, two of the original members of the band.

Pink Floyd were first called the Architectural Abdabs, as Mason, Wright and Roger Waters met while studying architecture at what was then the Regent Street Polytechnic.

"We had a brilliant master called Joe Mayo," Nick Mason recalled. "He suggested we give the music a go for a year on the basis that we could always come back."

They have come back, after a longer than expected delay, but as investors rather than architects, paying others to put another brick in the wall.

As befits men in their fifties with more than 30 years of career success behind them, Mason and Wright are clients of a private bank. It was their investment adviser who suggested that they back a scheme by the developer BMB Investments to turn a derelict former nurses' home into luxury flats.

The building is next door to the Hempel Hotel, a temple of minimalism, and overlooks its designer garden.

Two six-storey houses have been converted into five apartments running across the width of the building. The largest has 14ft ceilings, split-level bedrooms and a sound system which plays music through tiny speakers in the ceiling. "I would love to take some credit for that but we have been sleeping partners in the project," Mason said. "If I hadn’t liked the drawings, I would have said something, but I think it looks great."

Mason himself lives in a period house in Hampstead. "Like everyone who studies modern architecture I live in a Georgian house," he said. "I love having the builders in."

His one personal venture into architecture came in the Cotswolds, where he recently designed his own house at the side of an old airfield. "It’s not exactly Mies van der Rohe," he said. "It's more geared to the Cotswolds. It has a large split-level living space in which all the vertical supports are bookshelves. I’m quite pleased with it."

Mason says that his fellow band member Roger Waters came closest to actually working as an architect when he was involved with designing the vaults of the Bank of England. "They must have had a premonition that he would be working out the details of how to store all his money," he said.

Planes, along with cars, are Mason’s passions, after music. Next week he will be at Brooklands racetrack taking part in the filming of Stephen Fry’s new venture, Bright Young Things, which is based on Evelyn Waugh's novel Vile Bodies.

Mason and Wright have tried their hands at commercial property. They commissioned an architect to design some innovative commercial space for creative companies in Clerkenwell. The building, with a "chill-out zone" and sandblasted glass partitions, is called Britannia Row 2.

"I do have a piece of paper somewhere saying I have got a degree in architecture," Mason said. "I hope we were enormously gifted clients."

The new project in Craven Hill Gardens, between Hyde Park and Notting Hill, is their first London residential venture. The flats range in price from about £1.3 million for 1,500 sq ft to about £2.4 million for double that size.

It is not an easy time for the selling agents, Knight Frank, to find buyers for expensive London apartments but Mason is sanguine about their chances of success. "Timing is always a problem with buildings," he said. "But if you try to do something different enough and interesting enough, people will always want it."

The foundations

In 1965, Pink Floyd Sound was formed with Roger Waters, vocals and bass, Syd Barrett, vocals and guitar, Nick Mason, drums, and Richard Wright, keyboards. The name was inspired by blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.

Barrett was forced to leave the band after a drug-induced breakdown in 1968, Dave Gilmour, guitar, was brought in and Sound was dropped from the name.

The 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon spent 14 years in the US album chart, selling about 35 million copies.

The 1979 album The Wall went platinum 23 times. When the group toured they built a massive polystyrene wall between them and their audience. Concerts have also featured inflatable sheep descending on the audience.

 
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