What are these buildings, and what kind of organizations are these that want little of marketing and much of beauty? They are London's clubs - polo clubs, swimming clubs, Oxford and Cambridge club, drivers of fancy cars clubs, social clubs, etc. It's the equivalent of an American Country Club, minus the golf ranges, tennis courts and, well, country.
Clubs abound in New York and other major U.S. cities, too - Republican Women's Club, the Yale Club, the Harvard Club, to name a few. But I believe nothing in the US of A can rival London for its exclusivity.
Besides fees, to join such a cub, you must be recommended by two or more people, and never have a history of being kicked out of another club.
A club can be a second home and a bit of a little village. There you can work out, swim, fence, play squash, get your hair cut, invite friends for tea, take up residence, host out-of-town friends while visiting you in London, hire a function room, browse the library, meet people at various functions, and eat at their dressed-down or dressed-up dining spaces.
Although we were not too keen on its exclusivity, my husband and I joined the nearby Landsdowne Club for its extraordinary (and relatively reasonably-priced) pool and gym. It has a very strict set of rules. No talking on a cell phone except in designated places, no children except on Saturdays from 10-4 (how do you tell a child not to be a child except on Saturdays for six hours?), no transacting busines or working on laptops except in designated areas and, my personal favorite, no sleeping in the same room with a member of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. Brilliant. At least we know the Landsdowne Club does not suffer from the same problems that it's near neighbors at Shepherd Market do...