Wells Coates, 1934
Lawn Road, NW3 2XD
Grade I listed 1934 residential block of flats in Hampstead, designed by the Canadian modernist architect Wells Coates for clients Jack and Molly Pritchard. English Heritage blue plaque for Bauhaus masters Gropius, Breuer and Moholy-Nagy.
24, 168, C11, 46
• Designed by Wells Coates.
• Commissioned by Jack and Molly Pritchard.
• Building completed in 1934 as Lawn Road Flats.
• Early example of monolithic reinforced concrete construction not used on this scale for domestic purposes in Britain before.
• 4 storey block of 32 flats originally comprising of 23 minimum flats, 4 double flats at the south end, 3 studio flats at the north end, penthouse for the clients and adjoining flat for their children on the top floor, and quarters for staff with a catering kitchen (converted into the Isobar by Marcel Breuer and FRS Yorke in 1937) and a large single storey garage.
• Total building cost in 1934 was £14,850.
• Grade 1 listed in 1999.
• Renovated in 2004 by Avanti Architects for Notting Hill Housing Group.
• All flats are privately owned, the majority by key workers on a shared ownership basis.
• Isokon Gallery museum located in the building since 2014.
Jack and Molly Pritchard commissioned Wells Coates to design Lawn Road Flats, the first International Style apartment building in Britain. It is now a Grade 1 listed building renamed Isokon. It was, in the early years, home to many émigré architects, designers, intellectuals, writers and spies, and was, at least for England, a radical modern building which in its overall design and the co-operative nature of its organisation and daily life reflected the ideas of the Pritchards and the principles of Isokon. Molly Pritchard wrote the brief and described the kind of people that she felt should be catered for; young, professional men and women with few possessions. The idea was to concentrate on living rather than being burdened with domestic chores. The small but well equipped flats also provided services such as cleaning and bed making and meals were available in the Isobar downstairs.
This environment allowed the emergence of an avant-garde, idealistic and open-minded community of free thinkers. Past residents included masters from the Bauhaus fleeing Nazi Germany; its founder Walter Gropius, architect and designer Marcel Breuer who designed furniture for Jack Pritchard's Isokon Furniture Company, artist and designer László Moholy Nagy and goldsmith Naum Slutzky. Artists and writers included Agatha Christie, Adrian Stokes, Jacques and Jacqueline Groag, James Stirling and Kenneth and Diana Rowntree. The Isobar, the dining room and club on the ground floor, also attracted many interesting people including Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Naum Gabo and Serge Chermayeff. At least five of the residents in the late 1930s worked for Soviet intelligence.
Marcel Breuer and F. R. S.Yorke designed a club with dining facilities on the ground floor of the Lawn Road Flats. Known as the Isobar, it opened in November 1937. It was furnished with Isokon plywood furniture designed by Breuer. Well cooked and economically priced meals could be eaten there by members and their guests. The first manager was Tommy Layton, later of Layton's Wine Merchants, who was succeeded by the chef, Philip Harben, famous later as the first BBC television chef.
The walk examines the homes created by architects and designers for themselves through six remarkable case studies, spanning from the 1930s to the 1970s, from the Modernist International style to the ground-breaking Hi-tech movement.
Wells Coates, 1934
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