Good quality Modernist houses in the UK are not always as accessible as some of their Victorian or Edwardian counterparts. Modernist living is a way of live offering a clean, uncluttered and bright lifestyle.
We have noted some of the most notable and outstanding examples of Modernist living this country has to offer –
This extraordinary early 20th-century country villa is a masterpiece of Modernist design, in the midst of a picturesque woodland garden not far from Esher in Surrey. It was designed by the architect Patrick Gwynne for his family – his father, mother, sister and himself – and completed in the early summer of 1938. Gwynne lived in the house for the rest of his life, continuing to keep the building fashionably up-to-date until his death in 2003. His friend, the architect Sir Denys Lasdun, observed that The Homewood was ‘the great love of Patrick’s life’. Homewood is now in the hands of the National trust.
Farnley Hey is one of Britain’s most celebrated Modernist houses. This four-bedroom home with spectacular views over the Pennines was designed by the architect Peter Womersley in 1954 as a wedding present to his brother. Maintained in remarkably original condition, it is a magnificent example of Mid-Century Modern architecture. It was one of the first post-war buildings to be listed (Grade II), with English Heritage commenting that:
“In style Farnley Hey suggests the influence of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, brought to a dramatic site in the Pennines. It typifies the best of the 1950s in its lightness, sense of the picturesque and optimistic stance.”
Farnley Hey is much documented in books and journals, with attention drawn to the large floor-to-ceiling windows that bring light flooding into the house as well as giving wonderful far-reaching views. Also much admired is Womersley’s exuberant use of materials – from camphorwood and York-stone flags for flooring to the lemon-yellow Formica panels.
2 Willow Road
This unique Modernist home was designed by architect Ernö Goldfinger in 1939 for himself and his family. With surprising design details that were ground-breaking at the time and still feel fresh today, the house also contains the Goldfingers’ impressive collection of modern art, intriguing personal possessions and innovative furniture. A stunning house that epitomises the Modernist style. Willow Road is now owned and managed by the National Trust.
The Barbican Estate is a residential estate designed by Chamberlin Powell & Bon and was built during the 1960s and the 1970s in the City of London in an area once devastated by World War II bombings. It contains, or is adjacent to, the Barbican Arts Centre. Not for everyone this concrete masterpiece is on a monstrous scale and sums up Brutalist Architecture. The residential estate consists of 3 tower blocks, 13 terrace blocks, 2 mews and The Postern, Wallside and Milton Court. It was given Grade II listed status in 2001. The apartments in the Barbican are extremely desirable and demand extremely high prices.
Span Developments was a development company formed in 1957 by architect Eric Lyons and property developers Geoffrey Townsend and Leslie Bilsby. According to early promotional literature, the name was derived from the intention ‘to span the gap between the suburban monotony of the typical speculative development and the architecturally designed, individually built residence that has become (for all but a few) financially unattainable’. Span was seeking to bring modern architecture to middle class, middle income people, at a time when in Britain at least, modern architecture was either for large council estates or one-off houses for the very wealthy. Span houses can be said to be ‘modern’ in their use of new construction techniques and features such as open plan interiors, large windows and flat roofs. However, the use of materials such as brick, tile-hung walls and timber panelling show the intention to create housing more in keeping with the context and traditions of the English suburbs.
Span focused on building small estates in leafy surroundings on the suburban outskirts of cities. Span encountered many problems with planners, however, Lyon’s determination to defy the planners eventually won through, and he was rewarded with around 20 housing medals from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. But it’s the continued success of these developments into the 21st century that is the true testament to Span’s vision for modern housing.
Modernist houses are truly stunning when well designed, just wish there was more of them!!!
The Team at Cimmermann
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