Friday 28 August 2020



Designed the flats between 1929–1932

Modern Living in a Modernist building 

Resembling the side of a cruise liner


On Lawn Road, near Belsize Park, is a remarkable Modernist apartment block nestling amongst the trees on this quite road. These are the Isokon Flats, are also known as Lawn Road Flats and the Isokon building.


Many  interested in Modernist architecture make the pilgrimage to see it. It was a sunny day and the building, resembling the side of a cruise liner, shimmered in the fine weather. 


Canadian engineer Wells Coates designed the flats between 1929–1932 for Molly and Jack Pritchard, Jack was marketing manager for the Estonian plywood company Venesta, and much of the furniture and fittings in the apartments were originally plywood. 

Pritchard went on to found the Isokon Furniture Company with Coates. A fascinating story of itself

It was an experiment in minimalist urban living; the twenty-four flats had tiny kitchens, as there was a communal kitchen for the preparation of meals, connected to the residential floors via a dumb waiter. 


Residents include the Bauhaus’ very on Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Agatha Christie was resident between 1941 and 1947.


The flats fell into disrepair in the 1990’s but were caringly refurbished in 2003. Isokon is owned now by a housing association and occupied by key workers under a shared ownership scheme.


As I made these drawings a passer-by, a local who volunteers in the Isokon Gallery.  suggested I also visit 1-3 Willow Road five minutes away. This is another tale to tell, coming shortly


Support the Isokon Gallery, in the former garage attached to the flats, details are here

Tuesday 25 August 2020


Onwards and upwards along the Western Avenue 


There can be few better ways into London from the west, early on a bright sunny morning, than driving along Western Avenue, part of the A40. 


The idea of this bypass was first talked about in 1912 and work begun in earnest nine years later. 


There are architectural delights along the way including the Hoover building and some interesting churches.  And there is always something new happening.  In the drawing tall towers and cranes, denote more buildings going up at the junction with Horn Lane, North Acton. Imperial College has made a home round the corner.


All the cycle ways have been up graded so a bike ride is in the planning.


Required reading for students of the Western Avenue is Edward Platt’s book ‘Leadville’ published in 2000 it won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award.


Further out we pass RAF Northolt where in 1996 a Spanish pilot and co-pilot overshot the runway and continued into a passing van on the road.  Apparently they were enjoying a heated argument about who should land the Lear Jet with its single passenger, actress Lisa Hogan.  Lisa continued to live life on the edge when in 2019 The Daily Express heralded her as Jeremy Clarkson’s girlfriend. 

Full details here

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Saturday 22 August 2020



Tall towers glinting in the morning sun



Leave off the Westway flyover, the eastern end of the Western Avenue, and you glide down the slip road to Shepherds Bush Roundabout. Glinting in the sun are the tall towers of White City Living.


This is part of a regeneration project to provide five thousand homes and office space and 30 acres of public space. This includes plans to make the Westfield shopping centre, to which the towers nestle up, the biggest in Europe. Imperial College has a campus here too. (Imperial College seems to be everywhere in West London nowadays).


‘New homes set within eight acres of parks and gardens, surrounded by world-class retail, entertainment, education, and culture. White City Living offers an experience like no other’. Purrs the developer’s (Berkeley Group) blurb.


And there more:

‘The spacious 2 bedroom apartments within Belvedere Row all have outdoor private balconies and easy access to the world-class residents' facilities on the lower floors and Bowery building’.


£1,087,00 sounds reasonable enough and the Marketing Suite and show home is open, by appointment only.


Make your home here and you are only 12 minutes from Bond Street by London Underground.

Wednesday 19 August 2020





After WW2 there were many brave housing schemes launched across the UK. 


In Sheffield back-to-back housing, where up to 100 people were sharing one standpipe, was swept aside to make way for the Park Hill scheme.


Built between 1957 and 1961, nine hundred and ninety five flats.


Later on, like so many housing schemes in the UK in recent times, those responsible for the upkeep of public house where unable to do so effectively. By 1998, at Park Hill  English Heritage stepped in with a Grade II badge. 


A program of regeneration began. In 2013 developer Urban Splash’s scheme was short listed for a RIBA Stirling Prize. This September student accommodation, as part of the scheme, opens.


In 1953, architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith started their design for Park Hill, inspired by Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation. Old street names from the area were reused and neighbours were re-homed next door to each other. At the time it attracted interest and visitors from around the world.


The flats and maisonettes, 3 pubs and 31 shops were built in 4 ranges linked by bridges across the upper decks. The ranges of flats were canted at obtuse angles (see diagram)  to maximise the panoramic views across the city and the southern Pennines.  

Park Hill remains in the pantheon of significant architecture of the Modern period. 


Today apartments in the refurbished parts of Park Hill are available now.

Park Hill is back! Live in a stunning new home with VIEWS OVER SHEFFIELD and a private residents GARDEN! They are MODERN, high quality, they have huge windows. City facing!  £250,000 from Urban Splash on

The footprint of the Park Hill Estate as it was original laid out and remains today 

Thursday 13 August 2020


 Again dipping into my stash of Kent coastal photographs, taken by dear chum Trevor the Architect, I remember his picture of a curious house built near the dunes and beach at Greatstone in Kent, just downstream from Hythe on the south coast.


I made a drawing from out picture and then discovered it was an award winner and then drew its appearance as we see it looking up from the beach, alluring glass and wood.


The story of this house, called The Stones, is written here

Monday 10 August 2020

YOESDEN A secret valley



Pack some sandwiches and head west, along the A40 out of High Wycombe.

The once out of West Wycombe, past the Hell Fire Caves, you are soon in the village of Bledlow Ridge. Park up just off the not very busy road and walk down into Yoesden Bank.


Scrub and a precarious path give way to a fabulous green amphitheatre of heathland fringed by woodland. The steep chalk meadow is home to orchids, butterflies.


My cousin Wendy introduced me to this sunny grassland bank. She pointed out a Chiltern gentian, a rare find even the in Chilterns, and we spotted a Small Blue butterfly.  We were in the Radnage Valley and once we gained the meadows forming the valley’s floor it was a short walk across to St Mary the Virgin church at Radnage.


A bench in the churchyard is the perfect place to enjoy one’s sarnies and look out on where we had just been.


Full details on Yoesden, for this perfect day out here:

Friday 7 August 2020

38 GARDENS Barnsdale in Bloom


July 2020 


Long before Monty Don came prancing onto our TV screens and adopted the title ‘Britain’s favourite gardener’, there was a real hero in Gardeners’ World called Geoff Hamilton.  

Geoff presented Gardeners’ World in the 1980s and 1990s as was rightly lauded for his wonderful creations.  


He was a real horticultural hero and his story is here


Barnsdale Gardens is a great day out, easy to get located in the fair county of Rutland. And even easier to enjoy are the thirty-eight wonderful gardens, including a Japanese garden, my favourite.  

Seeing each of these lovely plots reminds us that that he achieved so much with his down to earth approach and endless experiments with themes and plants.


Barnsdale is complete gardener’s delight. 

Wednesday 5 August 2020



Recently I discovered some inspiring pictures of Instagram, (especially from one photographer @danbdanb) based in Sheffield. They celebrate the delights of concrete; Brutalist architecture. 

Born in the 1950’s this movement was a triumph of substance over style, minimalist design that showcased the material, mostly concrete.


Some buildings are now national treasures, examples include, the Royal National Theatre and our dear Barbican Centre.


Brutalism gained considerable momentum here in Britain as government communities sought inexpensive construction and design methods for low-cost housing, shopping centres, and government buildings. For this reason there are some treasures in Sheffield, on of which is featured here.

Sunday 2 August 2020




In a valley in the Chilterns, frighteningly close to the M40 are the village of Radnage and its exquisite church, St Mary the Virgin. 


And it was OPEN!

Radnage is tucked away and up from the village the church sits on a shallow slope. There is a bench by the south wall one can eat one’s sandwiches (which cousin Wendy had made the night before) and enjoy marvellous views over steep fields and woodlands.

A bench by the south wall was the perfect spot for lunch


Inside the church all is spick and span, loved, cared for and be enjoyed by passers by.


This church was built in the late C12 or early C13 by the Knights Templar. It has a central crossing tower, a late Norman and Early English confection. Throughout there are wall paintings to enjoy and some excellent modern stained glass that sits well in windows that have shed light on worshippers for a thousand years.

Inside a absolute delight and full of lovely things


The church has benefited in recent times from the darling of film and TV companies.


A gentle and welcoming church and no matter that we cannot worship until I think September, when Services may restart, we can certainly, in daylight hours, find rest here.


More about the church and its vibrant community is found here:


FOOTNOTE: we entered the churchyard from the Nature Reserve a steep area of woodland that leads down into the secret valley.  This a story for another time…