Isokon Building, London

In 1931 the Isokon firm was founded by Jack and Molly Pritchard and partners. The partners of the company were interested in modern living and sought to design buildings and furniture a modern style. Previously, in the mid-1920s, Jack Pritchard had met architect Wells Wintemute Coates and a synergy between the Pritchards and Coates was formed, all having an appreciation for architecture and modern design for living.

The Pritchards purchased a plot of land at Lawn Road, Hampstead, London (near to Belsize Park Underground station) and commissioned Wells Coates to design and build a block of serviced flats. Coates had grown up in Japan, served in the Royal Air Force, and studied at the University of British Columbia before moving to Britain where he set up an architectural and design practice.

Properly known as Lawn Road Flats, Coates designed a four storey block of thirty-four flats with two roof-top penthouses. Built of reinforced concrete with cement wash render, the main elevation facing Lawn Road featured a cantilevered stairwell to the left, giving access to cantilevered balconies that are carried the full extent of the elevation. The balconies terminated at the right with a five storey tower providing stairwell access to all floors - the penthouse flat is not accessible by the cantilevered left stairwell and balconies. The stair tower is illuminated by a slender vertical window. The west-facing (rear) elevation, away from Lawn Road, features twelve bays of windows, with balconies on three of these bays. At ground floor level, adjacent to the stair tower are garages at right-angles to the main footprint of the building.

The interiors featured 'minimum' flats with space-saving furniture and fittings, a fitted kitchen, bathroom, dressing room and bedroom. The flats incorporated a communal kitchen which was later converted into the Isobar Restaurant, although this subsequently converted into flats in 1969. Famous residents of Lawn Road Flats included the novelist Agatha Christie.

In 1972 the building was sold to Camden Council and later passed to the Notting Hill Housing Trust. The condition of the building deteriorated over this time, until 2003 when the building was sympathetically restored. The building now provides accommodation for key workers in London.

The building was awarded Grade-I status on 14 May 1974. Grade-I listing is the highest listing category for buildings and is reserved for outstanding examples of architecture.

Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A celebration of Modernist architecture in Britain