Numbers 97-99 Park Avenue, and adjacent 101 Park Avenue, are three Modernist houses in Ruislip, on the fringes of suburban-west London. The houses are a stark contrast to the surrounding housing stock on Park Avenue of traditional, brick and pitch-tiled roof, mid to late-twentieth century houses. These Modernist houses appear a curious component of a traditional urban environment, until the story of the development of the three homes is understood.
When plans were submitted to the local authority in 1933 by architects Connell, Ward and Lucas, there were initially rejected. Today, we might not realise just how radical and controversial these Modernist homes were. Everything about the design - the concrete-construction, the flat roof, the large glazed areas, the white-painted exterior - were "alien" to Britain. Modernist architecture was "imported" to Britain from Europe and there was a mistrust, almost a xenophobia (Modernist architecture flourished in Germany), towards this style of architecture amongst traditionalists. There were also practical concerns; the flat roofs and large glazed areas were considered unsuitable for the wetter, colder British climate.
The revised plans were submitted and accepted, and numbers 97-99 Park Avenue were finally constructed in 1935. Subsequent plans for 101 Park Avenue were approved and that house was built in 1936. Had the British public embraced Modernist architecture, a whole estate of Modernist houses could have sprung up in Ruislip. As it was, no more homes were built in this style. Looking back, the three houses that were built were a failed social experiment in Modernist living, but are an architectural triumph. The neighbouring houses are "identikit" homes, not dissimilar to thousands of other houses across London. Architecturally they are safe, staid, almost boring. 97-99 and 101 Park Avenue are brave, innovative and refreshing.
The architectural practice of Connell, Ward and Lucas was a partnership formed in 1933 between New Zealand-born Amyas Douglas Connell (1901-1980) and Basil Ward (1902-1976), and British-born Colin Lucas (1906-1988). Lucas brought expertise in the use of reinforced concrete in construction, and together the practice built a small, but architecturally significant number of houses in Britain. Notable examples include 66 Frognal in Hampstead, North London, Greenfields in Surrey (listed Grade-II and, controversially, unlawfully demolished) and the houses on Park Avenue.
97-99 Park Avenue (illustrated above) are semi-detached properties. The houses extended over three storeys, with the ground and first floors projecting out from the main body of the building. Each property has a garage to the outside of each plot, projecting out from the rest of the house. The ground and first floors have "ribbons" of glazing of black-painted, metal-framed Crittall casement windows (the windows of 97 Park Avenue are original to the property). Towards the party-wall the glazing features doors to the front garden on the ground floor, and to a balcony on the first floor. The balcony is faced in concrete to the front, with railings either side.
On the outside of the main block, set behind the garages of each property there is a three storey stairwell to the first floor and sun-deck atop each property. The stairwells were originally intended to be full-glazed, but following the rejection of the initial plans the central section was in-filled to protect the homeowner's "modesty". At the rear of the property the stairwell is completely glazed, giving an indication of the architect's original plans. The roof of the stairwell extends across the sun-deck to the party wall, leaving the rest of the sun-deck open to the elements. The open sun-deck on 101 Park Avenue has been in-filled at a later date.
Inside the properties, original features included parquet flooring, a sliding door between the living-room and dining-room, and fireplace with rounded chimney flue and curved, corner cupboard in the living room. The small kitchen featured a novel revolving door between the kitchen and dining-room with drawers for food, cutlery and condiments.
The garden to the front of the property is bordered by a low, white, concrete wall, with hedging to the front and between each property.
Numbers 97, 99 and 101 Park Avenue were awarded Grade-II listed status on 28 November 1989.
Posted by Richard Coltman on Friday, April 6, 2012