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Isokon Building (Lawn Road Flats)
Lawn Road, NW3 2XD
A Grade I listed residential block of flats in Hampstead, designed by the Canadian modernist architect Wells Coates for Jack and Molly Pritchard.
Facts about the Isokon Building
• Designed by Wells Coates.
• Commissioned by Jack and Molly Pritchard.
• Building completed in 1934.
• Early example of monolithic reinforced concrete construction not used on this scale for domestic purposes in Britain before.
• 4 storey block of 32 flats (plus 1 penthouse) comprising of 22 minimum flats, 4 double flats at the south end, 3 studio flats and quarters for the staff and kitchens at the north end, and a large single storey garage.
• Total building cost in 1934 was £14,850.
• Grade 1 listed in 1999.
• Renovated by Avanti Architects for Notting Hill Housing Group, completed Spring 2005.
• All newly renovated flats are now sold, 11 on the open market and 22 to key workers on a shared ownership scheme.
History of the Isokon Flats
Jack and Molly Pritchard commissioned Wells Coates to design the first International Style apartment building in London, the Isokon Flats. It is now a Grade 1 listed building. It was, in the early years, home to many émigré architects, designers, intellectuals and writers 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 leading lights from the Bauhaus fleeing from Nazi Germany, Walter Gropius/architect, Marcel Breuer/designer (who designed many iconic pieces of furniture for Isokon, now made and sold through Isokon Plus in Hackney Wick, London) and Lazslo Moholy Nagy/graphic designer. Artists and writers included Agatha Christie, Henry Moore and Kenneth and Diana Rowntree. The Isobar, the inhouse dining room and club on the ground floor, also attracted many interesting people including Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Serge Chermayeff (architect of the De la Ware Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea).
Marcel Breuer and F. R. S.Yorke designed a club with dining facilities on the ground floor of the Lawn Road Flats. The Club, known as the Isobar, was 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 and he was succeeded by the chef, Philip Harben, famous later as the first television chef.