Saturday, 26 November 2022

The Eldridge way with space (5/5)

Nick Eldridge started his company, with Piers Smerin, in 1998 and the author has picked twelve houses (out of fifty residential commissions) to reveal the remarkable architectural design Eldridge applies to houses. The book's two sections, New and Renew, both have six houses each with new-builds giving the architect a broad canvas to create something exciting. Renew, has the obvious limitations of the existing structure, nearby houses and planning restrictions but still show that Eldridge can deliver some thoughtful solutions for a contemporary home.

The first house in the book is 'Greenways' in Kingston. A quite stunning building that is based on curves and the author's essay mentions Niemeyer and Lautner, the mid-century modernists who broke away from the Internation Style to consider more fluid forms. The house, completed in 2017, won the Manser Medal. Like other houses in the book, 'Greenways' uses extensive areas of glass as window walls. Another design feature in an Eldridge house is a spiral staircase. Though not a complete spiral version, the staircase in the Cor-Ten house in Putney  turns 190 degrees and the wall of the curvature has a series of built-in bookcases, a brilliant space-saving solution. This house is named after the treated steel that deliberately rusts over time to reveal a variety of earthy tones. The front of the house is either steel or glass.

The 'Renew' pages feature five houses in London and one in Newlyn, Cornwall (a converted barn that has become part of the Eldridge practice). An intriguing building solution was created for a house in Hamstead. Between the two houses was a single-story garage, which was demolished together with part of the client's house. Eldridge's design used all the space between the two houses to create four storeys of quite spacious rooms. To allow light into part of the interior he designed a structural glass staircase. 'The Lawns' in Highgate was built in the fifties and became the first commission, in 2000, for the new practice of Eldridge and Smerin. The existing house wasn't demolished but changed to suit the needs of the owner. An interesting part of it was the replacement of a pitched roof with a glass-sided box studio.

I thought the book was an excellent introduction to Nick Eldridge and his unique approach to modern homes. Each house has an extensive essay about the background and structure backed up with plenty of captioned photos though I thought it was unfortunate that all the house plans were a bit too small to appreciate the way Eldridge handled interior space.

Friday, 18 November 2022

Just too good to mail (5/5)


I've been waiting a long, long time for a book like this.  In most of the books I have on Deco (or Streamline or Moderne) there are always one or two of these postcards included, they were, in many cases, the only visual surviving examples of what the buildings looked like.  Patricia Bayer has done us all a favor with this delightful book of 264 postcards.

Perhaps the Art Deco title is slightly misleading because as I looked through the pages Streamline seemed much more appropriate.  So many of the buildings have those wonderful curves, right angles, glass blocks and occasional porthole windows that were part of any proper Streamline building.  I always thought Arrasmith's stunning Greyhound terminals were the ultimate examples of the style.

A really nice feature in the book are postcards of Streamline buildings in parts of the world where you really wouldn't expect to see them: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Yokohama, Japan; Pula, now Croatia; Kharkov, Ukraine; Benalla, Australia; Casablanca, Morocco; Copenhagen, Denmark; Caracas, Venezuela and several in Britain.  Page eighty-nine has a postcard of the remarkable Italian Colonia Fara beachfront building designed in 1935 and still standing, pure streamline and looking like it was transported from Los Angeles.

The author covers so much with this postcard selection, exterior and interiors of buildings, motels, transport, commerce and industry, world's fairs, it's all here.  Near the back of the book, there are eight pages of perforated cards ready to mail (though far better, I think, to frame them).  At the very back are thirty pages of captions for all the cards, full of fascinating detail about the buildings torn down over the years.

This is a gem of a book for those who love the Deco/Streamline/Moderne style.  Surely there must be enough of these postcards for a volume two!