Thank you to everyone who came on Saturday to our Open House London walking tour of Stanmore's Art Deco & Modernist houses. It was our biggest turn out in the three years of the tours, over 130 people! Thank you also to the home owners who answered our questions. Here are the tour notes for anyone that didn't manage to get a copy of the handout, plus a few vintage photos so you can compare what we saw to how the houses originally looked.
Metro-Land was created by the extension of the Metropolitan Railway out of London and into Middlesex and the home counties. Land leftover from the construction of the new line was used for speculative housing, and formerly sleepy towns and villages like Wembley, Harrow, Pinner and Ruislip experienced a population boom in the first half of the 20th century.The default architectural style of these new leafy suburbs was Tudorbethan, as seen at nearby Canons Park. A mix of traditional styles on the exterior, matched by the comforts of modernity inside. Modernism was the upcoming style of the era, spreading to Britain from Europe. The houses we will see today, as well as other examples like Charles Holden’s tube stations and George Coles’ cinemas, brought art deco and international style modernism to the growing suburbs.
Stanmore also underwent a growth spurt after the new Metropolitan Railway (now Jubilee Line) terminus, designed by Charles W. Clark, was built in 1932. This area was part of the Warren House estate, founded by the first Duke of Chandos. In 1922 the house was inherited by Sir John Fitzgerald, and he decided to sell parcels of the land off for development. The company initially given the rights folded without building anything, with construction not taking place until the 1930’s.
Architect Gerald Lacoste was given the commission to build houses on Kerry Avenue. These designs were intended to be part of larger modernist style estate, but 6 houses where the extent of the plan. Lacoste was only 27 at the time of the Kerry Avenue commissions and had previously been assistant to architects Edwin Lutyens and Oswald Milne. His six houses share many similar features with the Valencia Rd buildings; flat roofs, rounded staircase towers, white walls; but are more circumspect in appearance. The houses are designed to be similar as a group but not monotonous, using the same elements in differing arrangements. Like the Douglas Wood houses, the Kerry Ave buildings are constructed of brick, but have a mixture of exposed brick and snowcrete finishes. These houses were completed in 1937, and are now part of a conservation area along with the Valencia Road houses.
The Valencia Road section was developed by Douglas Wood Architects. Although they were granted permission for development in 1931, the houses were not built until 1935. Nos. 2-10 were designed by the firm in the international modernist style with plain rendered walls, staircase towers and sun decks. The houses have an obvious vertical emphasis, with the staircase towers, vertical window strips and sun decks adding the bulk of the buildings, already emphasized by their position on a slope. The large windows and sun decks came from the growing awareness and fashionability of the health benefits of sunlight and sun bathing.
The houses are constructed of brick and finished in snowcrete, which is a white cement used for rendering, to give the impression of concrete. Building the houses in brick probably happened because there was a shortage of building firms who had expertise in constructing in reinforced concrete in the 1930’s. Nos 4&6 were built as a symmetrical pair, and have rounded tower staircases. Nos 8 and 10 are also very similar to each other, whilst not quite being identical. No.2 was originally similar to its immediate neighbour, but has been altered.
14 & 16 Kerry Avenue
At the northern end of Kerry Avenue are two individual modernist houses, No.14 designed by RH Uren for himself in 1937, and its neighbour No.16 designed by Gerd Kaufmann in 1968. No.14 is built in yellow brick in the international style similar to the other houses in the area. Uren was a New Zealand born architect who moved to Britain in 1930. His big break was his winning design for Hornsey Town Hall in 1933. He designed a number of other buildings in Britain, including Rayners Lane Tube station (1938) and the Granada Woolwich cinema (1937).
No.16 is a much later building, designed and built in 1968 by the architect Gerd Kaufmann for Cherrill & Ian Scheer. Cherrill Scheer, heir to the Hille Furniture family, grew up at No.14. Like its neighbours, it is constructed of brick, with large windows to create differing light levels in each room. Kaufmann is known mainly for his suburban houses, with other examples here in Stanmore, as well as Mill Hill and Hampstead.
Unrecognisable today, these twin apartment blocks were designed by architect and engineer Owen Williams and built in 1936. Designed in an austere fashion and built in concrete, the buildings have undergone successive refurbishments and extensions. Williams is not known for his domestic designs so it is a shame these buildings have ended up as they have.
Nos 1 & 2 Halsbury Close were designed by emigre architect Rudolf Frankel, who fled to Britain from Germany via Romania in 1933. No.1, built in 1938 for Frankel's sister, is made up of two brick cubes, one for a garage and one for the main house. The house also features a cut away corner that opens out onto the garden. No.2, built for himself also in 1938, is a simple box form finished in render and with tile hanging on the second floor. Frankel mainly produced industrial buildings in Britain, designing factories in London and Cheshire before moving to America in 1950.
This close on the private Aylmer Road estate features a couple of interesting post war houses. No.1, designed by Edward Samuel in 1963, is a long low bungalow, built of brick, concrete and wood, and is Grade II listed. According to Wikipedia, Stanley Kubrick wanted to use the house in A Clockwork Orange.The owner, Ernest Shelton refused, and Kubrick instead used Team 4’s Skybreak House in Radlett. No.2 is a brutalist style concrete house, designed by Gerd Kaufmann in 1967, designer of No.16 Kerry Avenue, and it echoes in its design the 1930’s houses of Kerry Ave & Valencia Rd, which its circular staircase tower and flat roof.