Edward ‘Ted’ Cullinan was born into an upper middle class family in 1931, growing up in Hampstead and Regents Park. His father was Doctor and his mother an artist. After being evacuated to Canada during World War II, he returned to Britain, attending Ampleforth College, then Cambridge, before attending the Architectural Association, where he had Denys Lasdun and Peter Smithson as tutors among others. After a fellowship at UC Berkeley, he returned again to the UK to work for Lasdun, assisting on the University of East Anglia project with its dramatic ziggurat student residences and the Royal College of Physicians. In the early 1960s he founded Edward Cullinan Architects, beginning his practice with a number of small handbuilt projects.
Studio House, Steep, Hampshire (1960)
One of those projects was a house for himself and his family at 62 Camden Mews, Camden Town. Cullinan had already built two houses before building his own; a studio house in Steep, Hampshire (1960) for his uncle, Lord Horder, and the Marvin House in California for his friends Mariah and Stephen Marvin. Cullinan found and purchased an empty lot on Camden Mews in 1960 for £2000. He designed a house facing south with an open plan living area on the first floor, with windows angled to maximize sunlight through the day, but also provide shade in high summer. Bedrooms were placed on the ground floor, with the letter box emptying into the main bedroom, an idea that allows the Sunday newspaper to be delivered directly to bed! The two floors are connected by an external staircase via a terrace on the garage roof, and a smaller internal spiral staircase.
Design for 62 Camden Mews by Ted Cullinan. The figure walking up the stairs on the right hand side is Jim Stirling.
The materials used to build the house were a mixture of timber, brick and concrete, bought , borrowed and stolen (or at least reclaimed). For example the blue engineering bricks used in the courtyard area were rejected materials from the Royal College of Physicians project by Denys Lasdun, during Cullinan's time with him. The main structure is formed of in-situ concrete post beams with reclaimed London stock brick infill. The second floor has timber frame, overhanging the first floor, with large horizontal windows on three sides. The house was built between 1962 and 64 by Cullinan with friends and family of a few years, on weekends and when time allowed.
Sketch of 62 Camden Mews showing the angle of sunlight into the house.
The house's design is one of the first examples of what came to be called “Romantic Pragmatism”, a style that combined influences such as Arts and Crafts, and early modern pioneers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolf Schindler, two architects that Cullian explored in America, as well as Japanese design. Designs would be adapted to their surroundings with vernacular materials used in preference to the modernist palette of concrete and glass. Other architects who used similar ideas include Peter Aldington, Richard MacCormac and Fred Pooley, who with his “rationalized traditional” for Bucks County Council.
Kawecki House, 12 Bartholomew Villas, Kentish Town (1964)
After Camden Mews, Cullinan designed a few more houses using the knowledge he had gleaned from his self building adventures. Two were in London, the Kawecki house in Kentish Town (1964) and 1a Greenholm Road in Eltham (1966). Both houses were arranged so the main facade faces away from the street, with large, angled roof lines that allow the maximum natural light. They were also both constructed of reclaimed brick, timber frames and concrete. The later work of his practice grew in scale with housing projects in Camden and Hillingdon, offices for Oilvetti, church renovations and many more.
The Cullinan house was listed in May 2007, part of a number of small, architect designed mews houses in Camden Mews and nearby Murray Mews. A short walk from No.62 yields houses by Tom Kay, John Howard, Team 4, Peter Bell and many others. Cullinan was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2008, and stepped down from his practice in 2011. He died on November 11 2019 aged 88, still living at 62 Camden Mews.
‘Architecture is the celebration of necessity….You do what needs to be done, and you express it as you do it.’ Edward Cullinan