Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Isokon Building

The Isokon building in Lawn Road, Hampstead, London is a concrete block of 34 flats designed by architect Wells Coates for Molly and Jack Pritchard. They were built between 1933 and 1934 as an experiment in communal living. Most of the flats had very small kitchens as there was a large communal kitchen for the preparation of meals, connected to the residential floors via a dumb waiter. Services, including laundry and shoe-shining, were provided on site.
Early famous residents included Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Agatha Christie (1940–46), László Moholy-Nagy, Adrian Stokes, Egon Riss and Arthur Korn. Jack and Molly Pritchard lived in the penthouse. The communal kitchen was converted into the Isobar restaurant in 1937. In the mid-1930s Flat 7 was occupied by Dr Arnold Deutsch, the NKVD agent who recruited the Cambridge Five. James Stirling was a resident during the 1960s.
The Isokon company folded during World War II. In 1969 the Isobar was converted into flats and in 1972 the building was sold to Camden London Borough Council, and gradually deteriorated until the 1990s when it was abandoned and lay derelict for several years. In 2003, the building was sympathetically refurbished by Avanti Architects, a practice which specialise in the refurbishment of Modernist buildings, for Notting Hill Housing Association and is now primarily occupied by key workers under a co-ownership scheme. The refurbishment has also created a public gallery displaying reproductions of the original interiors.
The block has been granted Grade I listed status, placing it amongst the most architecturally-significant historical buildings in the UK.

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