The Twentieth Century Society

Obituary: Brian Housden

The architect Brian Housden, who has died aged 86, is best known for his own house in Hampstead, 78 South Hill Park (1965). Marking his death on Twitter, Tom Dyckhoff called it one of the greatest modernist houses in the UK. It was discussed in detail by Paul Overy in our Journal, Post-war Houses. He noted that, although Hampstead was favoured by ‘advanced’ intellectuals, No 78 was always controversial, seeming to set itself against not only the picturesque Heath and the area’s late Victorian housing, but also – in terms of scale and roof level – against the six nearby mid-50s terraces (by Howell, Killick, Partridge & Amis) and the five-storey house next door (Alexander Gibson, 1948-49).

On a trip to the Netherlands in the late 50s, Housden and his wife Margaret visited the Rietveld Schroder House in Utrecht and began collecting Gerrit Rietveld’s furniture after he presented Mrs Housden with a chair. They also admired Aldo van Eyck’s Orphanage in Amsterdam (then nearing completion), whose use of concrete block influenced the final design. On a separate trip they visited the Maison de Verre in Paris (Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet, 1929-31), and Housden was inspired by its use of glass lenses to flood an interior with light while maintaining privacy. The house was built in 1963-65, but continued to be modified throughout his life. It was finally listed in the week he died in November 2014.