The Twentieth Century Society

Review: The Modern House

Jonathan Bell, Matt Gibberd and Albert Hill (Artifice, 160pp, £29.95)

Reviewed by Catherine Croft

The estate agent ‘The Modern House’ was formed in 2005 by Albert Hill and Matt Gibberd. You may have seen their adverts in this magazine. As a business it has done much to ensure that the houses and flats of our period are marketed to people who will value them for what they are. It’s much better for a wonderful property to be bought by an enthusiast, than for it to fall into the hands of someone likely to be frustrated by the need for sensitive repairs and upgrading or (much worse) with an eye to clearing the site for lucrative redevelopment. Both partners have architectural backgrounds: Matt is the grandson of Sir Frederick Gibberd, and used to work for World of Interiors; Albert for Wallpaper magazine. They research their properties thoroughly and emphasis their architectural merits.

This book pulls together some of the amazing places they have sold in the last ten years. Many are actually 21st century buildings, but there are lots of really first-rate C20 houses. Many of these have been visited on Society trips, but some are still on my wish list (including South Hill Park in Hampstead by Howell and Amis, Stratton Park with the retained George Dance portico, Philip Dowson’s Long Wall in Suffolk, and Leslie Gooday’s house, also called Long Wall, in Surrey, if any of you are reading this). It would have been nice to see plans and more original photographs, and to have a bit more information about buyers and sellers, and why they chose which house.

In his introduction, Jonathan Bell suggests that ‘The great irony at the heart of modernism is how a movement rooted in functionalism could act as a conduit for personality, individuality and expression.’ I’m not sure that I feel there is such a big contradiction there, but the book certainly demonstrates plenty of the latter qualities.