Architect: John Penn
Location: Church Meadow, Rendham
From Suffolk – where he built ten modest but distinctive houses from 1961 to 1972– John Penn trained at Cambridge University and the AA before working with Frederick Gibberd, then in California, at the office of Richard Neutra. In common with the rest of the group, this has a strong symmetry and it shows the influences of Mies van der Rohe and Neutra, as well as the Palladian tradition, demonstrating Penn’s belief that the domestic hearth was akin to an altar in a temple. Penn’s practice was based at his home at Haddon Hall, near Ipswich and although he had a modest profile in his lifetime, his work has since gained significant reappraisal.
None of Penn’s houses are listed, and most look unimpressive from the street. By the turn of the century many of the original commissioning owners had moved on, and the buildings were generally looking neglected, and being seen as potential redevelopment sites.
An article by Richard Gray in the C20 Society journal of 2000, was the first to record and appraise his work, and together with a C20 members tour, began to create a specialist market for them. Many have now been bought by enthusiastic new owners who appreciate their qualities. An exhibition at fashion designer Margaret Howell’s shop in Wigmore Street in 2007, the year of Penn’s death, brought further recognition. “These houses, I felt, were right; harmonious in themselves and their setting,” she said. “They warmly invited you in to share their space, light and joy in their location.”
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