The Twentieth Century Society

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Wells Coates

Elizabeth Darling

Wells Coates was one of the most significant figures in British Architectural Modernism and designer of the landmark Lawn Road Flats (1934) in Hampstead that offered a new solution to the problems of urban living, still relevant today.

Through contacts in London’s bohemian circles, Coates entered architecture in 1929 without any formal training. He was soon at the forefront of the Modern Movement, starting with dress shops and moving on to interiors for politicians and actors, and studios for the BBC, while as an industrial designer, he created the classic circular Bakelite AD65 Ekco wireless. Coates was also a tireless champion of the Modernist cause and in 1933 co-founded the MARS (Modern Architectural Research) Group – a ‘think-tank’ which worked to theorise British Modernism through programmes of research and exhibitions, establishing links to the leading European architects of the day.

The outbreak of World War II and the subsequent decline in commissions almost brought a halt to Coates’s flourishing career, although he enjoyed one last success at the Festival of Britain, returning finally to his native Canada where he worked on planning and housing schemes. Three sublime blocks of 1930s flats form his principal legacy, and the book concludes by describing the physical decline of two of these, Lawn Road and Embassy Court in Brighton, charting the complex process by which each was repaired and relaunched in the first decade of the 21st century. There is a full gazetteer of Coates’s works and projects.

Elizabeth Darling is an author and academic at Oxford Brookes University, whose research focuses on inter-war British Modernism, on which she has published widely. The book is richly illustrated with historical images, many of which are previously unpublished, and includes specially commissioned colour photography by James O. Davies. It will delight architects, students, architectural historians and anyone who is interested in the Modern Movement in Britain.

This book is part of the Twentieth Century Architects series published jointly by RIBA Publishing, English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society.

Paperback, 234x167mm, 160pp 120 illustrations Published 2012 ISBN: 978-1-8594643-7-3

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