Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Isokon Building, Belsize Park: How's this for a backstreet find?

I like to wander the back streets of towns and city suburbs because, or so I claim, you never know what you are going to find. 

Down in London to see Liberator friends yesterday, I spent the afternoon exploring Belsize Park. And I think I proved my point.

This is the Isokon Building in Lawn Road, which The Modern House describes as being "widely recognised as one of the finest achievements of Modern Movement architecture".

It was completed in 1934, and at first was something of an experiment in communal living. The flats had their own kitchenettes, but there was also a communal kitchen and dining room. This later became a fashionable restaurant.

Famous residents included the émigré Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and László Moholy-Nagy, as well as Soviet spies. These included Arnold Deutsch, who recruited Kim Philby.

Agatha Christie lived here during the war, yet people still insist on calling her books cosy.

The building was sold by the original owners in 1969. It was bought by the New Statesman magazine, which sold it on to the Borough of Camden three years later.

By the time it was Grade I Listed, the building was near derelict. As Ignant puts it: "By the time of the renovation only two people lived there, together with rats, owls and pigeons."

Its new owners Notting Hill Housing Trust arranged a complete restoration in 2003-4. The result was the beauty we see today.

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