Alistair Barr RIBA, AoU: Architect and Tutor at Anglia Ruskin University
These flats are a pioneering project of 1934 designed by an engineer with no formal architecture training called Wells Coates. The 28 flats are compact and have built-in furniture. The ground floor bar became a social focus for left leaning radical thinkers and designers.
Residents included Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy from the Bauhaus. Visitors included Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Piet Mondrian.
In 1973 Camden Council bought the building and perversely used as it as a sink estate for vulnerable single tenants.
By the time I first saw it in 1982 its most famous feature was a burnt-out drug dealer’s car by the front door. I was refurbishing the Camden Fleet Road housing scheme nearby. I realised that there were 30 amazing modern housing schemes within a 15-minute walk. My contention is that this project inspired all the schemes nearby. Those architects include Neave Brown, Maxwell Fry, Connell, Ward, Lucas and Erno Goldfinger.
The 1999 Grade 1 listing led to a brilliant restoration by Avanti architects for Notting Hill Housing Trust with 60% of the units sold to local key workers.
During lockdown I walked past the flats twice a day as this was the direct route to Hampstead Heath. My early admiration deepened to fascination with the building’s influence over the years.
There is now a fantastic museum explaining the design innovations and the influential people who lived and visited there. So, this one place demonstrates innovation, international influence, neglect, restoration and education since 1934.