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1957 September: House at Watford

A post-war estate house in Watford experiences a solicitous restyle

On the whole the English still resist really large windows and are happiest with the Tudor cottage. This is probably because the Tudor cottage looks as if it would protect you from the outside and feels as if it fits you on the inside. The English post-war house is the pre-war house with the windows enlarged into the brick areas: as the windows are usually one above the other the house is divided into a multitude of vertical strips in which neither wall nor window dominates and which as a volume is neither penetrated, nor a fully realized solid.

AR 1957 September - House at Watford, Herts Pages 1 and 2

Looking from the living room to the dining room around the central flue. Limewash plaster is about 1/2 in. thick, mitred at the edges; exposed wood ceiling joists and r.c. beam. The french window from the living room to garden is set in the’ dark zone ’ of the living room. The effect produced is a small scale edition of the effect of the windows in the whole façade

The distribution of windows in this house allows the brickwork to flow together and coalesce with the roof to form a solid mass, with that appearance of all-round protection once the characteristic of English popular architecture. The house is on the northern edge of a ‘residential estate’ in Devereux Drive, Watford; a sample estate house is shown in the pictures.

The estate put certain restrictions on the materials to be used, and it finally became obligatory that the design should be based on the external materials: second-hand London stock bricks, dark red tiles, and standard metal windows. Two schemes were prepared by the architects, both with the same aims:

a, To make the shapes of the rooms fit the functions as closely as possible, by varying room heights and by break-out sideways.

b, To tailor the profile of the building as closely as possible to the room shapes.

c, To use the materials in a straightforward and therefore economical way.

d, To use standard window components repeated or grouped together.

AR 1957 September - House at Watford, Herts Pages 3 and 4

The kitchen from opposite ends looking towards the yard and playroom respectively. Exposed boiler coloured mauve. The kitchen cabinet is deliberately simple to avoid the clash of glossy fittings and a homely interior; the architects were trying to create a Dutch middle-class atmosphere. All fittings were selected off-the-peg; light fittings proved the most troublesome to select, all ‘contemporary’ models being over-designed for the effect aimed at here.7. Looking from dining room to kitchen; doors on right to yard, larder, closet and garage respectively.

The first scheme was rejected by the client; the second scheme was approved by both client and estate, but was rejected by the local authority after four months of fruitless discussion. On appeal, the design was allowed, ten months after application had been made to the local authority. The functions are grouped into strips of varying height, the dividing walls between holding up the roof; the house is intended to look like a blackish solid block pierced with windows in the manner of Vanbrugh Castle, Blackheath.

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