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Twentieth Century Architects: Wells Coates
Publisher: RIBA Publishing
Date Published: Jul 2012
Stock Code: 77475
Total votes: 7
This book is a captivating account of the life and work of Wells Coates, one of the pioneers of British Modernism. Born in Japan to missionary parents from Canada, Coates studied engineering in Canada and England before deciding that architecture was his passion. Despite having no formal training, Coates went on to become a leading architect of his generation working in Britain in the inter-war years.
An innovative and inventive man with many strings to his bow – an engineer, teacher, architect and product designer to name a few – Coates was at the forefront of the development of the Modernist movement in Britain. His designs such as the Lawn Road Flats in London, one of the earliest and most influential modern apartment blocks, and Embassy Court in Brighton, were truly transformational and offered a new solution to the problems of urban living, many of which are still relevant to today. Coates was not only a seminal figure in the development of the Modernist architectural style in Britain, he was also a tireless champion of the modernist cause. In 1933 he and four other architects and critics founded the MARS (Modern Architectural Research) group – a ‘think tank’ for British Modernism – which produced groundbreaking plans and exhibitions.
The outbreak of World War II and the subsequent decline in commissions in the post-war years brought a halt to his flourishing career. Coates returned to his native Canada where he continued to design modernist housing.
In recent years several of Coates’ most notable projects – the Lawn Road Flats, Embassy Court and parts of Palace Gate – have been renovated, underlining perhaps that his ideas of what it meant to live well in the 1930s are still pertinent today.
Elizabeth Darling is an author and lecturer at Oxford Brookes University who works on 20th century British architectural history, with a particular focus on inter-war modernism. The book is illustrated with many historical images, many of which are previously unpublished, and includes specially commissioned colour photography byJames O. Davies. It will delight architects, students, architectural historians and anyone who is interested in the Modernist 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.
Ahrends, Burton and Koralek (ABK) was established in London in 1961 by three young AA graduates, Peter Ahrends, Richard Burton and Paul Koralek. By...
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Dan Carrier, Camden Review
Dr Darling says that while Coates’ three major projects – Lawn Road, Embassy Court in Brighton and flats in Kensington – have all been restored after falling into disrepair in the latter part of the 20th century, there has been little written about him, considering his design philosophy. The book aims to address this and highlight how he was the design wing of the Bloomsbury set. Dr Darling highlights issues that are still pertinent today. He believed design was an all-too-often overlooked element in making the world a better place, instead of being the fundamental cornerstone in building a better society.
Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Cercles
To date there have been three significant publications on Coates: a monograph by Sherban Cantacuzino of 1978, and two memoirs by Coates’ daughter Laura Cohen of 1979 and 1999. This new book should effortlessly succeed both of them as the primary source on the architect. Elizabeth Darling is an architectural historian at Oxford Brookes University who has specialised in the past on mid-century British modernism, interior design, and domestic space: she was thus eminently qualified to write this book and to place its subject in its full and complex context. The language is accessible, and references are broad and wisely selected. Anyone planning a visit to London to enjoy its modernist, pre-War architecture is heartily advised to take a copy of this book with them.
Paul Roberts for EmbassyCourt.org.uk
Painstakingly researched, wonderfully illustrated and immensely readable, this book takes us from Coates’ youth in Japan, to his last great building at the Festival of Britain, and beyond. It is both a portrait of the man and a broad ranging reappraisal of his work.
William Shipley Group for RSA History
Darling offers a captivating account of this innovative and inventive man. The book is richly illustrated with many previously unpublished historical images and specially commissioned colour photography. Darling has also provided a gazetteer of his projects and she helpfully indicates whether they have been altered or demolished.
Chosen as part of their Twentieth-Century Architects series RIBA, The Twentieth Century Society and English Heritage have found a worthy champion of Coates’ reputation in Darling’s excellent book.
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