Goodbye Red Brick House ?
About a month ago I found out that a modernist house in my neighbourhood was going to be demolished and my immediate reaction was one of sadness. I was curious why someone would want to take this house down. The sadness deepened and and led me to place an objection with the local council.
The planning application is for two new buildings to take the place of this fabulous piece of local history. The destruction of this 1930s house will not resolve the housing problem, create affordable homes, or create an architectural masterpiece. It is a disregard of the architectural heritage and history of the area I was brought up in.
I lodged an objection urging the planners to seriously consider rejecting the application. The building will be gone forever and all that will be left is its reference in publications by English Heritage and Survey of London.
The property is mentioned in the following extract: “Mention should also be made of the modern semis of 1934–6 at 105–115 Thurleigh Road, with curving brick-and-render façades and Crittall windows; and also of the fine red-brick house at 59 Sudbrooke Road, designed by Ley, Colbeck & Partners on part of the rear garden of Dudley House, 56 Nightingale Lane. This combines an old-fashioned neo-Georgian style with modern Crittall type windows, and included a roomy lounge, dining room and entrance hall on the ground floor, as well as a built-in garage. 71
Infill and redevelopment has continued in Sudbrooke Road since the war, more than on the other streets of the former Old Park estate, bringing a rare variety in date, size and style to its housing (see also page ##).”
Ref: CHAPTER 18 Between the Commons 2 Page 28 © English Heritage 2013
This spurred a debate inside my head while also questioning my own values and those of others.
Why should I care? It’s not my house. For some reason, the thought of the house that I have walked past for most of my life disappearing from the street is definitely worth fighting for. The proposal for its replacement looked fairly bland. Would I feel different if someone had proposed a house to make an architectural statement or attempt to improve what was standing on the site? I do not have an answer.
Am I being nostalgic? Am I adverse to change? Why do I feel so strongly about someone wanting to change my local landscape. Why am I so perturbed that the architects and their clients have said that the house has no architectural importance. This is clearly just a statement to justify to the planners that whatever they propose will be better, which is clearly not the case. That they could make such an empty statement to completely wipe out this house built by Ley Colbert and Partners is extremely concerning.
The Battersea Society also caught wind of the proposal and sent a letter in defence of the house to the planners. I somewhat felt justified as they felt the same way as I did. The house’s fate now lies in the lap of the Gods (aka London Borough of Wandsworth Planning Department).
The house prompted me to research and observe buildings in my area and beyond. I saw beauty everywhere. For most of this year with the Covid-19 situation I have looked inwards and ignored my surroundings. Now I felt like I was on holiday. Familiar surroundings and buildings started to look magnificent and incredible – I wanted to enjoy them and viewed them with new excitement and joy.
I love modernist architecture, it was the greats like Frank Lloyd Wright that grabbed my attention many years ago and made me love buildings. The Fine Red Brick House has filled my mind with internal debate and thoughts. In many ways it has inspired me and opened my eyes to the world. Importantly it also made me set up camera with new eyes. It made me ask a question about beauty which led me to David Hume. It was his description which perfectly answered the question that I had been asking myself. Why do I find this house more beautiful than others?
His response is brilliant: “Beauty is no quality in things themselves. It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them, and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others.”
As I write this I hear the words of Jon Boy talking at the end of an episode of The Little House on the Prairie and I associate it with The Fine Red Brick House at 59 Sudbrooke Road.
“Times are a changing and nothing is ever constant. Everything we have is an illusion and nothing is ever permanent.”
Sleep well Jon Boy