Books / Isokon Building

A selection of books and publications about the Isokon Building, a concrete block of 36 flats, designed by architect Wells Coates for Molly and Jack Pritchard. The building opened on 9 July 1934 as an experiment in minimalist urban living..
The books can be acquired at the Isokon Gallery online shop.

ISOKOM AND THE BAUHAUS IN BRITAIN

Hardback, 240 pages
By Leyla Daybelge and Magnus Englund

This book tells the story of the Isokon building from its beginnings to the present day, and fully examines the work, artistic networks and legacy of the Bauhaus artists during their time in Britain. The tales are not just of design and architecture but war, sex, death, espionage and the infamous dinner parties. Isokon resident Agatha Christie features in the book, as does Charlotte Perriand, working for Le Corbusier’s practice, who Jack Pritchard commissioned for a pavilion design in 1930.

The book is beautifully illustrated with archive photography much of which is previously unseen and includes the work of photographer and Soviet spy Edith Tudor-Hart, as well as plans and sketches, menus, postcards and letters from the Pritchard family archive.

In Spring 2018, the Isokon building and Breuer, Gropius and Moholy-Nagy were honoured with a Blue Plaque from English Heritage. 2019 marks the centenary of the foundation of the Bauhaus, so the book is a timely celebration of European design.

Lawn Road Flats: Spies, Writers and Artists

Regular price £25.00 Tax included.
Hardback edition, 310 pages
By David Burke

The Isokon building, also know as Lawn Road Flats, in London was the haunt of some of the most prominent Soviet agents working against Britain in the 1930s and 40s, among them Arnold Deutsch, the controller of the group of Cambridge spies who came to be known as the “Magnificent Five” after the Western movie The Magnificent Seven; the Kuczynski family who helped recruit Klaus Fuchs to disclose the atomic bomb secrets to Stalin, and the photographer Edith Tudor-Hart. However, it wasn’t only spies who were attracted to the Lawn Road Flats. The crime writer Agatha Christie lived for six years in the Flats, and a number of other artists, architects and writers were also drawn there as residents or visitors, among them the Bauhaus exiles Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Breuer; the sculptors and painters Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth as visitors; the novelist Nicholas Monsarrat; the writer and founder of The Good Food Guide Raymond Postgate; and the poet (and Bletchley Park intelligence officer) Charles Brasch. The Isokon building boasted its own restaurant and dining club, where many of the Flats’ most famous residents rubbed shoulders with some of the most dangerous communist spies ever to operate in Britain. Agatha Christie often said that she invented her characters from what she observed going on around her. With the Kuczynskis – probably the most successful family of spies in the history of espionage – in residence, she would have had plenty of material. This book tells the story of a remarkable Modernist building and its even more extraordinary cast of characters.

David Burke is a historian of intelligence and international relations and author of The Spy Who Came In From the Co-op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage and Russia and the British Left: From the 1848 Revolutions to the General Strike.

Isokon For Ease For Ever

Regular price £10.00
Paperback, 48 pages
By Alastair Grieve

Well-researched illustrated essay published to coincide with an exhibition at Isokon Plus, 23 September – 16 October 2004.

Wells Coates

Regular price £20.00
Paperback, 160 pages
By Elizabeth Darling

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.

The book is illustrated with many historical images, many of which are previously unpublished, and includes specially commissioned colour photography by James 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.

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