48 Maresfield Gardens

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1459049
Date first listed:
25-Oct-2018
Statutory Address:
48 Maresfield Gardens, London, NW3 5RX

Map

Ordnance survey map of 48 Maresfield Gardens
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Location

Statutory Address:
48 Maresfield Gardens, London, NW3 5RX

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:
Greater London Authority
District:
Camden (London Borough)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ2646785038

Summary

House, 1939, by Hermann Herrey Zweigenthal.

Reasons for Designation

48 Maresfield Gardens, 1939, by Hermann Herrey Zweigenthal is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as a domestic building which unusually and successfully blends English sensibilities with those of Viennese modernism;

* for the building’s plan, which includes traditional divisions of space alongside semi-open planning and the creation of spatial flow: aspects of domestic Modernism explored with exceptional creativity and conviction for a house of this date in England;

* for its elegant detailing and use of materials which sets restrained simplicity against bespoke fittings introducing colour, pattern and texture;

* for its survival with very little alteration to its exterior envelope and principal interior spaces.

Historic interest: * the house is one of small group of buildings designed by émigré architects from continental Europe who made an important contribution to the shaping of Modernism in this country;

* that the house stands in Hampstead places it amongst an enclave of important works of domestic Modernism, a number by the émigrés who settled in this area of North London.

History

48 Maresfield Gardens was built in 1939 to designs by Hermann Herrey Zweigenthal (1904-1968) for Paul Neumann Jolowicz (1885-1972), a London-born silk merchant of German Jewish descent. The circumstances of the commission are not known but many émigré artists, architects and cultural figures escaping Nazi persecutions in Germany settled in North London where there was an established Jewish community, Zweigenthal amongst them. Jolowicz's younger brother Herbert gave help to such refugees and interestingly both Herbert's wife and Zweigenthal's second wife, whom he married in 1937, were physicists.

At the time of the commission Jolowicz was living in Netherhall Gardens, a few minutes walk from what was to be the site of his new house. Zweigenthal designed three iterations for the tricky plot, which was relatively narrow with evening sun to the front, morning sun to the rear, and little scope for outlook to the north or south. The chosen design was the most conventional of the three and reflects its English context as well as being the product of a personal architectural expression imbued with the sensibility of Viennese Modernism. The creative use of materials in the elevations and in the elegant bespoke fittings is set against crisp forms, simple finishes and functional planning, suggesting the influence of Zweigenthal’s eminent compatriots, Adolf Loos and Josef Frank. The use of brick as the building’s principal facing material accords with the less dogmatic form of Modernism appearing in England in the later 1930s, in particular reflecting interest in the formal and material qualities of C18 architecture.

In 1952 Jolowicz sold the house to Dr. Anna and Edward Roche. Like Zweigenthal the Roches had been Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe, meeting and marrying in England in 1949. As a new mother Anna had spotted 48 Maresfield Gardens on walks around the area with her pram and was drawn to its architecture; its continental Modernism was comfortingly familiar. The Roches remained at the house for the rest of their lives, raising their family and entertaining friends, many of whom were also émigrés.

Anna’s deep attachment to the house and affinity with its architecture ensured that changes over the family’s long occupation were comparatively few. A phase of redecoration in the 1960s introduced grass paper to many of the walls (originally painted white), and a quantity of bespoke dark-wood built-in furniture, some of which has a level of interest for its quality of design. At this time a glazed panel between the stair hall and the rear ground floor rooms was infilled and papered to match the other walls. The kitchen was also refitted at around this time and where once it had been two service rooms (kitchen and maid’s sitting room), it became one larger room. Minor alterations were made subsequently, such as the addition of further fitted furniture in the bedrooms and the refitting of the family bathrooms. The two large bedrooms to the rear are said to have originally been interconnected by a door, although this is not shown on plans.

Hermann Zweigenthal was born in Vienna, where he began his creative training at the Vienna School of Applied Arts before moving to Berlin in the early 1920s. He studied architecture at the Technical University of Berlin between 1924 and 1927 under the influential architect and designer, Hans Poelzig, and founded the Group of Young Architects (GJA). Zweigenthal’s work was diverse, taking in commercial and domestic interiors and furniture design, but his well-received 1923 stage design for a production of Puccini's opera 'The Cloak' and his innovative 1926 design for a theatre for the prominent theatrical producer Max Reinhardt, establishing an important strand of his subsequent career. Traffic management and planning was another such strand and his early involvement in this area led to the commission for his best known building, the Kant-Garage, Berlin, of 1930. This multi-storey parking garage which he designed with Richard Paulick was widely publicised for its application of functionalist principles and innovative double-helix access ramp.

By the 1930s Zweigenthal’s creative talent was well recognised in Berlin architectural circles but the rise of Nazism placed him at risk and so in 1933 he left Germany with his family, staying in Switzerland and Vienna before arriving in London in 1935. In England Zweigenthal prefixed his surname with the less Germanic-sounding ‘Herrey’ (a childhood pet name). He became an active member of the MARS (Modern Architectural Research) Group which had recently formed as the English chapter of CIAM (Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) and was made up of both English and émigré architects. Zweigenthal’s English commissions were varied, including a study of the British road network for the Royal Institute of British Architects, a set design for a production of Max Catto’s ‘They Walk Alone’, and the set and costume design for a contemporary production of Julius Cesar directed by Henry Cass. He designed two houses during his time in England, 48 Maresfield Gardens and ‘Kasunga’, a house on the Wentworth Estate, Surrey for the Scrutton family (thought to be heavily remodelled).

Through Walter Gropius Zweigenthal secured an invitation from Harvard University to lecture in stage design and in 1940 he and his family left England for America to avoid the risk of internment. Unfortunately the sinking of the transport ship carrying his possessions by a German U-boat meant the loss of the greater part of his archive. In America he changed his surname to Herrey and went on to establish a reputation as a spatial and town planner through research and publications, and completed a number of architectural commissions including several Long Island houses. He returned to stage design in Germany in the late 1950s but spent the final stage of his career as a town planner in America where he had become a naturalised citizen.

Details

House, 1939, by Hermann Herrey Zweigenthal.

MATERIALS: the house is of yellow stock brick with areas of white-painted render and some exposed structural steel elements; windows and doors are timber-framed.

PLAN: the building is set back from the road behind a paved court, its front elevation facing west and rear elevation facing east. It is two storeys high with a partial lower ground floor. The roof is flat behind a shallow parapet.

The interior plan elides an old-fashioned desire for separation of family rooms from servants’ rooms, still widely popular in England at the time, with highly modern ideas about open-planning and the flow of space. It comprises a central entrance and stair hall, to the right of which are service rooms stacked on three levels: garage and storage on the lower ground floor, kitchen at ground floor and maids' quarters (two small bedrooms and a bathroom off a small enclosed hallway) on the first floor. The remainder of the plan, to the left of the stair hall and spanning the width of the building to the rear, comprises three large rooms interconnected by folding or sliding doors; and those to the rear can be opened to the garden by full-height folding glass doors and tall folding windows. A chimney stack near the back wall partially divides the two rear reception rooms at the rear. Family bedrooms and bathrooms are on the first floor above.

EXTERIOR: the front elevation is a composition of advancing and receding solid and glazed geometric forms. Windows are a mixture of openings punched into the brickwork, horizontal bands and near floor-to-ceiling glazed walls divided by slender vertical mullions.

The building takes advantage of the slope of the site from north to south to provide a garage beneath the south side of the house, accessed from a vehicular ramp off Maresfield Gardens. The original timber garage door has been replaced with a panelled GRP alternative. The elevation above the garage is predominantly brickwork, interspersed with varied fenestration and with a jettied first floor. Here, two tall narrow windows, one to each of the small former maids’ bedrooms, read as a single large window with a central mullion hiding the partition wall behind, and a balustrade runs across the width.

The rest of the elevation is more heavily glazed and a canted balcony spans the first-floor, supported at one end by a slender painted tubular steel column and at the other by an extension of the building’s flank wall. The balcony’s balustrade is of white-painted sheet steel pierced with a grid of circular holes, and a hardwood handrail. This same detail is used in front of the maids’ bedroom windows. Much of the area beneath the balcony is in-filled with glazing to create a large asymmetric bay window, the remainder provides a porch over the central entrance.

The entrance door is fully glazed in obscured wired glass and there is a full-height side-light to one side. A horizontal polished bronze plate with a semi-circular end visually cuts across the margin light and door jamb, housing a letter box, doorbell and lock. To the right of the door is a small window with radiused sides, lighting the cloakroom inside.

The garden front is to the east; the first floor set back behind a full-width balcony with the same pierced steel and hardwood balustrade. A band of glazing, incorporating doors to the balcony, lights the bedrooms to the rear. The ground floor elevation is one of the most unusual features of the house. It is almost entirely glazed from floor to ceiling, with the glazing also turning the corner onto the flank walls. At either end are full-height double-leaf folding doors, and between the doors is an eight-light window which rises from a low plinth to the underside of the first floor. The window concertinas inwards, four lights from either side, towards the middle, so that when the two doors and window are fully open, each of the rooms inside is almost wholly open to the garden.

INTERIOR: the house has generous internal proportions, particularly on the ground floor where rooms have a tall floor-to-ceiling height. The detailing is simple, with relatively little original built-in furniture, but the materials of fittings and fixtures creates richness. Original finishes are without mouldings or ornament: flush-panel doors with simple brushed metal furniture, square-sectioned joinery and shallow S-sectioned skirting; the outer corners of walls and reveals are radiused. Natural light and a sense of transparency is introduced through extensive use of glass, including top-lighting from circular skylights in the first floor bathrooms and hallway.

Architecturally, the most distinctive aspects of the interior are the stair hall and three principal rooms arranged in an 'L' on the ground floor. One of these rooms is to the left of the hall, and the other two (one north, one south) are across the width of the house to the rear.

The hall is entered through the front door at a lower level and steps up to the main ground floor, creating a sense of arrival. The principal rooms are each entered off the hall through slim full-height flush-panel hardwood doors; when open these create actual breaks in the wall rather than holes cut out of them. The room to the left has a late C20 built-in dresser, possibly built around an earlier piece of fitted furniture. This room has a wide full-height sliding hardwood door which connects the space through to those at the rear. The rooms to the rear have woodblock floors laid in a herringbone pattern. They are lit by the almost fully glazed back wall of the house. The folding windows of this rear elevation rise from a plinth-cum-window seat, now with planters built-in which prevent the windows from opening. Later grilles have been added beneath to screen the original radiators. The two rooms are divided by an off-centre chimney stack and a wide, full-height hardwood folding door. The stack is close to the rear of the building and the narrow gap between it and the back window is glazed; the fireplace, which faced north, has been removed and the opening blocked, but the flush tiled hearth remains. When the folding doors are open the two rooms read almost as a single space. A serving hatch and double-sided wall-cupboard with sliding doors links through to the kitchen. These are original but were faced in black leather in the 1960s.

From the hall a dog-leg stair rises up towards the front of the house before turning towards the rear. The balustrade is formed of a continuous loop of flat painted steel bar, encircling narrow hardwood panels and carrying a hardwood handrail, supported on vertical polished steel uprights. The balustrade is interesting not just for its distinctive design, but for the fact that it echoes balustrades designed by Zweigenthal in 1930 for the 'Schuhhaus Jacoby 1872' in Berlin, in 1933 for a remodelled house interior in Vienna (published in England in the Architectural Review in 1936) and in 1950 for the Morgenthau House in Long Island, America.

The kitchen, first floor hall and some of the bedrooms retain simple painted built-in cupboards, which are original to the building. Grilles over the radiators in the former maids' bedrooms are pierced with circles, matching the detail of the exterior balustrades. This may have been a detail repeated on radiator grilles throughout the house. The grass paper on the walls and hardwood fitted furniture is later, as is most of the kitchen, except for the original built-in cupboards. Bathrooms have also been refitted and there is later fitted furniture in the bedrooms.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES The courtyard to the front of the house is laid in crazy paving and stock brick walls which terminate in square brick planters bound the ramp down to the garage. One of the planters has been partly rebuilt following damage, but an early photograph of the house indicates that the arrangement is original, except for an extra brick planter which is a later addition to the front of the courtyard.

To the rear of the house the folding doors open onto a raised, curved, terrace, laid with crazy paving which is flush with the interior floors. The terrace is enclosed by a low, painted, tubular steel rail which carries wide timber bench seats (the seats are replacements of the originals).

Sources

Books and journals
Gould, J, Modern Houses in Britain, 1919-1939, (1977)
Stegers, R, Hermann Herrey: Werk und Leben 1904-1968, (2018), pp. 98-120
'A refitted house in Vienna' in Architectural Review, Supplement, (September 1936), p. 123
Katzke, T, 'Hermann Herrey/Zweigenthal' in Bauwelt, , Vol. 95, (30 April 2004), pp. 14-19 and 20-25
Websites
Herbert Felix Jolowicz, entry in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 19 October 2018 from http://www.oxforddnb.com
Other
Pers. comm. Sue Hanauer and Pauline Powell, 27 June 2018

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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