Private house, built in 1965 to the design of Peter Foggo David Thomas Architects by Forrester Developments Ltd of Wimbledon.
Reasons for Designation
31B St Mary’s Road, Wimbledon, a private house designed by the architects Peter Foggo and David Thomas in 1965, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a modernist private house design by an important architectural practice in the domestic sphere, Peter Foggo proceeding to establish himself as one of the most distinguished architects of the later C20 with seven listed buildings to his name, including other examples of 1960s domestic modernism;
* as a relatively rare and well-preserved example of a private house by Foggo and Thomas with a good surviving plan form and many of the original fixtures and fittings, as well as the original internal aesthetic;
* for the high-quality finishes, including sapele mahogany-veneered panelling and polished Canadian maple floors, as well as the carefully-designed and integrated services;
* the house, raised off the ground with its fully-expressed concrete frame, is a good representation of the third and final development of Foggo and Thomas’s private house designs, having initially built in timber and then steel;
* at the end of a sequence of small house designs, it marks a culmination in refinement and simplicity with its compact use of space to an artfully simple plan on a tight suburban site, in which it carefully integrates with its surroundings.
* as an example of the influence of American domestic modernism on post-war British architecture, especially the internationally-acclaimed Californian Case Study Programme and the work of Mies van der Rohe.
* with the adjacent Grade II*-listed St Mary’s Church with which it is intervisible, the church tower forming a key vista with the house from the garden, within the Wimbledon North Conservation Area.
Private houses were an important early vehicle of modernist architecture in Britain, with Peter Behren’s New Ways, Northampton (built 1925) and Amyas Connell’s High and Over, Amersham, Buckinghamshire (1929), leading the way (Harwood 2015, 119). Modernism emphasised space and volume, with rooms beginning to be opened out into a flowing sequence. In the post-war period, houses became smaller and more informal in plan, central heating allowed rooms to be opened up and an absence of servants reduced the need for privacy. There was an emphasis on accommodating the car and integrating the house with its immediate surroundings. From 1945, building was only permitted by licence and private houses were restricted to a maximum of 1000 square feet. It was not until 1954, when rules were relaxed, that new private houses appeared with increasing frequency. The following period from 1955 to 1970 has been described as ‘one of the most stimulating for domestic architecture in the history of Britain’ (Powers 2004, 13).
Many of Britain’s young architects worked in America in the 1950s and were inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. The Californian Case Study Programme from 1945 to the mid-1960s also provided an inspiration behind private house design. Initiated by Arts and Architecture magazine, the programme saw a series of designs for lightweight largely single-storey houses with full-height windows and outdoor areas, reflecting the relaxed alfresco lifestyle of California. Initially intended for modest incomes, the houses became increasingly large and luxurious and were internationally-recognised with features widely repeated in Britain.
Peter Foggo (1930-1993) and David Thomas (1930-) established a practice in 1959 after studying architecture together in Liverpool, working in the evenings and at weekends as Peter Foggo David Thomas Architects alongside full-time jobs. They shared a passion for the work of Mies van der Rohe, later quoting the Barcelona Pavilion and Farnsworth House as influences, and even persuaded him to travel to Merseyside to talk to fellow students (The Modern House 2020). Their first complete house, Sorrell House (now Grade II*-listed), West Sussex, was commissioned in 1959 via Kenneth Capon, a partner at the Architect’s Co-Partnership where Foggo was working. The house was built as a Miesian glazed box set on stilts over parking and boats, and constructed in Afzelia hardwood with cedar and pine cladding. In 1962 to 1963, Foggo and Philip Dowson designed Long Wall at Newman’s Green, Suffolk, (Grade II-listed) a timber house built around a brick plinth and spine wall, the latter extending as a screen to the outdoor terrace. Foggo and Thomas subsequently turned to steel for a series of single-storey houses. This included Space House, East Grinstead, East Sussex, which was designed in 1963 as an H-plan with two raised terraces between glazed end walls, followed by three similar houses at Holyport, Berkshire (Harwood 2015, 145). They also designed several houses with a reinforced concrete frame, the first at 66 Murray Road, Wimbledon, followed by three more nearby in 1965, including 31B St Mary’s Road, and one other at Blackheath, Greenwich. The frame was fully articulated with projecting joists supporting a clerestory resembling that at Bosham Hoe.
31B St Mary’s Road was the first, and is considered to be the least altered, of three essentially identical houses constructed in the grounds of an Edwardian house in Wimbledon in 1965 (the other two are 9 Alan Road and 31A St Mary’s Road, which have both lost their carports). It was built with an exposed reinforced concrete frame and floor-to-near ceiling polished plate glass in steel frames at the front and back. Internally, it has a compact rectangular plan with a central living space flanked by four bedrooms, a kitchen and study. The plan form bears some similarities with the more modest early designs of the Californian Case Study Programme such as house No 11 (1945 to 1946) by Julius Ralph Davidson. The four bedrooms are organised into two pairs (each pair with one bathroom) which are separated by the living area. This arrangement means the children’s bedroom could be used as a suite, separated from the parents. Interior spaces are all on one level and designed to be flexible: the spacious living room also accommodates a dining area and can be opened up by way of sliding doors onto a private garden at the rear of the house. There are high quality finishes; the walls are clad in specially finished sapele mahogany veneered panelling, floors are made of polished Canadian maple, kitchen worktops are made from Formica in pure white, sinks from stainless steel, and lights and electrical fittings in brass. Services are carefully integrated into the design of the house. Light fittings are flush with the ceiling, and the house heated by warm air distributed through ducts below the floor and via wall vents, eliminating the need for radiators which would interfere in the positioning of furniture. This heating system was designed by the heating engineer Max Fordham and allows the air to provide a certain amount of cooling in summer by being circulated and constantly filtered. Other services were by Harris and Bailey Ltd of Croydon.
The house is described in a 1966 newspaper article as: ‘luxurious, and […] designed to suit high standard family living. Special attention has been paid to the needs of the individuals in the family’ (Marylebone Mercury, 26 August 1966). The building has undergone some later alterations including: secondary glazing, a replacement bronze-framed secondary entrance door, insertion of two folding mahogany doors between the entrance and living room, insulation added under the floor and to the walls, and a new insulated roof and small side porch, as well as removal of louvred shutters to the kitchen and utility room (now study).
Peter Foggo and David Thomas went on to spend most of their careers at Arup Associates (originally Ove Arup and Partners), both becoming directors and Foggo becoming a partner in the firm. Foggo came to be the leading designer at Arup Associates before establishing his own practice in the late 1980s; at the time of his death he had claim to be the leading specialist in office buildings working in Britain. During the 1960s and 1970s his work diversified from university buildings and large factories into corporate headquarters, and was admired for its conceptual clarity and sophisticated marriage of structure, services and spatial planning. His scheme for Broadgate (built in 1985 to 1987), an office and retail estate in the City of London, was his most ambitious and best-known work, and is generally acknowledged to be Foggo’s major achievement (see Building Design 12 August 1994). It was recommended for listing at Grade II* in 2012 but was turned down by the then Secretary of State. Seven of the buildings for which Foggo was closely involved are listed: the two private houses noted above; four office buildings, including Gateway House (Mountbatten House) in Basingstoke, Gun Wharf in Chatham and 1 Finsbury Avenue, London at Grade II and Scotstoun House at South Queensferry near Edinburgh (1966) in Category B under the Scottish system; and one university building, namely the Wolfson Building at Somerville College, Oxford (1966-1967) at Grade II.
Private house, built in 1965 to the design of Peter Foggo David Thomas Architects by Forrester Developments Ltd of Wimbledon.
MATERIALS: a fully-expressed concrete frame with brick side walls and near full-height polished plate glass in steel frames to the front and rear elevations.
PLAN: a compact rectangular plan, comprising a central core with a front entrance hall which is flanked by a kitchen and study (originally a utility room) and leads to a large open-plan living room at the rear. On each side of this central core is a lobby, bathroom (one now split to also form a utility room), front and rear bedrooms (although one is now used as a dining room). There is also a utility room.
EXTERIOR: the house is orientated north-east to south-west, fronting onto St Mary’s Road, and is served by a carport. It takes the form of a reinforced concrete-framed, single-storey, flat-roofed, rectangular box raised about 0.5m above the ground with brick side walls and near full-height glazing to the front and rear elevations. The main elevation of the house is divided into three bays by T-shaped concrete piers; there are two near full-height glazed lights to each end bay and two glazed lights flanking each side of the entrance doorway of the central bay. Beneath the glazing is a black plinth containing the services and above it are white top-hung ventilation flaps. The exposed concrete frame is painted black and there is a black fascia beneath the roof. The side walls are built of stock brick and are largely blind, without any openings, but there is a later blue brick porch at the centre of the east side. At the centre of the front elevation are timber-boarded double doors approached by very wide concrete steps under a flat-roofed porch. The rear elevation has glass sliding doors leading down very wide concrete steps to a patio and small landscaped-garden. There are sky lights running along the centre of the roof between the side walls.
INTERIOR: the main entrance doorway leads through a later set of bronze-framed secondary doors into a small open-plan hallway. Most of the internal walls, including the hall, are lined with original vertical sapele mahogany-veneered panels with original metal ventilation louvres, and there is a polished Canadian maple floor and flush timber doors throughout. The floor is raised off the ground allowing services, such as heated air ducts, underneath. Flanking the entrance hall is a small study (originally a utility room) and kitchen. The kitchen fittings are largely original but the fascias of the doors and cupboards have been replaced although these are thought to be close in appearance to the pure white originals. Adjacent to the entrance hall is an original full-height island storage cupboard, which has later folding doors at each end. Beyond it is a large open-plan living room with a fully-glazed rear aspect looking out onto the patio and garden. There are doors to either side of the island storage cupboard which lead into two side wings. The south-east wing has a central lobby leading into a bathroom, now part sub-divided into a utility room with external access, and into a front and rear bedroom. The north-west wing has a similar layout with a bathroom, a rear bedroom and a former front bedroom, now a dining room. There are several original fitted wardrobes to the bedrooms. Two of the sapele mahogany-panelled walls have been painted and secondary glazing has been added. There are original doors, door handles, fitted cupboards, ventilation flap handles and operating mechanisms throughout, as well as many original brass light switches and plug sockets (some replaced like-for-like).
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: in front of the main entrance is a carport canopy supported on T-shaped concrete piers. It is given the same materials and treatment as the house, forming an integral part of the design, and is included in the listing.