Restoring Modern 1930s Houses
John Winter


"High Cross Hill", Dartington, Devon, 1931. Architects Howe & Lescaze

©“the Modern House In England” By F R S Yorke (the Architectural Press, London, 1937)

The English Modern Movement of the 1930s produced some world-class buildings. But they did not weather very well and within a few years most were looking rather sad. During the period of Post Modernism they were held in low esteem and neglected. Now, with a revived interest in Modernism, and with new techniques for making the buildings survive in our climate, they are more valued and are being renovated. I'm going to show six examples where these buildings have been renovated by my practice. The black and white slides are taken from Yorke's book of The Modern House, the colour slides are new. The first one is High Cross House in Dartington in Devon built in 1931. The architects were American, Howe & Lescaze, an interesting partnership because for five years they worked together and produced world-class buildings. The rest of their careers, before and after, they worked on their own and were really not so good. This house was built for the headmaster of the experimental school at Dartington, and it was occupied by a succession of headmasters until the school closed in the 1980s. Then it was used as a dormitory for forestry students, and finally left empty.


"High Cross Hill", Dartington, Devon, 1931. Architects Howe & Lescaze

©J Ohnwinter

Here is the building as it was in 1991 when we came on the scene, reasonably maintained but with pipes hanging on the outside and all the balconies roofed over to make extra space. At that time Maggie Giraud, who was the archivist at Dartington Hall, had the idea of converting the house into an archive and an art gallery. As these functions were not compatible with a house where the main rooms were designed to catch light and sun, it was decided to put all the art rooms, art gallery rooms, along the north side in what had been the service part of the house, and to restore the main living rooms, re-acquiring so far as possible the original furniture.

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