A Lion in Winter: A Midcentury Masterpiece in London by

Issue 81 · Best of Architecture · July 18, 2013

A Lion in Winter: A Midcentury Masterpiece in London

Issue 81 · Best of Architecture · July 18, 2013

London-based architect John Winter, who died in 2012 at the age of 82, was known for his quiet modernist designs. His most celebrated project was his own house, built in 1969, which featured the first domestic use of Corten steel in the UK (when it was completed, his colleagues gave him a plaque with the inscription "Rust in Peace"). Winter attended the Architectural Association in London, won a scholarship to study under Louis Kahn at Yale, and then moved to San Francisco, where he worked for Charles and Ray Eames as well as Skidmore, Owings and Merrill before returning to London, where he did time in the office of Erno Goldfinger (yes, the inspiration for the Bond villain) before setting up his own practice.

After obsessively researching him, I'm putting Winter in my "People I Wish I Had Known" file, based on the following:

• "He was reported to have never have had a planning application refused." (Wikipedia)

•  "He could not stand 'Gehry, Koolhaus, and the other silly moderns.' " (Telegraph)

•  "His career was not without its frustrations: several commissions were undermined and ultimately thwarted by the Prince of Wales." (Jonathan Ellis-Miller, architect and former colleague)

• "He visited Richard Neutra in California and was struck by the way Neutra invited him into his home. 'He was a very busy architect, and I dropped in, just a wondering student. He put down everything he was doing and spent the rest of the day showing me his work.' " (The Twentieth Century Society

• "I was once called the plumber of architecture—I'm interested in commonsense working solutions and don't really have any big ideas or concepts." (RIBA Journal)

Photos of the Corten House via Modern Estate Agents. 

Winter House Exterior Remodelista

Above: Winter's steel-framed building clad with Corten steel, the first domestic use of the material in the UK. 

Winter House Living Room London Remodelista

Above: To take advantage of the misty views over London, Winter located the living room on the top floor of the three-story house.

Winter House London Living Room Remodelista

Above: Winter's modernist furniture still looks current.

Winter House London Living Room Remodelista

Above: Note how Winter cleverly attached architect's lamps to the back of his sofa for task lighting.

Winter House Living Room Remodelista

Above: A grand piano holds court in the living room, mixing comfortably with the midcentury seating.

Winter House Desk Remodelista

Above: A study located opposite the living room (Winter loved architect's lamps; see 10 Easy Pieces: Best Architect's Lamps for sourcing ideas).

Winter House Dining Room Remodelista

Above: The dining area and kitchen are located on the first floor. The floor is made of hard-wearing quarry tile (Winter's wife Val hosted play groups for local children).

Winter House Dining Room Remodelista

Above: Sliding doors open onto the garden.

  Winter House Kitchen

Above: The open-plan layout is surprisingly modern; the kitchen is located off the dining area, with cabinetry serving as a room divider.

Winter House Kitchen Remodelista

Above: A view of the kitchen work area, which includes a view of the garden.

  Winter House Study Remodelista

Above: A long shelf lines a wall on the bedroom level.

Winter House Bedroom Remodelista

Above: A minimally outfitted bedroom, located on the ground floor.

Winter House Bathroom Remodelista

Above: The master bath is tiled in the same quarry stone as the kitchen and dining area.

Winter House Geodesic Dome

Above: Only in England: Winter's glass geodesic dome (a garden shed), with a view of a nearby chapel.

UK Architect John Winter Remodelista

Above: John Winter in Norfolk, England, where he had a country house; photo by Simon Norfolk for the Telegraph.



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