The Hatrack

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This distinctive tall, slender, Art Nouveau style listed building at 142 St Vincent St, Glasgow, is popularly known as the Hatrack

It was designed by James Salmon Jnr a contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh Salmon, who was affectionately nicknamed “the Wee Troot”, a play on his name (Troot = Trout) and short stature. He was also one of the architects of the Anderston Savings Bank I stumbled upon during my last visit to the city.

The building was constructed between 1899 and 1902. Its name was inspired by the cupola, which has projecting finials that resemble the “pegs” of a hat rack. It was difficult to get a decent snap of it from street level so this is my best effort.

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Above the entrance to the building is an attractive stained glass oriel window with the design of a sailing ship on top of a sculpture of what appears to be a mythical dragon.

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The front of the building is a curtain wall supported on a concrete frame and is mainly glass with only a bare minimum of decorative sandstone. It does rather remind me of a more slender version of Oriel Chambers, built in Liverpool in 1874 and designed by the revolutionary architect, Peter Ellis. This resemblance and likely influence is also noted on the Scotcities website.

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The Aalto House

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My main reason for the trip out to Munkkiniemi was to visit the former home of the Finnish Functionalist/Modernist architect Alvar Aalto on Riihitie.

The house was designed by Alvar and his first wife Aino, also an architect and designer who worked with her husband. They acquired the site in 1934 in what was then a relatively unspoilt area, semi-rural on the outskirts of the city. The house was completed in 1936. Aalto lived there with Aino (she died of cancer in 1949 aged 54) and then with his second wife, another architect Elissa Mäkiniemi  who had been working as an assistant in his office who he married in 1952. Today it’s owned by the Aalto Museum which is based in Jyväskylä. Visits are by guided tour only.

The house was designed as both a family home and an office, although Aalto was careful to separate the two. The working part of the building, the studio, was segregated to one end in it’s own wing.

Aalto’s version of Modernism incorporated the use of traditional and natural materials in his buildings. This can be seen in the use of wooden cladding on the exterior of the residential part of he house. 

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The studio wing is constructed of whitewashed brick – so a separation of the building’s two functions is apparent externally

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Aalto believed that there should be a unity between the interior and the exterior of a house and he incorporated this idea into his own home. The large windows open out onto the garden which is effectively an extension of the main living areas on the ground floor – at least, in the summer time, the winters in Finland are cold and harsh – and there’s a roof terrace which extends the upstairs living space.

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The design of the house makes maximum use of natural light and insulating materials are used to protect against the cold of winter.

Aalto’s desk is in the corner of the studio with a view outside through two large windows. Today it overlooks a sports field and nearby buildings but in the 1930’s he had a view towards the sea.

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The studio is separated from the living quarters by a moveable wooden screen.

Aalto’s approach was to see the design of building and it’s interior as a whole, and this is reflected in the residential wing of the house where furnishings and fittings have been carefully selected – largely designed by Aalto and Aino for their design company Artek.

There are two main rooms downstairs that form an open plan living space with large windows overlooking the garden/

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Upstairs there was another cosy living room

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with a roof terrace

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a guest bedroom

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and three family bedrooms.

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It was a very pleasant and cosy home. relatively modest, but it must have been a fantastic place to live and work.

To me, there were many similarities with Erno Goldfinger’s home in Hampstead and also the Bauhaus Masters’ houses – all Modernist buildings used as both family homes and workspaces.

Aalto eventually needed more space for his architectural practice so built a separate studio a short distance away in 1955. The Studio also belongs to the Museum but isn’t open on a Sunday, so I was only able to take a peek from the outside.

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The Isokon flats

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I mentioned the Isokon building in my recent post on Modernist houses in Hampstead. But I thought that the building deserved its own, more detailed post.

Designed by the Canadian architect, Welles Coates, they’re located on Lawn Road, a leafy residential street close to the Hampstead Free Hospital, they’re also known as the “Lawn Road Flats”.

Picture source: Museum of London website

It’s an outstanding Modernist building.

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Coates was commissioned in 1931 to build the flats by Jack and Molly Pritchard who were the owners of “Isokon” a design company they’d established the previous year.  His brief was to design a block of service flats, built to a standard plan, which would be fitted out with Isokon designed furniture.  The block was completed in July 1934. The design was heavily influenced by the ideas of Le Corbusier – it was meant to be “a machine for living”

Aimed at young professionals the flats were made of reinforced concrete with dramatically cantilevered sculptured stairways and access galleries. Coates felt that furniture should be an integral part of architecture and all essential furniture and equipment was built-in. Each flat included a sliding table, a divan with a spring mattress and cover, a radiator, linoleum floor finish, light fittings, a wash basin with a mirror and a glass shelf, a hanging cupboard with a long mirror, a dressing table with drawers and cupboards beneath, an electric cooker, refrigerator, sink and draining board, refuse container and cupboard space.

The original services included hot water and central heating, cleaning and bed making with meals provided in a central kitchen.

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The communal kitchen on the ground floor was converted to restaurant and bar, the Isobar,  which was designed by the Bauhaus émigré Marcel Breuer, in 1936. Although the Isobar was popular for a while, before WW2, with the “Hampstead Set”, the communal facilities weren’t popular and were eventually converted into more flats.

The flats were originally intended to be occupied by “young professionals”  – according to Coates they were designed

“with special reference to the circumstances of the bachelor or young married professional or businessperson.” (source here)

However, in practice, the building attracted a number of Hampstead intellectuals and former residents include the author Agatha Christie, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus.

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It’s distinctive features are the cantilevered balconies which run along the full length of the building on all the floors, and the tower and entrance hall at one end.

Agatha Christie described the building as “a giant liner without any funnels” and I think she had a point., To me,  the design is very typically “streamline moderne” i.e. an architectural style emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements” (Wikipedia). I felt there were similarities with the design of the Midland Hotel in Morecambe, built during the same period.

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There’s a floor plan of the building here which shows how compact the individual flats are.

After WW2 the building went into a period of decline. For a short period the building was owned by the New Statesman magazine but were transferred to Camden Council in 1972. They allowed the flats to continue to deteriorate but they have been recently was refurbished by Notting Hill Home Ownership (NHHO), Avanti Architects with Alan Conisbee Associates as structural engineers and the Isokon Trust. The building now houses 25 shared ownership flats for key workers and 11 for private homes. So they are finally fulfilling their original purpose.

A number of other bloggers have written about the flats, including

London Bytes

Insideology

Studio 325

and there is further information here, here and here