A Lion in Winter: A Midcentury Masterpiece in London
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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 Journa l) Photos of the Corten House via Modern Estate Agents. Above: Winter's steel-framed building clad with Corten steel, the first domestic use of the material in the UK. Above: To take advantage of the misty views over London, Winter located the living room on the top floor of the three-story house. Above: Winter's modernist furniture still looks current. Above: Note how Winter cleverly attached architect's lamps to the back of his sofa for task lighting. Above: A grand piano holds court in the living room, mixing comfortably with the midcentury seating. Above: A study located opposite the living room (Winter loved architect's lamps; see 10 Easy Pieces: Best Architect's Lamps for sourcing ideas). 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). Above: Sliding doors open onto the garden. Above: The open-plan layout is surprisingly modern; the kitchen is located off the dining area, with cabinetry serving as a room divider. Above: A view of the kitchen work area, which includes a view of the garden. Above: A long shelf lines a wall on the bedroom level. Above: A minimally outfitted bedroom, located on the ground floor. Above: The master bath is tiled in the same quarry stone as the kitchen and dining area. Above: Only in England: Winter's glass geodesic dome (a garden shed), with a view of a nearby chapel. Above: John Winter in Norfolk, England, where he had a country house; photo by Simon Norfolk for the Telegraph .