2. A 1950s Design Original


Above, the finished concept of April 1950, taken from a magazine discovered in the RIBA library thanks to Ken Powell. Apologies for the poor photograph. And below, a reminder of how it looked in the late summer of 2011, with all the accretions of the 1970s and plastic windows of the 90s:

We’re in the literature

A 1950 magazine, the Architecture Journal retrospective of 1996 which led to the Ken Powell book on Powell and Moya published by RIBA in 2006.

The Completed Extension 1950

Below is the modernist extension as finished in 1950, original photos from the Powell and Moya archive.

Through Ken Powell I managed to contact the man who bought the practice at the end of its days who still had the publicity photograph archive but not the drawings which are with RIBA although none seem to exist of the Cottage. He sent me copies of the four photographs taken by the practice on completion of the project.

This first one figures on page 22 of the Ken Powell book: the south view with the buildings on Westgate clearly shown in the background. Note that none of the walls of the old buildings are painted as yet, only the modernist extension.

Below is the West facade complete with the porch, a 1949 design that was to be replicated across many 1960s estates. See how the picket fencing runs up close to the building, as this was just space carved out of the back garden of the Canon at no 15.

The south facade again, seen below, with a better view of the kitchen complete with gingham curtains. The plate rack had gone by the time we got there but the shelving was still in place. The dark rectangle at the east end of the facade in between the louvres is the violet panel which we have restored. Behind the louvres metal grills were attached; this was the larder, as we are  in the days before electric fridges became affordable and more commonplace.

Damp proofing

We had read in the magazine article that the stable block solid nine-inch Georgian walls had been damp-proofed by the application of bitumen backed cork tiling.

Upon stripping back around windows and door frames we found that this indeed proved to be the case:

Here is a very good cross-section at one of the stable doors where you can see the three materials alongside each other: Georgian brick, bitumen layer and thin cork insulation tiles. I remember this kind of cork being big in the 70s and Habitat selling these slabs of dark mateiral, but this is 25 years earlier:

This kind of solution creates havoc of course with old walls, not allowing them to breathe as originally designed. They were no doubt fine for 200 years but this kind of solution traps in moisture. It also destabilises all the plasterwork which loses its key. Hmm.

Fire Hazard

30 May 2014 – We were always concerned that there was no fire egress to the original 1970s designs and the exit from the bedroom involved going past two major fire sources (an open coal fire and a kitchen) before reaching an exit door.

Well guess what they discovered during the stripping out? The ceilings were fibreboard on plasterboard, a huge fire risk and not legal these days. So the ceilings are having to come out.

Restoring the original paint scheme

Two colours from the 1940s colour palette were chosen for external decoration by Philip Powell and we will be restoring these.

The porch soffit was painted ‘Lemon Yellow’, a shade of Yellow that is 69% saturated and 100% bright. For reference purposes, Lemon Yellow has the hex value #FFF44F. Interestingly Crayola issued this colour in 1949 under the name ‘Lemon Yellow,’ and discontinued it in 1990. Yellow is the colour of the mind and the intellect. The first recorded use of lemon as a colour name in English was in 1598.

The external panel between the louvres was painted ‘Violet’, seen in black and white in the 1950 picture above, when the building was just finished. Violet is a shade that is 100% saturated and 100% bright. For reference purposes, Violet has the hex value #9F00FF. Violet is the color most commonly associated with the extravagant, the individualist, ambiguity, the unconventional, and the artificial.

Here is a close up of the violet panel in 1950.

One gets the impression that the panel and louvres had been covered over (if not painted out) within a few months, if one compares this view with the one reproduced from the magazine article that heads this section. The external walls of the extension were painted in black  bitumen paint bought from Cardiff Docks and all woodwork and internal walls were white, as were the walls of the old stable itself.

Information sources: Wikipedia and colors.findthedata.org

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