Let's face it, who hasn't whiled away an hour or three at The Modern House, perusing the exquisitely designed dwellings in preparation for that so far elusive lottery win? Matt Gibberd and Albert Hill are the pair responsible for enabling this habit through their hugely successful estate agency and have just put together a new book showcasing some of the best Modernist houses both old and new – and a very lovely thing it is too. We caught up with them to find out more…
How did the idea for the book first come about? What were the most challenging aspects of putting it together?
MG: Phaidon felt that it was the right time to reappraise Modernism, and they approached us about putting a book together. The primary challenge was deciding which projects to include; initially we were going to encompass large-scale apartment blocks as well, but in the end we narrowed the scope to one-off houses.
The book is full of beautiful houses built for rich people with impeccable taste. What were the criteria for buildings to be included?
MG: Armed with a tower of Post-it notes, we spent a huge amount of time marking off our favourite projects in the books and journals in our office, as well as visiting libraries and carrying out online research. Once we had a longlist, we whittled it down to the best examples of the Modernist style, and this was then condensed further based upon which images were available to use. We wanted to make sure that the main protagonists were included, and that we had a very broad geographical spread – some of the buildings we found in remote locations surprised even us. Not all of the houses are grandiose projects built for wealthy clients; some are very modest structures built from simple materials.
Showing everything in black and white means that it’s hard to see on first glance which are contemporary and which are from decades earlier. Do you think it highlights the fact that not much has changed with this particular style of architecture? Is there any danger of it becoming a cliché
MG: By showing the projects in a non-hierarchical way and in black and white, the aim is to demonstrate how the primary characteristics of Modernism have survived remarkably unscathed: flat roofs, windows in horizontal bands, cubic or cylindrical forms, and painted render. If you asked someone to draw picture of their ideal modern dwelling, it would probably look something like Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, all these years later. That’s because the principles of Modernism have a timeless appeal – truth to materials, an emphasis on maximising natural light, and embracing the landscape.