Published  19/03/2004

Isokon Reborn

The once semi-derelict Isokon building, in Belsize Park in North London, has now reopened, and following a 2.3 million renovation, the flats are being snapped up. But in a unique adherence to social ethos, some 25 of the 36 flats are earmarked by Camden for teachers and social workers within the borough. The remaining flats are to be sold to private buyers to help subsidise the 'key worker' flats (there does not appear to be a rush from New Labour to be associated with such longstanding tenets from the past).

Designed by the Canadian modernist Wells Coates in 1934, the apartment block now looks as it once did. All this would be fully approved of by Coates, and by the Bauhaus following which inspired the fundamentally European Isokon building at the time. Jack Pritchard, a leading engineer who became the developer, and his wife Molly lived in the penthouse. Their son Jonathan never severed the connection, and when they returned to live in the building, his wife Maria took over the management. The Notting Hill Housing Group bought the building from Camden Council, and commissioned Avanti Architects to undertake the renovation, with the support of English Heritage. Research was required into the fabric to find the original colours. It turns out this was originally not white but pink, and was then painted brown to deter the Luftwaffe. It is now back to pink. The homely 'Isobar' for residents was a sanctuary for such as Furniture Designer and Architect Marcel Breuer - an inmate for several years. But this alas had to be turned into three more flats for economy. There will be an exhibition space, however, and the successful realisation of this rescue operation makes it a model for such retrievals from the clutches of the great housing boom developer market.

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