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London N6. Tile Kiln Studios. Peter Beaven.

Peter Beaven was never conventional: in 1975, aged 50, he disbanded his successful Christchurch practice, packed a suitcase and moved to London where he worked alone from a bedsit. During that time he designed these six houses in the Christchurch Style, evolving ideas he developed a decade earlier in Christchurch’s Tonbridge Mews and Wellington’s Habitat Housing. Bravo.

Tile Kiln Studios was featured in the Cement & Concrete Association’s magazine in 1982. It wrote:

“One of the points that the New Zealand architect Peter Beaven has made so well in this group of studio houses in Highgate is how effectively white-painted blockwork can achieve a sharp and satisfying clarity of modelling. The white blockwork, repeated inside and out, is built up into a series of intersecting vertical planes capped by gables and variously pitched roofs… The effect – appropriate enough for studio houses – approaches an abstract composition of black and white sculpture. This is obviously a technique that the architect fully understands: he has used it before in New Zealand, notably in the Chateau Commodore Hotel and the 1974 Commonwealth Games Stadia, both in Christchurch. It is an attractive architectural medium and one that fits many contexts in Britain.

“There are, of course, other interesting ideas behind this housing as well. It is… a co-operative venture built by six people who bought the plots in the approved scheme and worked on the finishing themselves. Not the least interesting aspect is the architect himself. Peter Beaven is an individualist with a sense of humour and perspective. He must be, otherwise how could he have made the break with his own country New Zealand, where he was one of the best-known architects in South Island, together with Miles Warren with whom he was a student. This housing scheme in Highgate… would seem to be a reflection of a strongly held personal ideology, rather than of conformity to any fashionable mainstream of architectural thought. The simplicity and clarity of form displayed in these studio houses no doubt reflects to some extent the architect’s preferred lifestyle. The gables, variously pitched roofs and strong vertical rhythms are very much in the grain of local domestic building, although the site is in fact one of those where no special architectural character was dictated.”

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