The Door to a Secret Room: A Portrait of Wells Coates


ISBN: 9781840146950
Artist(s): Wells Coates
Author(s): Laura Cohn
Format: hardback
Edition: First
Year published: 1999
Publisher: Lund Humphries
Publisher Location: London
Total Pages: 240 pages
Illustrations: 123 b/w illustrations

Artist(s) Biographies:

5 available

Forty years after his death, Wells Coates is seen as a seminal figure in the modern movement in architecture in Britain. His blocks of flats, his shop and office designs, houses, interiors, radios and other industrial designs, are evidence of his commitment to a functional aesthetic and of his refusal to compromise his own high standards. Wells Coates’s daughter Laura Cohn has written this book to illustrate the conflicts, qualities and disappointments of an extraordinary man. A portrait rather than a biography, the book begins with Coates’s upbringing in Japan and ends with his death in Vancouver in 1958. In between it traces the beliefs that guided his working life, his ambitions, successes, and disappointments. The story of his unhappy marriage shows one part of his life experience; relationships with friends, colleagues and enemies reveal another side. The longest chapter, on Lawn Road Flats, is of both personal and professional interest: it provides an absorbing account of how plans evolved for this now famous building and of the relationships between Coates and his clients. The building’s future has been the subjects of endless discussion in local and national newspapers and on radio and TV. The Door to a Secret Room gives context and information essential to anyone who has an interest in this landmark. A man who in the words of one of his colleagues was often “his own worst enemy”, Wells Coates, for all the troubles of his public and private life, kept an admirable purity in his work as an architect-designer. His story is of interest not just to architects or designers, but to anyone who might wish to look at the example of a man’s struggles and dilemmas in our complex century


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