In 1929, whilst working for plywood manufacturer Venesta, Jack Pritchard met the architect Wells Coates. Following this meeting, the pair founded Isokon in 1931. Based upon the earlier ideals of the Bauhaus, the company aimed to create minimalist houses, flats and furniture that would instil society with modern values. In 1934, a block of flats designed by Coates was built at Lawn Road in Hampstead, North London. Each flat was fitted with Isokon furniture – ‘the equipment for the living of a free life’ – which was included in the rent, with an additional easy chair, electric fire, wireless and cocktail cabinet available on hire purchase. Although each flat had a compact kitchenette, residents were encouraged to dine and socialise in the ground-floor Isobar and restaurant, which was designed by Marcel Breuer. This was a reflection on the free-thinking and fast-living intelligentsia at whom the Lawn Road Flats were marketed.* With former Bauhaus director Walter Gropius installed as the controller of design at Isokon and Marcel Breuer as the master of the carpentry workshop, the furniture began to achieve the ideals pursued by Pritchard. Many of Breuer’s Bauhaus pieces were redeveloped in plywood and formed the basis of Isokon’s range. More designers were enlisted and Isokon continued to research and develop plywood furniture until 1939, when World War II halted production. Pritchard restarted the company in 1962, employing further designers and manufacturers to realise the Isokon dream. He finally handed over production to Windmill Furniture in 1982, ten years before his death.
* The flats were to provide an answer for young professional people with incomes between £250 and £500 per annum; Jack Pritchard wrote ‘Our buildings are designed for middle-class people of moderate means'.
number of variously sized Isokon apartments at Lawn Road Flats, Hampstead, London
Minimum .......... 22
Double .......... 4
Studio .......... 3
Penthouse* .......... 1
*Added instead of a roof garden as Jack and Molly Pritchard’s own residence.
notable tenants of the Lawn Road Flats
Agatha Christie – Egon Riss – Maxwell Fry – Jack and Molly Pritchard – Lazlo Moholy-Nagy – Marcel Breuer – Walter and Ise Gropius
dimensions of a minimum size Isokon flat
Living room .......... 17’ 8” x 10’ 4” (5.4 x 3.15m)
Kitchenette .......... 4’ 7” x 5” (1.4 x 1.52m)
Overall .......... 17’ 8” x 15’ 4” (5.4 x 4.67m)
services offered at the Lawn Road Flats at moderate prices
constant hot water – cleaning – shoe cleaning – bed making – meals from the central kitchen