Chiswick Village History

 

A Brief History of Chiswick Village 

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"It is thought that the large villas of Oxford Road and Cambridge Road were built by 1871.

Oxford and Cambridge Roads were named after the Universities that held their annual river boat race on the River Thames into the Chiswick Area.

In the 1950s one could look along Wellesley Road across the low walls of the gardens in Oxford and Cambridge Roads to the houses on the High Road. Pear trees from the former orchards were visible in some of the gardens.

 

Orchards remained to the south of Oxford Road and Oxford Gardens, protected by a railway triangle, part of the Hounslow to Gunnersbury link.

When this section of track was torn up in 1930 the orchard was sold and Chiswick Village was built on the land."

CHISWICK AREA COMMITTEE 3 SEPTEMBER 2002 Para 6.2.5

 

This artice, to the right, is from "The Builder" 1935.

You can find out some information as to how this development came into being in 1935 and how its proposed name was to be "Chiswick Court Gardens" - here.

Article from "The Builder" 1935

    

 

Architectural History

 

 

 

Is Chiswick Village an International Style building or an Art Deco building?

The International Style is a definition of a highly original architecture that was intellectually and philosophically underwritten, stylistically disciplined and led by a number of very talented architects. Art Deco in architecture is in contrast, unashamedly populist, decorative and eclectic originating in France but developed architecturally by the Americans. 

 

The International Style

It was the curators, H-R Hitchcock and Philip Johnson, of an exhibition of architecture at MoMA in New York in 1932, who coined the term “International Style” as the title of the exhibition. This exhibition was of course carefully curated to present the work of a few highly talented architects, such as Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, (Germany) Le Corbusier (Switzerland and France) and Richard Neutra USA. Originally developed in Germany this new architecture had by 1932 begun to spread over Europe and North America. The exhibition presented what was felt to be a new, moral and intellectually based that rejected the current Neo-classical architecture.

 

The title, “International Style” was adopted in common usage to represent this new architecture. However the terms Modern Architecture and most recently Modernist Architecture has been used and the latter is now the usual term of reference.

 

There is of course endless discussion of where and when this new architecture developed so for the purpose of this argument, the 1911 Fagus Factory in Germany designed by Walter Gropius can be given as the starting point. Others quickly took up his ideas over the next forty years. Its aims (in the terms of The International Style) were clear. The architecture was in a large way a response to 60 years of German Industrialisation that by the turn of the 19th Century was industrially overtaking Britain. Thus in housing particularly, the new ideas were thought to be representative of an architecture that could, either through components or being factory produced, provide a response to this new industrialisation. It was also a reaction to the eclectic architecture of the 19th century, the “battle of the styles” as it was known and the often rigid formality of the classical language.

 

The aim of the Modernists was to reflect a true and unique 20th century style that used the rational, a new sense of space and proportion to replace the formality and the rules of classism. In addition the “honest” expression of structure in the planning and design was central. The rational could be defined by Functionalism; the representation and expression of the function of the building in plan and in elevation. Spatially the architectural writer S. Gideon defined this as Space/Time. In simple terms this often abandoned symmetry and a formal layout for a flow of space through the building uniting the outside and the inside. Structure was expressed or separated from the façade allowing a free plan. In addition the city was perceived as rotten and unhealthy so the new architecture demanded that the city was rebuilt to be open, looser allowing fresh air into homes and streets.

 

Art Deco

The term Art Deco, a contraction of Exposition Internationale des arts decoratifs et industriels modernes is, perhaps surprisingly, a relatively modern one, first used in the mid1960s. Prior to then it was called The Jazz Age Style, Moderne or Streamline. The exhibition, held in Paris in 1925, was where the French presented a new highly luxurious style, invented by them and based on new ideas in visual art, particularly Cubism. It was then principally a decorative medium using expensive materials applied to Interior Design, jewellery and furnishing. It was to be the Americans however that were to develop the style, particularly in Architecture, that was to mediate between the ideas of the Modernists and the established forms.

 

In contrast to Modernist architecture Art Deco is populist, anti-intellectual, decorative and eclectic. It borrowed its forms from many sources; Modernist forms of course but also Classicism, Expressionist, Egyptian (following the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb), Aztec and even Gothic but in contrast to Modernist thinking planned on a more traditional formal and layout. The architecture of Art Deco is, if, you like, Rhetorical rather than Modernist being didactic and polemical. While the Modernists sought a radical new architecture Art Deco decorated the box using established forms mixed with Jazz Age Moderne. It sought to ingratiate and engage the viewer or user and as such was perfect for a capitalist society such as the USA.

 

So is Chiswick Village an Art Deco building or International Style?   Well it certainly refers to the Ideas of the International style in that the elevation is stripped back and uses balconies that refer to some Modernist architecture but that is as far as it goes. The planning is conventional with reference to 19th century Mansion Blocks. The structure is hidden behind a most domestic covering of brick that includes a decorative banding within the brickwork of the façade all to look like the block are traditionally built. The English traditional bay windows included have nothing to do with Modernist architecture and elements such as the surrounds to the entrance doors and the original fireplaces are pure American Art Deco.

 

There can be confusion when there is a stylistic reference to International Style as in Chiswick Village with the true ideas and philosophies of Modernist Architecture.

Chiswick Village is pure Art Deco and an English Art Deco at that.

 

 

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Reading references:

Encyclopaedia of 20th Century Architecture; Ed. V.M. Lampugnani. Pub Thames and Hudson Revised Ed.1989 

Modern Architecture A critical history; Keneth Frampton. Pub Thames and Hudson, First Published 1980

 

 

As more documentation comes to light so more will be added to this page.

If you have any documents or sources of information please do contact the directors.