In late June, the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) unveiled the restored Wimbledon House in London, originally designed by architect Richard Rogers, Hon. FAIA, in the 1960s. The American school will use the house as an academic residency program and events venue.
The 2,766-square-foot house, located at 22 Parkside in the Wimbledon district, was commissioned by Rogers' parents and built in 1968 and 1969. A style before its time, it was designed as a "kit of parts" of sorts, and became a prototype for industrialized modernist housing. The structure's simplicity was inspired by Rogers' conceptual Zip-Up House, a factory-built, prefabricated house previously designed by the architect, who today is a senior partner at London-based Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.
Two structures face an internal courtyard, the smaller of which once housed a bedroom and pottery studio. The design incorporates a permanent steel structure, which is exposed in the interior, with impermanent elements like panels and partitions. Neoprene and plastic-coated aluminum are employed on both the inside and outside the house. Floor-to-ceiling windows allowing for views of the courtyard, along with the streamlined materials, creates a fluid yet private space and connect the interior and exterior spaces of the house.
In 2015, Rogers and his wife, Ruth Rogers, donated the Grade II*-listed residence to GSD. The restoration of 22 Parkside was completed by architect Philip Gumuchdijan, founder of London-based Gumuchdjian Architects, and landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, also of London. Harvard’s aim for the restoration was to create space to house two fellows and host events and seminars, and the architects proposed integrating modern materials into the design. The project, while preserving the house’s character, resulted in the replacement of the roof and asbestos-infested exterior walls, the removal of recent additions and internal partitions, refurbishment of all furniture, and the redesign of gardens across the property.
“Parkside is not just an iconic, flexible machine for living, nor simply a historic experimental building that foretold the architect’s future work; it was also a home with a unique memory, patina, and aura,” Longstaffe-Gowan said in a Harvard GSD press release. “Conserving these qualities within a wholly refurbished 21st century building tailored to Harvard’s new use was our aim and hopefully the achievement of the team’s work.”
The Wimbledon House will host Harvard's Richard Rogers Fellowship along with GSD lectures and events. The open international competition was launched in October 2016, and the first six fellows, divided into three annual terms, have already begun their research. The program, according to the press release, is built on Rogers’ “commitment to cross-disciplinary investigation and social engagement," and aims to examine alternative and sustainable urban design through research. Fellows receive a $10,000 stipend, travel to and from London, and lodging in the house for three months. Research projects by this year's fellows, with a focus on the built environment, include topics such as how immigrants and refugees influence urban development, the finances and policies behind affordable housing and how they differ between cities, how issues like climate change and inequality shape urban food economies, and other key questions of urbanism and sustainability in the modern city.