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Modern architecture in Canterbury and the Isle of Thanet

November 6, 2013

A while back I went on a Twentieth Century Society tour of modern architecture in Canterbury and the Isle of Thanet in Kent. Here are the edited highlights. Tucked away in a housing estate in Canterbury is a modernist gem by Walter Greaves (assistant to architect Peter Moro on the Royal Festival Hall).  The house was designed in 1966 for the academic Morris Shapira, who taught at the nearby university. The simple but elegant façade in brown Wealden brick betrays little of the generous open plan layout that lies behind, with a large split-level living area that once hosted Shapira’s seminars. Many original built-in features remain intact, including wooden shelving units and a Sholtes hob in the kitchen.

Private House, Canterbury, Walter Greaves, 1966

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Kitchen, Private House, Canterbury, Walter Greaves, 1966

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Original Sholtes hob, Private House, Canterbury, Walter Greaves, 1966

We headed up to the University of Kent at Canterbury, one of the universities built in the post-war expansion of higher education. Designed by a team led by William Holford, the university has a collegiate structure. Eliot College was designed mainly by Anthony Wade, who studied under Louis Kahn, which shows in the college’s monumental character. The atmosphere of the cavernous dining hall was enhanced by two students practicing Latin American dance, with the accompanying melancholic music wafting through a seemingly deserted building.

Eliot College, University of Kent, 1965

Eliot College

Eliot College, University of Kent, 1965

On the road to Broadstairs a quick stop was made at Oliver Hill’s Art Deco Prospect Inn, Minster, now converted into the foyer of a hotel.

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Former Prospect Inn, Minster, Oliver Hill, 1938

We looked at Millennium Villa, Broadstairs by Timothy Brittain-Catlin, which has a double-height living room influenced by his study of parsonages and an interesting screen by Ravit Latzer, a graduate of the Bezalel arts and crafts school, Jerusalem.

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Millennium Villa, Broadstairs, Timothy Brittain-Catlin,

The Turner Contemporary Gallery, Margate, was our final destination. Designed by David Chipperfield and opened in 2011, the gallery replaced an ambitious but never realised scheme by a firm of Norwegian architects.

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Turner Contemporary, Margate, David Chipperfield, 2011

Turner was attracted to Margate by its unique light and Chipperfield makes use of this in different ways – in the lighting of the gallery spaces, in framing the stunning views of sky and sea from inside the gallery and in the way the light reflects off the building itself.

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View out from the Turner Contemporary, Margate, David Chipperfield, 2011

As the coach headed back towards Canterbury the gallery lit up a most brilliant orange in the setting sun – a perfect end to the day. In fact, I liked the mixture of architecture, light and sea so much at the Turner Contemporary that I returned the following day for a second look – surely the sign of a good tour?

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