This is the second house John Winter designed and built for his family. The first was on a backland site near Regents Park which nobody thought could be built on. This house is in the old orchard of the Highgate Cemetery gatekeeper's house. It sits behind a screen of foliage on an eminence over the entrance to the old cemetery. It's a three-storey frame structure with big fixed glass windows set flush with the surface of the CorTen steel structure. The living room is on the top floor, bedrooms and bathroom on the middle floor and kitchen/ dining room at ground level. The next house up the hill from Winter's is also by him and also in steel.
John Winter's house is a rigorous building and unusual in using steel so resolutely in a home. There are obvious links to the Eames house in its wonderful open internal views - which steel allows you to have without having to use a massive structure. And you can have very slender supports. Although there's this openness, the big glass windows are actually all fixed. When they buy big bits of furniture, the Winters have to hire a crane and those vacuum clamps and take out an entire storey-height sheet of glass, crane in the sofa or piano and then put the glass back.
The ventilation is via storey-height vertical CorTen shutters. Corb used something like this at Maison Jaoul so there's a good architectural precedent. They're eminently sensible and, despite appearances, are safe for kids. They are part of the functionalist rigour of the building: glass is used to let light in and to allow people to see out. And for nothing else. The ventilators ventilate. The structure keeps everything together. No ambiguity. And that lovely purplish-brown CorTen which sits so well among the foliage of the surrounding trees. Perversely for such a natural-looking material, plants don't much like climbing over CorTen surfaces.
The plan is original: the kitchen and the daytime living room looking out on to the lovely garden where they have a geodesic dome. Valerie Winter is a landscape designer and they are both keen gardeners. The bedrooms are snuggled in the middle and the formal living room with its Barcelona chairs is on the top floor. It's exactly the right spot because there are fantastic views right across London to the south and east.
He's a terrific architect. I'd have been very happy to have done this house.