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Landmark Isokon flats to be restored to Modernist glory

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The future of the Isokon flats, one of north London's Modernist landmarks, has been assured. The building was sold last week to a preservation partnership between Isokon Trust and Notting Hill Housing Group (NHHG), which has as its consultant architect Avanti Architects.

Camden council accepted the group's confidential offer, which includes a plan by the group to spend a further £2 million on restoring the block to its former glory.

Novelist Agatha Christie and sculptor Henry Moore are among a long list of past Isokon residents. Under NHHG's plans for the residential block in Lawn Road, Hampstead, 25 of the 36 flats will provide an affordable entry point to the London residential market for essential public service employees such as teachers, nurses and police officers. The remaining 11 flats will be sold on the open market.

Isokon trustee and local architect Chris Flannery said the Modernist designs of Wells Coates, the block's original architect, will be exhibited in a 'show flat' which will be returned to its original 1934 design and decorated with reproduction Modernist furniture that would have appeared in the flats at the time.

Flannery said the flats have stood empty for two years after receiving Grade I-listed status in 1999. Under Camden's ownership they have served as council housing and have been the focus of continued vandalism. In October, the council announced the flats would be sold, estimating that they would fetch between £500,000 and £1 million and cost between £1million and £2 million to repair. The announcement of the sale spawned a competitive bidding process from the likes of the Architectural Association, at which Coates was a tutor, and the Groucho Club (AJ 18.1.01).

Flannery said that while some of the Isokon flats (named after building company Isometric Unit Construction) were in bad repair, others still boasted original iceboxes and built-in furniture.

Restoration of the Marcel Breuer-designed Isobar restaurant on the site, he said, was a longterm goal that required sensitive planning considerations.

Camden Architects' Forum chair Chris Roche said it was fitting that a building which pioneered modern social housing should be redeveloped in line with the present government's starter-home policy for key workers.

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