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Harvard unveils renovation of Rogers’ pioneering Wimbledon house

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Ivy League university’s Graduate School of Design has completed its makeover of Rogers’ Grade II*-listed suburban home, newly refurbished by architect Philip Gumuchdjian

The listed 1960s house that Richard Rogers built for his parents in Wimbledon has been unveiled by its new owner, Harvard University, following a comprehensive restoration by Rogers’ former colleague Philip Gumuchdjian and landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan.

The prefabricated single-storey property, known as the Rogers’ house or, alternatively, 22 Parkside, now serves as the residence and research base for international students under the Richard Rogers Fellowship as well as a venue for Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

It was gifted to Havard in 2015 by Rogers, who then established the fellowship in October 2016 to support research in aid of ’alternative and sustainable urban futures’.

Designed by Rogers and his then wife Su in 1967, the Grade II*-listed property at 22 Parkside lies just off Wimbledon Common and features brightly coloured sliding walls, nautical and porthole-like windows and the blurring of indoor and outdoor space, including a central courtyard.

It was built for his parents Dada and William Nino Rogers and later adapted for Rogers’ son Ab and his family to live in before being put up for sale in 2013 for £3.2 million.

Rogers – who is currently in Italy recovering from illness – addressed the launch event on Tuesday via Skype and explained his original design intentions for the building.

He said: ‘This came as a reaction to the sort of traditional brick-built house … it’s really a container. My parents wanted to start retirement in Wimbledon, they loved walking on the common and they wanted open space; a place that could be adapted to changing needs and people.’

Harvard Graduate School of Design dean Mohsen Mostafavi described the building as a ‘zip-up house’ which was intended for replication.

You can’t find a regular contractor for this house – it’s like working on a watch, you need a watchmaker

He said: ‘It raises questions about what we could do with housing. From the client’s perspective, restoring the house has been a labour of love. You can’t find a regular contractor for this house – it’s like working on a watch; you need a watchmaker.’

Gumuchdjian, founding director of Gumuchdjian Architects, which won an invited competition for the renovation scheme, described it as a ‘hand-built prototype building’ and said he had replaced three-quarters of its external fabric.

He said: ‘We’ve essentially rebuilt it with the consent of the conservation officers and The Twentieth Century Society, but we’ve kept the patina of the building and the sense of it is still there.’

‘It is deserving of its Grade II*-listed status; it’s a masterpiece.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • There's scope for a book on how contractors were found for radically novel buildings - how about starting post war, with Corbusier's chapel at Ronchamp? - the people in the visitor centre there were surprised at the question, and could provide no information at all.

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