Born: July 7, 1910, Victoria, Canada
Died: February 13, 1979, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Education: Westminster School of Art
Royal Horticultural Society
Lived: St. Ann’s Court, St Ann's Hill Road, Surrey KT16 9NW, UK (51.39332, -0.52049)
Buried: Oak Grove Cemetery, Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA, Plot: Oak Grove, Plot 562
Find A Grave Memorial# 136084821
Books: Gardens in the modern landscape, Man-made America, more
Awards: Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities, US & Canada, more
St Ann's Court at Chertsey in Surrey is a reinforced concrete private house that was finished in 1936 by the Australian born architect, Raymond McGrath, for a stockbroker friend, AL Schlesinger. The house stands in 25 acres of parkland on the south slope of St Ann's Hill. Conservation work on the structure was completed in 1999 and included an authentic refurbishment of the interior at a total cost of around pounds 1 million.
Address: St Ann's Hill Road, Surrey KT16 9NW, UK (51.39332, -0.52049)
Type: Private Property
English Heritage Building ID: 361727 (Grade II, 1986)
Built in 1936-7, Design by Raymond McGrath in consultation with Christopher Tunnard.
Reinforced concrete (L Mouchel and Partners), with internal cork insulation and vertical board-marked external finish originally painted pinkish grey, and smooth soffits (originally jade green) and beams. Flat roof; three storeys including roof terraces. Circular plan inspired by the surrounding landscape, likened by McGrath to “a big cheese, with a slice cut for the sunlight to enter the whole house.” Supporting columns set in circumference of outer walls, with solid supporting inner circle defining central circular living room and master bedroom, with semi-circle of copper-clad freestanding columns within. These constructional circles most clearly revealed on the “peeled away” south facade. Projecting winter garden and screen to west part are an integral part of McGrath's design. Metal casement windows with single transom, those to living room, master bedroom and winter garden of full height. Segmental balcony to first-floor (master bedroom) and bow-shaped terrace to second floor, served by external spiral stair with metal gate. The post and beam construction of the house is exposed and articulates the symmetrical form of the upper parts of the house. A counterpoise to the spiral stair is the rounded end of the study on the ground-floor of the other (east) side of the house. Timber door set under porch in angle created by protective wall of adjoining former tradesmen's entrance. Entrance leads into wedge-shaped terrazzo-floored hall, with terrazzo-clad stairs on outer face, having delicate metal balustrade and timber handrail. On inner face survives a mirror mosaic or “Vitroflex” panel etched with Tunnard’s layout for the garden. Principal rooms are the living room, flanked to east and west by study and dining room respectively. They form a bow-shaped plan within the circle, with service accommodation tucked discretely to the north behind projecting walls. Living room with original walnut panelling around marble-finished fireplace, timber floors and columns sheathed with polished copper. Central coved ceiling enforces the importance of the wholly circular inner area of the room. Directly above the master bedroom is also circular, with original fitted cupboards, and bed alcoves to either side, one with dressing room. Here the bow-shaped plan becomes more completely symmetrical, and this is continued on the second floor, which in addition to the roof terrace originally had the billiard room and a studio for Tunnard. McGrath described St Ann's Hill as “my most ambitious piece of domestic design in England” (Architectural Review, July, 1977). The circular plan was inspired by the surviving XVIII century landscape by Charles Hamilton, which Tunnard remodelled. Tunnard was just beginning then to practice as a full-time landscape architect, and his ideas of the integration house and landscape would only begin to have a real impact with rediscovery of the Picturesque in the '40s. As Brian Hanson says, St Ann's Hill demonstrates a genuine modern respect for genius loci as early as 1937, “without compromising the modernity of the house or resorting to gimmicks”. The building is significant too, for its structural honesty, and richness of surviving materials. The principal rooms, with their mirror design, walnut panelling and exploitation of the unusual plan form, are among the most interesting and complete surviving 1930s private house interiors to survive in England.
Who: Gerald Schlesinger and Christopher Tunnard (July 7, 1910- February 13, 1979)
St Ann’s Court was commissioned as a main residence by Gerald Schlesinger and Christopher Tunnard. Schlesinger was a successful lawyer whilst Tunnard became one of the most important Modern landscape architects in Britain. The two men lived at St Ann's for most of the year (though they had a large London home) and the unusual first floor master bedroom enabled their double bed to be separated easily into two and rolled into the wings of the bow-tie shaped room. In this position the bedroom became two single bedrooms separated by movable screens and a circular dressing room. With this arrangement they could maintain the fiction when house guests were expected that they slept in separate rooms - which was essential when sex between men was illegal. From 1932-1935 Christopher Tunnard worked as a garden designer for Percy Cane, an exponent of the Arts and Crafts movement. One of Percy Cane’s jobs was for A.L. Schlesinger at 21 Addison Road, Kensington. This may have been how Tunnard came to be acquainted with Gerald L. Schlesinger, a prosperous lawyer who purchased the St. Ann’s estate in Chertsey when in 1935 he and his wife separated. The house was in poor condition, and it was decided to pull it down and build afresh. Tunnard became very involved in Schlesinger’s project, and moved there from Salcott, his house in Cobham, in September 1935. He gave “Aldbury,” in Chertsey, as his temporary address to the RHS, but from January 1936 his address changed to “The Studios, St. Ann’s Hill House.” Raymond McGrath was the architect, and he used Gordon Cullen (1914-1994) as draughtsman for the drawings. Tunnard effectively became the client, and took a very close interest in the designs. McGrath designed in a studio for Tunnard on the top floor, opening out onto the roof garden over the first floor. The structure was in reinforced concrete — very innovative for the time — with L.G. Mouchel and Partners acting as engineers. The house was under construction when the snow came in early 1936. Works continued throughout that year. Designs for the swimming pool had been drawn up in October 1935 and the working plan for the contractor a year later. The sculptor Willi Soukop, originally from Vienna but then residing at Dartington Hall, was commissioned to provide a fountain for it. Early in 1937 the finished work on the house was ready for photography and publicity.
Queer Places, Vol. 2 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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Christopher Tunnard (1910-1979), Harvard professor and gardner designer, was drafted into the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943 and after the war took a job teaching city planning at Yale. Enjoying the work, he did little further garden design, and reached the post of professor and chairman of the department of city planning. His publications in this area include articles such as America's super-cities and a number of books on city design in the U.S. Despite a previous long-term same-sex relationship with Gerald Schlesinger with whom he lived in England, Tunnard married Lydia Evans of Boston, Massachusetts in 1945. They had a son, Christopher. Tunnard died in New Haven in 1979. Tunnard and his wife are buried at Oak Grove Cemetery (Summer St, Plymouth, MA 02360), Plot: Oak Grove, Plot 562. In the nearby Vine Hills Cemetery (102 Samoset St, Plymouth, MA 02360) is buried Joseph Everett Chandler (1863–1946), Colonial Revival architect and pioneering designer of queer space.
Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/6228297
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