Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on July 26, 2013 in High Cross House, Place |

High Cross first shock

High Cross first shock

Phone all installed and working.  We’ll see what ensues.

Am now reading anything and everything I can get my hands on that might be of use in absorbing more about the cultural shock the house represented.  Read a very interesting article originally written for Country Life in 1932 which has been reproduced in numerous publications. It is a serious and thoughtful architectural critique that deals quite explicitly on one of the primary issues that represented such a shock. It is clear from extant writing that Curry as the client and Lescaze as the architect cared ‘not a whit’ for convention and about paying homage either to vernacular or country house styles. At this time, building had changed little for centuries in many ways, and most new houses at least in the countryside were built in much the same way as a house might have been built a hundred years earlier. There were conventions to be paid attention to in terms of shape, so the sharp clean angles of the Bauhaus were the first shock – that’s no surprise to anyone. What is more interesting is the controversy around the exterior colour of the building

Curry and the architect seemed to have discussed this at length. Of course there was always an assumption that the primary colour would be white – that in itself represented a major departure from the vernacular stone buildings in this part of the country. Although we tend to think of the white-washed cottage as the chocolate-box convention, most were either bare granite (the local building material) or were rendered but unpainted. Smarter houses were also granit-faced, but with finished granite that gave a much more formal look.

The white house was almost unknown; a house mostly white with some walls also a bright sky-blue was completely shocking. There seem to be some assumptions that the colour was meant to mimic the sky and that the foreign architect simply didn’t understand the English climate enough to know that the sky isn’t usually this colour (it is today). However, the letters between Lescaze in New York and Curry in Devon make it clear that the colour was meant as much to offset the greys of the Devon skies as to complement the occasional day when blue sky predominates.


There was also much discussion in the correspondence about how the colour should be applied. The architect was insistent that the colour be applied to the final finish coat of concrete (using essentially a long-established painting technique of mixing colour into wet plaster) rather than being a coat of paint applied to the finished exterior.  “This” Lescaze “always leads to mess and imperfection”. Clearly his instruction was not heeded, and the building has spent much of its life with lots of imperfections in the exterior paint, and much of its life without the blue colour the architect was so clear about.

It’s also interesting to note that the impetus for creating these houses in this place was not the impetus of the Elmhirsts (who were paying for it all) but of Curry himself. Lescaze, working from afar in New York, seemed to correspond entirely with Curry who was seen as the client.