|Machines for living in:
Le Corbusier, Stuttgart 1927 and Lescaze 1932 (right)
The National Trust will work with Dartington, owners of High Cross House, and others to build a community-led sustainable model of management and programming which will make High Cross House a local hub for contemporary arts and a new face for the National Trust.
Following an initial period of showing the house as a “blank canvas”, there will be a rotating programme of exhibitions and installations by nationally recognised ‘names’ and emerging local artists. There will be simple organic catering on-site and an Art, Craft and Design led retail offer.
Vaughan Lindsay, Dartington CEO, said: “We’re very excited by this new partnership with the National Trust. We hope the partnership will bring many new visitors to the estate to enjoy High Cross House, explore Dartington’s glorious grounds and gardens and find out more about our charitable programmes in the arts, social justice and sustainability”.
Philadelphia Savings Fund
Society Building (1929-32)
The 1989 description of High Cross House in Buildings of England Devon probably owes more to Bridget Cherry than Nikolaus Pevsner:
A stark geometric composition, the smooth rendered exterior concealing a structure of brick cavity walls with steel beams for cantilevers and wide spans (instead of the reinforced concrete originally specified, which was beyond the local builders). Long two-storey range to the road (originally painted grey-blue in contrast to the impractical white of the rest); entrance between garage and servants' wing and kitchen. Metal casement windows, mostly in horizontal bands. The main rooms project irregularly into the garden. Here the composition is more interesting: low SW study with rounded end and generous terrace on its flat roof serving the guest rooms over the garage; taller SE living room and adjoining dining room on a higher level.
… The interior reflects the same aesthetic of abstract geometry: no mouldings - the smooth pressed steel doorcases were imported from America - the occasional curve, the play with different levels and with asymmetry, seen to good effect in the fireplaces with dark tiled surrounds, large marble lintels, and off-centre flues. The walls were originally painted in different tones (yellow and white in the hall, white and grey in the living room), not dead white throughout. ...which contrasts with Pevsner’s much briefer comment in the earlier version, South Devon, published when High Cross House was only 20 years old:
… in 1933 [sic] the modern style arrived [at Dartington, buildings]… concrete plastered white, and as appropriate to Devon as they would be to California or the River Hudson, a symbol of enlightened internationalism, as it also directed the original staffing of the various departments of the Trust.As well as the Headmaster’s House, Lescaze, together with Robert Hening, the Dartington Hall estate architect, designed a gymnasium, boarding houses, cottages and houses and the Estate Offices.
Postmodernism) is a probably minority interest among the NT members who are Devonian residents or holidaymakers. The local NT’s Twitter output, NT English Riviera @NTRiviera, conveys the flavour. Perhaps Julian Fellowes could introduce the International Style and some Dartington location shooting into a future series of ITV's Downton Abbey, the current one now having reached the 1920s. There is a good precedent. In Evelyn Waugh's first novel, Decline and Fall, published in 1928, the socialite Margot Beste-Chetwynde wants to demolish her family house and commissions a young Modernist, Professor Silenus, to replace it with "Something clean and square." Modernism is no longer modern, after all.
|High Cross House, Dartington, Devon, SW England, Sept 2012|
UPDATE AUGUST 2015
Things have moved on since the post above was written three years ago. The National Trust is no longer involved with High Cross House which remains the property of Dartington Hall Trust. Downton Abbey finished its run without a flirtation with Modernism. However there has recently been an opportunity to rent High Cross House through The Modern House estate agents. They were looking for offers of £2500 per month and "... potential tenants will need to make some alterations before moving in (a kitchen, for instance, will need to be installed)". The informative brochure includes some archive images from Country Life: