1990-1994 The GOTTLIEB HOUSE / WOOD MARSH

‘The game here is one of geometric forms, an elliptical raw concrete drum, a glass cube, a slab of concrete resting on parallel concrete walls, each precisely arranged, the composition a study in sculptural abstraction. This is stark architecture: outwardly unwelcoming and impenetrable , there are no windows to the street’. So said Joe Rollo in his book ‘Concrete Poetry’. And he is 100% correct in his assessment.

The exterior of the Gottlieb House is an exercise in abstract forms and geometric shapes.

What is interesting is the cues we take from a building to determine the attitude of the architects and the owners. I had admired this house for some time and had researched it, in particular, and the work of Wood Marsh in general. It was therefore with some trepidation that I contacted the firm, fearing the metaphorical ‘no windows to the street’, implied intense privacy, and even hostility, to the prying eyes of an author with very public intentions for their home.

I could not have been more wrong on all fronts. Randal Marsh responded with alacrity and made it clear that the owners, the Gottliebs, would be happy to participate. I took the call in my car in the work carpark and I was so delighted I did a very uncharacteristic air punch.

Pesa and Joe Gottlieb were clients from (architectural) heaven and the collaboration and trust between the two parties ensured the house delivered both monumentality and the domestic scale required for intimate family life.

This type of awe-inspiring atrium is rarely seen in a domestic residence. The light from the skylight illuminates the space, changing the mood dependant on the time of day, night or season.

All the furniture was designed by Wood Marsh and they consulted on the art choices. The house, therefore, is completely bespoke. The architects admit that the house was built on the cusp of a recession and as the architects and builders had no job to move on to, the house received and inordinate amount of attention. The level of craftsmanship and the well resolved detailing has ensured the house has required very little maintenance over the years.

The huge entertaining space, with its architect-designed furniture, has a museum-like quality. Its link to the north facing garden enlivens the space with light all day long.

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