Peter Salter – Walmer Yard

Peter Salter – Walmer Yard
Peter Salter, et. al.
Circa Press, July 2019

Hardcover | 11-3/4 x 10-1/4 inches | 156 pages | 140 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1911422075 | $60.00

Publisher's Description:
Peter Salter is an architect and teacher whose work has influenced several generations of students. The culmination of ten years of planning, Walmer Yard, in Notting Hill, is his first residential project in the UK and one of only a small number of buildings he has completed worldwide. Although modest in scale, the project is extraordinary in many ways. On an irregularly shaped site, Salter’s design brings four houses into a complex relationship with each other that is half formal, half familiar, interdependent, yet solitary. Similarly, the relationships between the core team members are more nuanced than in most architectural projects, since they all met at the Architectural Association in Peter’s unit, where Crispin Kelly (the client) and Fenella Collingridge (Peter’s current collaborator) were student contemporaries. This book documents the evolution of the project through the medium of Peter Salter’s pen-and-ink drawings and Hélène Binet’s remarkable photographs.
dDAB Commentary:
Walmer Yard comprises four houses on an irregular, L-shaped lot in London's Notting Hill neighborhood. It is most notable as one of the few built works designed by Peter Salter. I've been fortunate enough to visit a couple of his buildings, both in Japan: the Inami Woodcarving Museum from 1993 and the Mountain Pavilion in Bambajima, also completed around the same time. Seeing those standalone buildings in their respectively village and natural contexts, the prospect of a Salter building in an urban context seemed far-fetched at best. His buildings are just too idiosyncratic to appease to developers, which tend to call the shot in cities such as London, and they have formal expressions that are quite alien, if highly appealing to this architect/writer. But Walmer Yard is obvious proof that Salter pulled if off.

This monograph tells the decade-long (I first learned about it in 2006) story of Walmer Yard, designed by Salter with architect Fenella Collingridge for developer Crispin Kelly and documented by photographer Hélène Binet. With essays by the main players as well as a few critics, Salter's distinctive drawings (nude bodies and all), and dozens of large color and b/w photos by Binet, the book is a visual and intellectual treat that capably explains a project that is difficult to grasp when looking at just a few drawings or photos. Therefore the as-built plans on pages 12 and 13, following Kelly's words on the project, are very helpful in navigating the project's documentation in the pages that follow. Arranged around a central courtyard, the four houses are marked by rectangular rooms colliding with angles and curves, irregular-shaped living spaces, carefully cut vertical voids, and exterior spaces that are formed rather than leftover.

Like any work of architecture, Peter Salter – Walmer Yard could hardly substitute for seeing Walmer Yard in person (someday I hope to stay there), but it does a great job in explaining the design and capturing its distinct atmospheres. Taking in the words and images in order means continually adding layers of understanding, from the early days of the project and the even-earlier days of the key players (both Kelly and Collingridge were Salter's students at the AA) to the numerous custom details in the courtyard (those shutters!) and throughout the interiors. With its shared courtyard, private "yurt" living spaces, and carefully located windows and skylights, the project's introverted nature comes to the fore. I don't see this as a bad thing. Partly a product of circumstance, and perhaps an expression of Salter and the others involved, the project's introversion leads to an intimacy and a clear indication that this is a very special place. 

Author Bio:
Peter Salter began his career in the studio of Alison and Peter Smithson. In the early 1980s, he formed a partnership with Christopher Macdonald, producing a series of projects known for their highly developed and evocative drawings. Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s he taught at the Architectural Association as a unit master. In 1995, he became professor and head of school at the University of East London, and is now Professor of Architectural Design at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University.
Purchase Links:
(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)

Buy from Amazon Buy from Book Depository Buy via IndieBound Buy from AbeBooks