Innovative contemporary home in Harpenden to feature in arty property book

homes Q&A July 2011

homes Q&A July 2011 - Credit: Archant

The Modern House, who pride themselves on the representation of high-end/high-concept property, will publish a catalogue of the most exciting homes they have worked with over the last decade.

Online estate agent The Modern House is publishing a coffee-table book to celebrate 10 years in business. The property portal - known for its contemporary and editorial look - will be showcasing some of the most fascinating properties they have sold over the decade - including one in Harpenden.

The property, in West Common Way, is noted for its modern design, despite being a Grade II listed building.

Although found in the typically English village of Harpenden, the design of the property follows the pattern of the houses at Fredensborg, Denmark thanks to its designer Jorn Utzon. Utzon was one of the architects working on the Sydney Opera House at the time (the project took place between 1961-3). The owner of the property was Povl Ahm who was himself a well-known consultant for structural engineers. It was later extended between 1972-4 by Ulrick Plesner, another Danish architect. This extra wing is a self-contained home in itself.

When Ahm originally bought the house he submitted a vision to Utzon, who in turn supplied a concept design which was adhered to in the finished house. The home is subject to a refined structural system and is an example of the art of modernising a listed property. Most notable was the introduction of an intermediate truss for the concrete roof beams on the line of the fireplace which was designed to prevent the beams having to be too deep.

The theme of the home is multi-levelled, open spaced, light and airy, and takes the feature of concrete beam structuring throughout. There are teak mullions to the windows and the garden side elevation is entirely glazed with unique and intricate copper coving. Utzon put his stamp on the house with Swedish Hogamass white quarry tiles both inside and out, and a brick chimney breast.

The property has been described by English Heritage as “beautifully detailed” and “in the idiom of an important architect who built relatively little.” It would make sense, therefore, that a residence of this kind would be represented by The Modern House, which Ed Cumming of the Observer has described as the estate agency version of “a high-concept lifestyle magazine...clean fonts on white space, art-standard photography and a refreshing lack of jargon. If you like that sort of thing, it’ll make you drool.”