Private house of 1965 by architects Barry Gasson and John Meunier, with subsequent alterations by the architect Mr Viren Sahai OBE.
Reason for Listing
39 New Road, built in 1965 to designs by Barry Gasson and John Meunier, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
*Architectural interest: it is a striking, unusual and intellectual house; an experimental work by two young architects who designed a number of other houses in the Cambridge area, of which this is the most ambitious, best known and most successful;
*Innovation: it has a highly original, spiralling plan in which a square well rises through the centre of the house, with a wooden ramp winding around it and leading to the rooms on the higher levels;
*Plan: the significance of the house lies in large part in the planning concept, which takes the separation of family and adult space to its furthest degree with exceptional clarity and logic.
39 New Road was built in 1965 for the Wendon family by the architects Barry Gasson and John Meunier. It was completed just before they won the commission for the Burrell Gallery in Glasgow which is considered to be one of the leading buildings of its day. It was pioneering as one of the first uses of an art gallery to regenerate part of a city. Soon afterwards, Meunier emigrated to the United States and pursued a successful academic career. Gasson and Meunier designed a number of other houses in the Cambridge area. Meunier House in Caldecote, Cambridgeshire, which Meunier built independently for himself in 1964, is listed at Grade II.
39 New Road has undergone few alterations. Mr Sahai altered the entrance, which was originally reached via an external staircase, by adding a single-storey entrance block added in 1997; and added a geodesic glass dome studio behind the house, linked to the north façade by a glazed passageway connecting with the vertical window opening. The concrete blockwork walls, originally fair-faced on the interior and exterior, have, for the most part, been painted.
MATERIALS: these are deliberately simple. Loadbearing walls are limestone aggregate concrete blockwork originally fair-faced, now for the most part painted. Windows are wooden-framed. The roof is asphalt with a terrace of concrete paving, the rest of the roof is covered with felted, single-ply sheeting.
PLAN: the detached house has a highly original, spiralling plan. The footprint is square and a square well rises through the centre of the house, defined by four free-standing blockwork piers. A wooden ramp winds around the well, linking the family room at the base of the well with the open plan split-level living/ dining/ kitchen space at the uppermost level, into which the ramp is partially incorporated and leading ultimately to the roof terrace. Bedrooms, bathrooms and studies are more private, opening on to the ramp at each corner. The result is that, with the exception of the ground floor, the house cannot be divided into storeys: floor levels are staggered with rooms rising in a spiral in relation to the ramp. The entrance to the house is at the middle level of the west side, originally reached via an external staircase and also providing access to the roof terrace. The lower part of the staircase has now been removed, the entrance point reached via a single-storey entrance block added in 1997. The part of the house from the entrance upwards was originally intended to be the parents’ domain, the area below for children, with family activities taking place in the space at the base of the well.
EXTERIOR: The largely blank walls are punctuated by two very narrow vertical windows, of the same width as the ramp, running the full height of the house, recessed and interrupting the line of the roof, which expresses the slope of the internal ramp. The south (street) façade is also pierced at ground-floor level to provide a carport and access from the family room to the garden via sliding glass doors. The carport has been subsequently enclosed, the folding doors set back to preserve the original line. A geodesic glass dome studio has been built behind the house, linked to the north façade by a glazed passageway connecting with the vertical window opening.
INTERIOR: the originally fair-faced blockwork is now painted. Timber boarded ceilings, spiral ramps and other joinery are treated with clear varnish. Ceilings conceal innovative electric heating panels, although central heating has subsequently been added. Concrete floors are largely carpeted. Original fitted furniture remains; notably, timber fitted cupboards dividing dining from living spaces, and fitted kitchen cupboards.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.