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2a Drax Avenue, Wimbledon, Merton

Description: 2a Drax Avenue, Wimbledon

Grade: II
Date Listed: 7 February 2013
Building ID: 1409983

OS Grid Reference: TQ2262070330
OS Grid Coordinates: 522620, 170330
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4187, -0.2380

Locality: Merton
County: Greater London Authority
Postcode: SW20 0EF

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Listing Text


Private house with street boundary wall, 1967-9, by Arup Associates (Philip Dowson partner in charge, assisted by Richard Frewer) for the engineer Jack Zunz. Landscaping by Humphrey Wood.

Reason for Listing

2A Drax Avenue, 1967-9 by Philip Dowson for Jack Zunz, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

*Design interest: well-crafted, meticulously planned private house, the result of a close collaboration between architect and client;

* Materials: use of high quality materials throughout, in the structure, in the built-in fittings and in the finishes;

* Plan: clever use of space, on split levels, breaking down barriers between the interior and the garden;

*Intactness: remarkably little alteration, aside from very carefully detailed replacement windows and glazed doors and necessary refurbishment;

*Rarity: a rare domestic work by the successful, significant and prolific practice of Arup Associates, famous for prestige projects in the spheres of industry, commerce, education and the arts;

*Recognition: it was the winner of a Civic Trust award in 1973, a scheme established in 1959 to celebrate the best works of architecture and design each year.


No. 2a Drax Avenue is a private house of 1967-9 in suburban Wimbledon built for the engineer Jack Zunz by his colleague Philip Dowson of Arup Associates, assisted by Richard Frewer. It was the winner of a Civic Trust award in 1973.

Arup Associates was formally established in 1963, with Sir Philip Dowson as a founding partner. The business was a part of engineering consultants, Ove Arup Partnership, where the client, Jack, now Sir Jack, Zunz, was a leading engineer. Dowson and Zunz were both Senior Partners and later Directors of the latter. Frewer went on to become a principal of Arup Associates and then to hold the Chair of Architecture at Bath University followed by the Chair at the University of Hong Kong.

Zunz is perhaps best known as one of the principal partners working on the Sydney Opera House which was under construction at the time the 2A Drax Avenue was being built. The house is a rare domestic work by this successful, significant and prolific practice, famous for prestige projects in the spheres of industry, commerce, education and the arts. In its L-shaped plan it has strong similarities with Colin St John Wilson's Cornford House (1965-7, Grade II) and the informal school of domestic brick architecture he established in Cambridge. In its honesty of expression it reflects, too, an earlier commission from an Arup's engineer, the Sugden House of 1955-7 by Alison and Peter Smithson (also listed Grade II). The long-established working relationship between architect and client is particularly evident in the dedicated plan and exemplary fittings.


MATERIALS: concrete beams and floors, and high quality Forticrete blockwork, consisting of a series of horizontal and vertical planes, much influenced by Colin St John Wilson's Cambridge houses, and especially Cornford House. Windows are double-glazed units in pine or aluminium frames, or set directly into the wall. Applied finishes are avoided inside and out. The aesthetic and scale of the house are defined by the ratio of the blockwork.

PLAN: the detached house fills the width of the sloping site, its entrance on the west side. It is planned with separate adults' and originally, children's areas, with a common living zone. The plan is L-shaped, with three levels. There is a spacious split-level living/dining room, opening on to the garden on both the east and west sides, with an alternative entrance giving access to the street from the latter. The dining area leads to the kitchen and to the children's wing, comprising a play/study area and two, formerly three, bedrooms, that project over the lower-ground floor carport and recessed street level entrance. The study and master bedroom, giving onto an extensive roof terrace, are on the first floor.

EXTERIOR: the street (west) frontage immediately establishes a sense of privacy, with the recessed entrance and the living room separated from the street by a raised front garden. The glazed walls of the living room and children's play area/sitting room mean that the front garden functions as a court. The upper storey is stepped back. The garden (east) front is more open, with a substantially glazed ground floor; the pre-cast concrete post and beam structure is expressed externally. On the left hand side, the more solid, higher block containing the kitchen and study projects into the garden. All the moving windows and doors were originally single glazed, there being some doubt at the time it was built at the integrity of seals used for double glazing in moving doors and windows. All doors and windows have been replaced in double glazing other than the large sliding door in the living room.

INTERIOR: boundaries between the interior and exterior are blurred through the arrangement of exterior walls and use of glazing. The living areas have a formal dignity echoing the external architecture: the richly finished entrance stair provides a sense of arrival, and the living/dining room has a large scale, monumental quality. The interiors have wooden floors and fitted furniture that softens and warms the whole.

Fair-faced Forticrete block walls and plaster or white painted concrete plank ceilings contrast with Columbian pine fixtures and fittings, beech stairs and floors in the living areas, cork floors in the kitchen and carpeted floors in the bedrooms and study. The stairs, open-sided at the bottom, rise between fair-faced Forticrete block walls to the living room at upper level. The split-level living/dining room is the principal space, lit by full-height glazing. The upper storey feels removed from the main body of the house and is reached by a narrow stair that gives onto a top-lit study area. A glazed corridor adjacent to the terrace leads to the main bedroom and bathroom. Columbian pine flush-panel doors, panelling and original fitted furniture remain throughout, notably in the units dividing kitchen, dining and living areas, in the master bedroom and in cupboards and doors lining the entrance hall. Within the secondary wing flush-panel doors are painted white and walls are lined in natural hessian. The upper floor bathroom is white tiled with white fittings, as built; the lower floor bathroom has been refitted as a wet room.

The concrete blockwork street boundary wall is integral to the house.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.