Thursday 25 September 2014

3 Church Walk UK Premiere

3 Church Walk, a film by Emily Richardson 
with words by Jonathan P Watts and sound by Simon Limbrick 

We are very excited to announce that 3 Church Walk will receive its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on Saturday 18th October as part of the Experimenta ‘Haunted Space’ programme selected by William Fowler. 

3 Church Walk is a film about the modernist architect H.T. ‘Jim’ Cadbury Brown’s Suffolk house that he and his wife Betty Dale designed and built in 1962 on a site originally ear marked by the composer Benjamin Britten for the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts’ first opera stage.

Today, Cadbury-Brown is best known for his contribution to the design of the iconic Brutalist development of the Royal College of Art (which, in 1964, the critic Iain Nairn claimed would ‘inspire affection in fifty years time’), and earlier work on pavilions for the Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951. However, 3 Church Walk remains as the most developed articulation of Jim’s and Betty’s ideals as disciples of modernism, so-called ‘flat roof architects’ who spent their formative professional years in Ernö Goldfinger’s office. Indeed, they regarded 3 Church Walk as their equivalent to Goldfinger’s family home, Willow Road, in Hampstead.

The film is a journey through the house in its abandoned state as Jim left it when he died in 2009. In slow disintegration, the house is populated by character pieces he insisted must remain in place, producing a powerful evocation of the architects’ lives. Simon Limbrick’s soundtrack is composed from recordings of the objects, surfaces and materials of the house played as if an instrument, much in the same way Britten played car springs or tea-cups for compositions such as The Burning Fiery Furnace and Noye’s Fludde.

HD Video/ DCP
23 minutes
Dir/Prod: Emily Richardson
Camera/Editor: Emily Richardson
Writer: Jonathan P Watts
Sound composer: Simon Limbrick
Thanks to the Cadbury-Brown Estate
Made with the generous support of Arts Council England and the Arts & Humanities Research Council
To book tickets for the BFI London Film Festival click here
To find out more about the film click here.

Click on the links for more from Emily RichardsonJonathan P Watts and Simon Limbrick

Monday 31 March 2014

Ian Nairn on the Royal College of Art

91. Royal College of Art
Kensington Gore 

Plate 15
H.T. Cadbury-Brown, 1961-62
and Sir Hugh Casson 

As responsible architecturally as Imperial College is irresponsible, with a personality as strong as the Albert Hall, next door, yet without self-advertisement. The individuality is internal and shows without affectation in the smallest details, such as the space of the main corridor on the ground floor and the space inside the Gulbenkian Hall (this, especially, is worth comparing with the aseptic rooms in the Festival Hall).

A tall block of eight storeys on Kensington Gore, breaking out into a splendid roofline of coupled lights for studios; the lecture hall is sunk into the ground at right angles and appears as a single storey. This is the ‘angry’ style completely justified, yet still angry or rather whatever word is the exact opposite of complacent. The horizontal and vertical members of the concrete frame are separated as demonstrably as though the Anti-Uglies (who were R.C.A. students) were still demonstrating. Not many of London’s modern buildings — even those in this book — will inspire affection in fifty years, but this will. It has the greatness and stature that so many of the physically great new buildings in London to conspicuously lack. Underground to South Kensington; bus 9, 52, 73.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

BOOOOOKS: An unrealised project

Before Christmas I traveled to Liverpool to review an exhibition of the life and work of the British concrete poet Bob Cobbing. The exhibition, curated by William Cobbing, Bob Cobbing’s grandson, and Rosie Cooper, consisted largely of printed matter and objects from the Cobbing family archive; some of this material had never been publicly exhibited before. Guardian of Gaberbocchus Press, Jasia Reichardt, loaned several paintings and assemblages. Ruth and Marvin Sackner, of the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, also loaned films and printed matter. And on display for the first time was a newly commissioned film portrait of Cobbing’s spouse Jennifer Pike by the contemporary artist Holly Antrum. 

In the exhibition, head-height grid frames constructed of pine were configured to hold white panels printed with visual scores and poems. The design was a copy of structures used for the 1971 exhibition ‘konkrete poëzie’ at the Stedelijk in Amsterdam – to date the single most comprehensive exhibition of concrete poetry. Running along the entire length of one wall was a 1970s-style county council pinboard display showing a chronological timeline of Cobbing’s life. It was on this display that I was fascinated to find an architectural plan by H.T. Cadbury-Brown & Partners. 

The document, dated 18/01/68, shows a plan by the architects to convert an existing property at 80 Longacre, London WC2 into a bookshop, with a gallery, auditorium and filmmaking facilities. The clients? Bob Cobbing, his partner Jennifer Pike, and colleagues John Collins and Bill MacLellan. The group approached Cadbury-Brown and Partners when the now legendary Better Books in Charing Cross Road was closed by Collins the publishers in 1967. Cobbing managed Better Books, an important hub for London cultural life, but when it was closed poetry readings were cancelled, and the theatrical group ‘The People Show’ and the Film Makers’ Co-operative (later the London Film Makers’ Co-operative) were displaced. 

Six months after Better Books’ closure, Cobbing, Collins, MacLellan and Pike found their new venue at 80 Longacre, a converted basement in Covent Garden. Here they would absorb the activities previously hosted by Better Books and develop an international centre for avant-garde activities. Between them, the group raised £2000, securing the property, but made a further ‘a peal’ for £2000 for building ‘alterations and decorations’.

Quickly, unexpectedly, however, the project was cancelled. In recent scrawling handwritten notes, displayed alongside Cadbury-Brown’s plans in the exhibition, Jennifer Pike recalls how the lease had been fore-closed days before it was to be signed. After a poetry reading, Collins invited an audience back to 80 Longacre for a drink. Drinks turned into a noisy party. Residents above called the police. After this the group were denied any further negotiations on the property: ‘END OF BOOOOOKSEVENTURES,’ Pike’s notes conclude.  

It is fascinating to imagine the consequences had this unrealised project gone ahead. Beyond a mainstream cultural figure such as Benjamin Britten at Aldeburgh, this document connects Cadbury-Brown & Partners to a key group of British avant-gardist poets and artists, architecture to concrete.  

Monday 18 November 2013

Script writing, Editing and Sound Design

Following on from the Rising 5th video piece at Snape Maltings and sound installation at the Lookout tower on Aldeburgh beach for SNAP earlier this year I have been working on assembling the footage shot at Jim Cadbury-Brown’s house, 3 Church Walk.

The rough edit of the film stands at 34 minutes and is a tour through the house as it stood until recently, when its new owner took it over last month. 3 Church Walk is in need of some renovation as it has stood empty for three years. The damp has taken hold, the window frames rotting and the garden overgrown. The new owner hopes to restore it to its former condition and make it livable again. This will involve rewiring, a damp course, clearing the garden and restoring the kitchen. She intends to keep it as Jim would have wanted it and at the same time make it her own. It is an exciting new chapter in the history of this modest but perfect house.

Jim's chair © Emily Richardson

Jonathan and I have worked and reworked the script for the film over the summer and the editing process now involves working out a relationship between the text and image. There is so much to say about Jim and Betty’s house, much of which has to remain unsaid, but for the purposes of the film there are some keys ideas that are contained within these extracts from the script.

‘“When you enter a building,” Jim said, “you are starting on an enforced choreography.” The narrow driveway entrance gathers you up, choreographs your delivery from the outside world, between screen walls constructed of the same Marks Tey brick as the house, into the courtyard and garden. Boundary walls enclose the house and plot in this corner, hiding it from view, forming courtyards, patios and sheltered corners.’

‘“I would say,” Jim wrote in an address on how architecture enriches life, “that I consider enrichment as the architectural means whereby a form of organised disorder is introduced into our background.” “What I am concerned with primarily,” he continues, “is the relation of ourselves to our background.” Buildings are one expression of order against their background. For Jim, writing in 1959, in America, the Beats and Action Painting were symptomatic reactions to the frightening standardisation of everyday life. The Beats’ particular kind of disorder is a deliberate cultivation of failure and aimlessness. While in Action Painting the exclusive emphasis on accident and self-expression are yet further symptoms of the rejection of responsibility.’

‘“If we seek an accidental spontaneity,” Jim writes, “surely the natural accident is more acceptable than the contrived one. I prefer to find my objet trouvé rather than to have them made, self consciously, for me.” How might architecture achieve the direct, self-expression of action painting? It can’t: a complete Action Architecture is a practical impossibility.’

Exterior/Interior view © Emily Richardson

‘According to Jim, speaking on the relationship between order and disorder, movement and rhythm engenders empathy between man and his surroundings. And architecture would be better described as the framework of a dance rather than as frozen music. He cites physician and sexual psychologist Havelock Ellis who wrote in The Dance of Life that “Dancing and building are the two primary and essential arts.” That “the art of dancing stands at the source of all the arts that express themselves in the human person. The art of building, or architecture, is the beginning of all the arts that lie outside the person”. “If we are indifferent to the art of dancing,” Ellis writes, “we have failed to understand, not merely the supreme manifestation of physical life, but also the supreme symbol of spiritual life...  The significance of dancing, in the wide sense, thus lies in the fact that it is simply an intimate concrete appeal of a general rhythm”. The origin of architecture is the bird’s nest, which arose as an excess of ecstatic sexual dance.’

‘How can one adequately photograph the experience of space when all that is seen are discontinuous portions? “Only a shadow is caught by the camera,” Jim explained when he introduced Mies Van der Rohe at the Architectural Association in 1959. Mies’ buildings, for Jim, were a pure architectural note in a cacophony of propaganda - propaganda generated by critics, administrators and mediation. “A building is a building and not a theory, a diagram or a model. As the drawing is the end product of a student’s work, so the photograph is too often the end in view of many architects and the only end in view of most architectural magazines. The result is a special form of graphic design where the contrived viewpoint of the camera is the dominant factor.” “A building,” Jim says, “is something to be seen, walked in and used.” Moving image describes movement and light in space. It dances rather than stultifies into frozen music.’

Interior view © Emily Richardson
Another aspect of the film that I have been working on over the last few months is the sound design. Jonathan and I met with Bill Lloyd (Director of Artistic Development) at Aldeburgh Music to discuss possible musicians and sound composers whose work might complement the film. One possible way of approaching the sound design would be to use the film itself as a score for an improvised piece of music or sound that uses the materials and objects in the house.  Jim and Betty gave careful attention to the acoustic properties of space In their design. During research I discovered a conversation supposed to have taken place between Jim and his friend, the composer Benjamin Britten, in which the latter links the Brutalist ideal of materials used ‘as found’ with his own interest and use in sound ‘as found’. I wanted to find a sound composer who could respond to these ideas.

Bill put us in touch with the composer and sound artist Simon Limbrick. Previously, Simon was artist-in-residence at Aldeburgh Music, a residency that culminated in a 24 hour performance using paper; Simon’s performance used recordings of the sounds of paper worked into a composition with this material alone.  This approach seemed to fit perfectly with ideas that I had for using the recordings of the materials, surfaces and objects in the house to create a sound composition.

Simon has been recording tests using materials such as glass and metal and we hope to revisit the house to record elements of the sound design later this month. The idea is to play the house as if it were an instrument, much in the same way as Britten played car springs or tea-cups in pieces such as The Burning Fiery Furnace and Noye’s Fludde. This sonic dimension to the film will bring another aspect to the portrait of the house.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Jim Cadbury-Brown's memorial to Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten's centenary year sees many tributes to the composer, particularly in and around Aldeburgh and Snape Maltings, where the Aldeburgh Festival is held. During the festival in June SNAP, the third  annual exhibition organised by Abigail Lane and Aldeburgh Music, is also taking place. This year all the artists involved have been asked to respond to Britten in some way. 

Drawing of proposed memorial to Benjamin Britten by Jim Cadbury Brown

During our research for the 3 Church Walk film, Jonathan and I came across a story that sparked an idea for my contribution to SNAP. Jim knew Britten and Pears well - his house is built on the site that was earmarked for the opera house that is now situated at Snape Maltings. When Britten died Jim was asked to propose a memorial for Britten in Aldeburgh. Although it was never realised the story surrounding it is intriguing. The memorial was to be a huge hulk of wood standing on the beach with two holes in the top designed to sing out the two notes from Britten’s opera, Peter Grimes, when the wind blew fiercely enough through them. Like a huge wind instrument on the beach playing to the residents of Aldeburgh it would remind them of the darkness that lies beyond the horizon, out at sea.

Bishops and Son's, Ipswich. Photograph ©Emily Richardson 2013

Rising 5th. © Emily Richardson 2013

Rising 5th. © Emily Richardson 2013

During the design process for this memorial Jim needed to determine what size holes would be drilled in the wood to create the right notes. To do this he strapped two organ pipes to a car and drove up and down the Aldeburgh - Thorpeness road to see at what speed the notes would sound.

Re-performing this experiment, documenting it on film and recording the sound made by the pipes strapped to the car I am making a video piece titled Rising 5th  (Re-staging of a test for an unrealised memorial to Benjamin Britten). Driving up and down the Aldeburgh - Thorpeness road I imagine Jim's excitement as the organ pipes begin to sound at around 40 mph and as the car gains speed the pitch of the note sounded increases dramatically. It seemed so improbable that this test would work but with guidance and the loan of organ pipes from the organ builders, Bishops and Sons in Ipswich (in Jims case, Manders organs in London)  it has been possible to recreate this experiment.

The sea at Aldeburgh from the South Lookout. © Emily Richardson 2013

In conjunction with the video piece a sound installation in the Aldeburgh Lookout tower will recreate the sound of the memorial on the beach, had it been realised. From the beach you can climb the narrow spiral stairs up into the Lookout tower and once inside will be able to experience the sound of the memorial in a storm whilst down below, on three evenings in June, Peter Grimes will be performed on the beach, conjuring his spirit and remembering the great British composer.

SNAP Art at the Aldeburgh Festival 2013
June 8th – June 30th 2013

OPEN DAY, JUNE 8th 1-4pm
The third annual exhibition organised by Abigail Lane together with Aldeburgh Music
at Snape Maltings, Suffolk. IP17 1SP

To celebrate the Benjamin Britten Centenary, artists from previous SNAP exhibitions have been invited to contribute works related to or inspired by Britten.

Participating artists will include Glenn Brown, May Cornet, Benedict Drew, Roger Eno, Mark Fuller, Ryan Gander, Maggi Hambling, Scott King, Emily Richardson, Abigail Lane, Simon Liddiment, Sarah Lucas, Julian Simmons, Cally Spooner, Juergen Teller and Cerith Wyn Evans.

To find out more about SNAP go to:

For Aldeburgh Music’s programme go to:

Wednesday 30 January 2013

A Walk Through 3 Church Walk with Natalie Wheatley

At last year’s Aldeburgh Music Festival in Suffolk I worked for a few days driving an older friend around. It had been twenty years since his last visit to the festival when he had stayed with Jim and his “very American” wife Betty in their “wonderful modern house”. He could no longer recall the house’s exact location, or anything of his stay in detail, but sensing my interest resolved to reconstruct every detail of that earlier trip. Remembrances came unevenly that first morning, amounting to a spectral cast of figures between London and Suffolk: “Jim had built a matching bungalow for Holst’s daughter Imogen... Absolute functional interior... Slept terribly... Your place the Royal College of Art... Festival of Britain and all that lot - Hugh Casson... The most effeminate man, but definitely not gay.”

Over the next few days we bee-lined every over-80 year old in Aldeburgh: “Are you from around here!? Do you remember Cadbury-Brown!?” Most were retirees or tourists. The elderly locals we spoke to did not know him. Then on the cliff top by the flint church a breakthrough: We spoke with an elderly woman, a real Miss Havisham, or as Jim’s former guest insisted “the ghost of Imogen Holst.” We were in fact, she told us, almost “in its presence”. When Jim died there had been some dispute or other and the place remained abandoned. We followed Havisham/Holst’s directions to the house, trespassing a lawn to pass through a gap in the fence into a thick garden bordered with mature firs. 

In Cadbury-Brown’s 2009 Guardian obituary a portrait by the photographer Eamonn McCabe shows the architect reclining on a Breuer-style easy chair in front of a window in his home. Propped up inside the window frame is a portrait of his late wife Betty. Beyond this, the window frames deep emerald greens of the garden. According to the Guardian obituary (written by Diana Rowntree, the Guardian’s first architecture critic, who died in 2008), in the eighteenth century the site of the house had been a bowling green. Later in 1957 composer Benjamin Britten bought the plot with the intention of building an opera house, but when these plans collapsed his friends Jim and Betty, who had carried out design work for Britten, were given first entitlement to the land. Together they designed their private house, eventually completing the build in 1964. The single-storey structure is constructed from sand-lime walls. Light scoops punctuate the flat grassed roof, providing natural lighting to the largely open plan interior. Tall doors span floor to ceiling. On the outside looking in through the large windows I could see that the same Breur-style chair from Jim’s obituary remained unmoved in the same position. Numerous floor-standing Herbert Terry lamps wore thick coats of dust; wicker bases of William Morris chairs had slacked and splintered with neglect; little heaps of crisp, hollowed insects lined the sills of the bay windows; faintly darkened patches traced where pictures had hung - all that remained was what appeared to be a Matisse print. 

With Sir Hugh Casson and Robert Goodden, Jim had been part of the design team for the Royal College of Art in Kensington Gore. Later that week I enquired about Jim at the RCA library. The only title in their collection relating to the architect was a book by Natalie Wheatley titled Cadbury-Brown: The Family Behind the Modernist Architect, a book I was assured by the librarian to be of “no critical or academic interest”. True, it is not an academic text, whatever the supposed virtues of that may be; rather it is an intimate family history of the Cadbury-Browns, which hangs largely on the public figure Jim, told by his former employee and niece-in-law. Natalie’s husband, Michael Wheatley, was the nephew of Jim: Michael’s mother, Marion Rowena Wheatley née Cadbury-Brown, was Jim’s sister. In the early 1960s Natalie had worked as secretary to Jim and Betty in their office at 1790 house Clarges Street, Piccadilly. Natalie wrote and self-published the fully illustrated book in 2011. When Emily and I began discussing the potential of collaboration on this project Natalie was the first, indeed we thought could be the only, person we contacted. In October 2012 Natalie generously agreed to meet and show us around the house. Below are transcribed fragments of a much longer conversation we had with Natalie, which Emily videoed. 

"Jim and Betty had only electric heating that was plugged in - I believe it cost them somewhere in the region of £4,000 a year to keep the house warm. Jim wouldn’t have pipes or anything like that. You see those plugs, well in those days it was much harder to get them flat and made of stainless steel; he was very modernist, almost before his time. Sourcing this stuff in the early 1960s was difficult." 

3 Church Walk shortly after completion in 1964. View from driveway onto the garage and entrance courtyard (photo courtesy of Natalie Wheatley).

"Jim had a local builder and they had a good relationship. Of course I can't remember his name now. I don’t know much about the construction of the house. I really only knew it as a home, but I’ve since become more interested in it, and him. Jim kept his business side and his family side separate - he didn’t discuss these things with us. It really has been a revelation to learn how well-known he is." 

Tea in the entrance courtyard. Jim, Betty and unknown guest(s). September 1964. In this early photograph the borders have been planted up (photo courtesy of Natalie Wheatley).

"Jim always had a great big glass vase with grasses, thistles, or big blousey flowers from the countryside or the garden. He also loved laying the table. They used to buy in those days - in the sixties - very exciting Habitat-type curtain material and he used them for tablecloths. He adored the bright colour in this black and white house; he loved bright colours - he always wore bright colours." 

Jim at the living-dining room table, probably mid 1990s (photo courtesy of Natalie Wheatley). 

"He always had a hanky flopping out of his top pocket. He loved purple and orange together, which looks terrific. He got all his suits from Saville Row and wore long jackets in fine tweed with drainpipe trousers, always drainpipes. Later in his older days he had this exhibition Elegant Variation at the Royal Academy and I wonderer what he’d turn up in: he wore a dinner jacket, a white shirt and tie, and black jeans - drainpipes of course! He looked great."

"The slate tablets I know are from the Royal College of Art in London. They were done at the Royal College: I think he felt they were important and so brought some back with him. When people enquire about the house they always mention the tablets." 

Slate inscribed by students of the Royal College of Art. Jim began teaching one day a week in the RCA sculpture department in 1952. Video still by Emily Richardson, October 2012.  

"Almost as soon as Jim died we sealed the windows with brackets - you have to for insurance purposes. Insuring an empty house is difficult because it’s so vulnerable. You have to make it as safe as possible. Mike, my husband, was very tuned into what Jim liked: he didn’t want to put these things on the doors and windows, but he chose ‘Jimmish’ sort of locks. You hardly notice them." 

View of the west facing wall of the house from the garden. The large double doors ("stable-type" as Jim describes them in a 1962 mortgage notes document) open out from the kitchen, August 2003 (photo courtesy of Alan Powers).

"I’d say there is a lot of Betty in the kitchen. She was the one who looked after the details. She did these tiny little detailed drawings of plans. Actually there is a lot of Betty in the house. Betty is also in the organisation, in that you can open up files and there is masses of Betty’s hand writing with measurements and costs and all the rest of it. Jim was a control freak, but without Betty he wouldn’t have managed administratively. He wanted to do the drawings and the thinking. She was the boss, but he would never accept that."

View from hallway into office, 2003 (?) (photo courtesy of Alan Powers).

"It all looks a bit shabby now but I think you should notice the tall cupboards that no one can reach the top of. Jim took the back off that gas stove - he didn’t like it. They shared a particular attention to detail. Inside the cupboard in the double bedroom is a cistern. It actually belongs to the toilet off the hall. It didn’t fit in the toilet room so they knocked a hole in the wall and put the cistern in this next door cupboard. I remember my husband and I had shirts made for Betty in India because she was then wearing jeans as part of her daily wear. We bought cotton shirts with collars. She thanked us vociferously and later chopped off all the collars because she didn’t like them. She removed them and made little stand up collars."

Natalie Wheatley at the door of the office at 3 Church Walk, October 2012. Video still by Emily Richardson.

Natalie’s intimate, yet frank book Cadbury-Brown: The Family Behind the Modernist Architect can be purchased from Amazon or Waterstones for £15 including postage and packaging. 

Thursday 22 November 2012

Photographs by Emily Richardson

During the summer we visited the house and took pictures in preparation for the next stage of the production. The garden is very overgrown but gives the place a magical feel, like discovering a ruin in the jungle. Inside the house we discovered treasures, such as this mobile by Alexander Calder still hanging above the sink. The light scoops pour light into the house in unexpected ways.

The entrance to 3 Church Walk, now overgrown

The Calder mobile still hangs above the sink

A view of the house from the garden

Looking up through one of the 'light scoops' to the sky