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8: FRIENDSHIPS

Wells Coates's life and character move between the light and the dark. Against the disasters - in personal relationships as well as in his work - there was his driving idealism and ever-reviving optimism. He devoted himself to friendship as seriously as he engaged in architecture, revealing in different friendships the different sides of his personality. Friendships
 
Letter from H.R.H. Princess Lily. Click to view larger image
H.R.H. the Princess Lily
The author of this dotty letter was a zany American from the film world, who having left after a whirlwind affair with Wells Coates in July 1935, wrote him a few letters from Paris, then New York, Washington and California. 'Harpo', she wrote, 'is doing a film in which he chases a rabbit, catches it and pulls a silk hat out of its mouth...'
 
Coates had the greatest admiration for Le Corbusier. They shared not only a deeply rational approach to architecture but also a love of visual expression and an enjoyment of visual games and jokes. This drawing is called 'La Charte de L'Habitat', which was the theme of a conference both men attended in 1953. Coates had a book on Chinese calligraphy which he used here to write the ideograms along with his typed captions. La Charte de L'Habitat
 
Wells on the running board of his Lancia Lambda
Wells Coates on the running board of his Lancia Lambda


This well-known photograph (first published in Vogue) emphasises one side of Wells Coates - the showman, the man about town. But as J.M.Richards wrote 'Underneath his elaborately social manner and his line of talk lay an intensely serious personality, with unswerving integrity about the things he regarded as important (which meant chiefly architecture) and a fighter....'