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Bibliography - The Door to a Secret Room - Exhibitions


Articles and Lectures by Wells Coates include:

'Inspiration from Japan' Architects Journal  4 Nov 1931
'Furniture Today Furniture Tomorrow' Architectural Review  July 1932
'Response to Tradition' Architectural Review  November 1932
'The English Living Room Today' Design for Today  May 1933
'The Conditions for an Architecture for Today' Architectural Association Journal  April 1938
Address to 1957 Graduation Banquet, University of British Columbia, RAIC Journal June 1959

The standard work on Coates is Sherban Cantacuzino: Wells Coates A Monograph (Gordon Fraser 1978). It contains a full architectural biography and chronologies of Coates's works.

Wells Coates Architect and Designer 1895-1958  is the book that accompanied the Coates travelling exhibition of 1979 (Oxford Polytechnic 1979).

The Door to a Secret Room: A Portrait of Wells Coates by Laura Cohn is the most recent work. Most of the material on this site has been drawn from this book, but the book naturally contains much more information, in text and pictures. Published by Scolar Press in 1999; hardback, 240 pp, 125 illustrations. For details of how to buy the book direct from Scolar Press at a discount click here.

Laura Cohn has written this book to try to illustrate the conflicts and qualities of an extraordinary man and to understand his successes and disappointments Though the chapters, each with a different theme, are not in chronological sequence, there is a chronological backbone.

The book begins with Coates's upbringing in Japan, goes on to a dramatically tragic experience in the 1920s, and ends with his death in Vancouver thirty years later. Each chapter has its own character and message.

'Japan' introduces a theme which runs right through the book. 'Marion', 'Laura' and 'Friendships' are about relationships. The longest chapter, 'Lawn Road Flats', is of both personal and professional interest it provides an absorbing account of how plans evolved for Coates's first block of flats, and of the relationships between the architect and his clients. The story is of special interest in the light of the controversies surrounding the present ownership of the flats and doubts and fears about the future of the building.

Two chapters, 'Success' and 'Inventions', concentrate on Coates's achievements and are generously illustrated. But the book is illustrated throughout with photographs, plans, rough sketches, advertisements, letters, postcards, and reproductions from journals, conveying a special feeling of the 1930s when most of Coates's work was completed.

The Times Literary Supplement writes of the book 'Laura Cohn...has made an excellent selection of episodes, letters and architectural details to illustrate the various facets of a convoluted and contradictory career. Her book is a piece of literary engineering which has the virtues of her father's best buildings - good materials put together with economy, elegance, sensitivity and telling detail used to maximum effect.'

The Architectural Review 'This truthful without being prying and affectionate without showing the slightest hint of adulation...The most substantial chapter is rightly devoted to the most significant of Coates's buildings, the Lawn Road Flats...Their conception and construction makes a fascinating story.'


Wells Coates's work has been shown at numerous exhibitions including:
The Wireless Show (V & A, 1977)
Hampstead in the 1930s (Camden Arts Centre,1974-5)
PEL (Architectural Association, 1977)
Wells Coates Architect and Designer (travelling exhibition opening at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1979)
The Thirties (Hayward, 1979-80)
The New Spirit Modern Architecture in Vancouver 1938-63 (Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal)
Modern Britain 1929-39 (Design Museum 1999)
Modernism (Victoria and Albert, 2006)

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