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Wells Coates with Le Corbusier at a CIAM Congress
Wells Coates with Le Corbusier at a CIAM Congress

Coates was above all an idealist. He believed it was necessary to formulate codes of behaviour, what was to be done and how it could be done. This led him to a deep and sustained involvement in group activities of many kinds and to search for architectural principles appropriate to the modern world.

Together with several others Wells Coates founded the MARS Group in 1933 as part of CIAM, an international organisation working to further the principles and practice of modern architecture. Their various meetings and exhibitions brought Coates into contact with the leading practitioners of modern architecture including Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, and Walter Gropius. In England, the movement was small and it was hard even to sow the seeds for the growth of these advanced ideas. Mars Group Exhibition, 1937
MARS Group Exhibition, 1937

Coates's articles and lectures helped to express and codify his architectural philosophy. (See FURTHER DATA.)

This progressive nursery school, included in the MARS exhibition of 1938, embodied the ideals of the modern movement: light, air, space, freedom, no clutter or fuss. Nursery school at Holland Park
Nursery school at Holland Park, Wells Coates 1932
In 1932 Coates carried out a conversion of a Victorian house in Kensington. He took a complete set of 'before' and 'after' photographs of which two, of the dining room, are reproduced here. What he regarded as the 'museum pieces' of the nineteenth-century interior are in striking contrast to the contemporary design and materials of his modern dining room.
Dining room, before...
The dining room before ...
Dining room, after
... and after Coates's conversion