The Grinning Smithsons

As their greatest and most heroic project is about to bite the dust after decades of slow demolition by neglect, Alison and Peter Smithson’s remaining body of work increasingly looks like the Cheshire cat’s grin – exactly at the point when they seem to be vanishing they are also achieving a prominence they haven’t enjoyed in decades.

Irony just isn’t a strong enough word to describe the situation where two highly influential architects who devoted most of their lives to developing models for social housing will end up being represented by a school, a number of delightful but unrepresentative middle class houses, an office building and finally a shed.

But it’s a great shed, and it’s for sale. The whole project is near to, and reminiscent of, their own weekender, the refreshingly ascetic Upper Lawn Pavilion. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting prospect for adaptive reuse – beautiful (in a rustic brutalist way), spectacular pedigree, fashionably tiny – it’s got it all.

It’s in the garden of the Levitt house, pretty spectacular in its own right. We found it through one of our favourite (architectural) porn sites, materialicious.

And meanwhile Owen Hatherley of sit down man you’re a bloody tragedy has taken a holiday to visit the Smithson’s Hunstanton Secondary Modern School, an enlightening but bleak experience by all accounts.


  1. seier+seier
    Posted 17 Nov ’08 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    ironic is not the word, paradoxical is more like it. the smithsons are still hated by their british colleagues even after they are dead and the rest of the world looks on in wonder.

    we did the same in denmark with utzon who was given one public commision in his entire career. but we don’t use this disgraceful behavior of official denmark as a reason to question utzon’s talent as has happened in so many articles and blogs about the robin hood gardens.

  2. Posted 2 Mar ’11 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    visited this summer:
    I heard the new owner is an architect, is cleaning up the outside areas according to original project, and will be extending the smithson shed.

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