Slipped through

Wells Wintemute Coates (1895-1958)

Isokon Flats

Designer: Coates, Wells Wintemute (1895-1958)
Copyright: Janet Hall/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1997)

Wells Coates was influenced by his mother who herself had studied architecture under Louis Sullivan, and planned one of the first missionary schools in Japan.


After spending his youth travelling with his father around the world and enlisting for the WW1, Wells Coates studied at the University of British Columbia before moving to London to study engineering. First obtaining work as a journalist, he moved on to work with Adams and Thompson before establishing his own firm in 1928. Through his architectural work he became immersed in the Modernist Movement, and was one of the co-founders of the Modern Architectural Research Group (MARS).


Wells Coates embraced Le Corbusier's view that a building should be 'a machine for living', a mantra which is best reflected in the Isokon building (also known as the Lawn Road flats), completed 1934. The exterior of the building was compared to an ocean liner by the novelist Agatha Christie, who lived there for a time. Isokon reflected Well Coates' austere Japanese background, it included built-in furniture, also designed by Wells Coates. Isokon was followed by the Embassy Court, Brighton (1935) and 10 Palace Gate, Kensington (1939).


During the second World War, Wells Coates served with the RAF, as well as designing for the British post-War housing effort, and designing the cinema for the Festival of Britain's South Bank exhibition.


Wells Coates also contributed to the planning of Toronto and Vancouver in the 1950s.


Wells Coates was never nominated for the Royal Gold Medal.