Walmer Yard review – uncompromising beauty

Walmer yard review – uncompromising beauty
Courtyard detail of Walmer Yard’s shutters partially open / © Hélène Binet

Thirteen years in the making, four houses around a small courtyard in west London designed by Peter Salter are a triumph of exquisite detail and poetic idealism, and yours – all of them, ideally – for a cool £22m

There are many ways to ventilate a room, as a trip to B&Q confirms: grilles of steel or brass, wire meshes, unsatisfying plastic devices, perforated bricks, narrow slots in window frames. What you won’t find is the method used in Walmer Yard, a court of four new houses in west London, which is to insert large panels of solid stone, in area about the size of a fridge door, in the zone of wall through which the air is expected to pass. The stone is tufa, a pitted limestone popular in pre-imperial Rome, sufficiently porous (it is hoped) for the job. It is not the most obvious or direct way of getting breezes from A to B.

This is because there is little about Walmer Yard that is obvious or direct. Thirteen years in the making and with a total asking price of £22m, the development is plainly not a solution to the housing crisis or to any other of the world’s problems. Rather, it is the latest addition to the tiny band of singular and usually expensive houses that make of domestic space an alternative, personal universe and that hold a place in architectural history beyond their physical size.

You could compare it to the Maison de Verre in Paris of 1932, an exquisite alliance of technology and craftsmanship designed by Pierre Chareau, or to the encrusted gothic interiors of the Tower House, by the Victorian architect William Burges, a mile from Walmer Yard in Holland Park. Britain has not seen houses like this – so intense in their ideas, details and making – for decades. […]