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The Modern House in Bath: Peter Womersley's Valley Spring

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Matthew Wickens
University of Bath | UK
This dissertation examines the work of the architect Peter Womersley, and in particular his house in Bath, called Valley Spring. It examines Womersley's career, his influences and education, and his search for a new domestic style and type. Womersley's English buildings function very well to bracket his domestic work, since they embrace his first and last houses. In particular this dissertation examines the relationship between Womersley's smaller-scale work and his larger scale projects.

Valley Spring enjoys the distinction of being the only 'modern' house within the boundary of the city of Bath. The dissertation tells the story of its commissioning and passage through planning, and how the house appears to take several cues from the nearby eighteenth century mansion, Prior Park, in terms of its relationship to the surrounding landscape.

In conclusion the dissertation examines a central paradox of modernism, the quest to respond to both international and local conditions and contexts, and to the need for flexible space whilst at the same time preserving function-specific spaces and domestic identity in the modern house.

Matthew Wickens

This is a well-written and interesting dissertation on a neglected architect. It deals with important issues of domestic identity, modernism and context. Womersley designed well-detailed, interesting houses which varied in certain respects depending on location and client. The dissertation traces the development of these changes, and the formulation by Womersley of a domestic 'language'.

The dissertation satisfies an important criterion for first-class work - namely that it should be publishable. It is an original and readable study, which deserves to win a prize this year.

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