Obituary: Renowned architect who designed the ‘perfect house’ in Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 September 2015

Jonathan Woolf designed Brick Leaf House in Hampstead

Jonathan Woolf designed Brick Leaf House in Hampstead


A renowned architect who designed what has been heralded as the “perfect house” has died of cancer aged 54.

Brick Leaf House in Hampstead. Picture: Helene BinetBrick Leaf House in Hampstead. Picture: Helene Binet

Jonathan Woolf, born in Golders Green in 1961, lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

He became one of his generation’s pre-eminent modernist architects and won a number of prestigious awards.

After attending Christ’s College Finchley, he went on to study architecture at the Kingston School of Architecture.

The start of his career saw him work for practices in Rome and London, serving as the job runner on the remodelling of the house of the art collector Charles Saatchi.

Jonathan then went on to open his own studio in 1991.

It was here his work saw him join a number of other architects in eschewing the two tendencies then dominant in British architecture: high-tech, and post-modern classicism.

It saw him become the first person to have a private residence appear in the final 12 “Midlist” considered for the RIBA Stirling Prize.

Brick Leaf House in North End Avenue, Hampstead, was designed for two Kenyan-born brothers in 2003 and came to be perceived by many in mainland Europe as representing “London architecture”.

Perched on the edge of Hampstead Heath, it combined two family residences with an indoor, “cave-like” swimming pool and atrium.

It was listed in Channel 4 Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud’s “20 perfect houses”, and went on to win a RIBA Award and Civic Trust Award.

Jonathan’s work designing the Painted House in Golders Green also won him a RIBA award and saw him nominated for the 2013 Architect of the Year award.

Responsible for a “tower house” in Swain’s Lane, Highgate, his work across Hampstead and Highgate was said to be marked by his love of living in the area.

Chris Snow, of Jonathan Woolf Architects, said: “It is rare in what is an international profession that an architect of renown grows up, lives and starts a family and builds some of his most significant projects all within a mile radius. The area was very special to him.”

Fellow architect and friend of 25 years, Jonathan Sergison, of Sergison Bates Architects, added: “His death has robbed British architecture of a special talent and I am struggling to come to terms with what this means at many levels.

“Jonathan was an original thinker and someone that resisted conformity and easy categorisation.

“The projects and buildings he created are imbued with ideas and an artistry that cannot be replicated.”

Jonathan died on September 4. He is survived by his wife Siobhan, two young daughters Olivia and Natalie, parents Ben and Josephine and sister Deborah.

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