A thorough study examines an extraordinary collection of houses by Peter Salter
On the completion of Peter Salter’s Walmer Yard project three years ago – after more than a decade of work – critics laboured to capture the richness of detail, the variety and the intensity of the spatial experiences found in these four smallish houses, as well as their sheer oddness. How to represent this unique work in a handful of photos and 1000 words, when every corner of the project is obsessively worked over, and every inch of Salter’s pen-and-ink drawings crawls with life?
A 156-page book now covers the project at appropriate length. Alongside atmospheric photographs by Hélène Binet are dozens of Salter’s intricate renderings on frayed tracing paper (in which the houses are populated by portly naked figures) and lengthy texts by the project’s principal players – architects Salter and Fenella Collingridge and client Crispin Kelly – as well as essays by Peter Bearsell, Mark Dorrian and Matthew Ritchie.
Top, above: Walmer Yard (phs: Hélene Binet).
Kelly’s connection to Salter goes back to the 1980s: having joined the AA as a mature student, the 29-year-old property developer found himself taught by an architect with “an almost fanatical following, which initially I didn’t really understand”, he recalls in the book. “I became probably his least appropriate student, the pragmatic pitched against the poetic”. That combination would also serve as a description of this book, which combines both high-flown discussion of ideas and effects and the sort of nuts-and-bolts detail often missing from glossy project monographs.
Drawings by Peter Salter
Kelly is currently using the Walmer Yard houses as the base of the built environment charity the Baylight Foundation, so event attendees and overnight guests can enjoy Salter’s creation first-hand. This book will be no doubt appeal to visitors wishing to preserve memories of its unique architecture and ambience, but this detailed and handsome account of a unique project should find a much wider audience too.
‘Peter Salter: Walmer Yard’
By Peter Salter, Peter Beardsell, Fenella Collingridge, Mark Dorrian, Crispin Kelly, Matthew Ritchie (ed. David Jenkins)
Circa Press, 156pp, £45