I have been cogitating about Villa Jones, not least because it is a pleasure to be in a set of designed spaces, a microcosm of Ed Jones’s attitude to design and planning, each space very carefully articulated through an overall geometry, which is a bit playful, like a Corbusian playing jazz.
It must have been designed more or less at the time the Ondaatje Wing was nearing completion – he and Margot bought the site in 1999 and work was completed in 2003, the Ondaatje Wing opened in May 2000 – and I recognise some of the same characteristics of intelligent formal geometry in its planning.
There is one particularly nice side comment in Ed’s description of the house in his and Jeremy Dixon’s detailed and comprehensive account of their work: ‘I remember James Gowan once commenting that proportion in a building came free and was not vulnerable to cost cutting. In the same spirit I am aware that shadows cast from the pergola of this house evoke memories of Adolf Loos’s marvellous black and white striped house for Josephine Baker of 1927, and cannot be ‘value engineered’ away’.
This is maybe a reference to a day spent on value engineering the Ondaatje Wing – what Ed called ‘the group grope’: a day when consultants spent a day trying to reduce costs by stripping out some of the quality and character of the project. Not a good experience. So, a private project was exempt from these disciplines/restrictions and could be free, with a generosity, as well as syncopation, in its ground plan – hence the quality of the result.