A block of flats in Belsize Park that is an architectural icon has been home to many famous people, no less than the author, Agatha Christie, and now an exhibition about her time there has opened.
The Isokon Flats were built in 1929-32 as an experiment in minimalist urban living, with very small kitchens, but a large communal dining area and kitchen to share. Thanks to its bohemian atmosphere, many architects and artists lived here over the years, and as it later turned out, a Soviet spy.
Agatha Christie, now married to her second husband and much happier for it found their home in Kensington damaged during the Blitz, and knowing some of the residents of the Isokon flats already was able to move in, as Mr & Mrs Mallowman. They lived there with war interruptions until 1947, and Agatha Christie wrote many of her most popular stories during those years.
The flats, restored in 2003 are now a mix of private and social housing, and next to them is a gallery that shows off the history of the building and the interior decoration that made it such a fashionable place to live.
This summer, they have an exhibition about Agatha Christie’s years in the flats. The exhibition is mainly a series of display boards, and some books she wrote while living at the flats, and a bust of her by the entrance. A typewriter on display isn’t hers, but is the same model that she would have used, a 1925 Remmington.
The text on the display boards go into detail about her life in the flats, and while a big come-down from her grand house in Kensington she was clearly very happy living in the artistic commune that grew up there. There’s a lovely anecdote in the display about the evening that her husband returned from the war.
The exhibition is a pleasing read about the author and adds a nice bit of character to the rest of the gallery, which is mainly about the building and the furniture.
The exhibition is open until the end of the summer season at the Isokon Gallery. The gallery is open Sat and Sun, and entry is free. It’s a short walk from Belsize Park tube station.