January 1989 and (for one never steps into the same river twice) May 2021
The second book on Segal has finally moved into production at Lund Humphries and is due for delivery to any eager potential readers in May 2021.
I had imagined that my Walter Segal, English Architect – for the nice series of 20th Century English Architects – would be published even before this one, Walter Segal, self-built Architect, was written. But sponsoring publishers RIBA and Historic England faded, as Liverpool UP joined the stalwart Twentieth Century Society; all, it seems, remains in dark pipeline. However, this rather different book, written by myself with a final section by Alice Grahame, is actively in production for published in May 2021.
This book’s first section focuses on Segal’s formative years in Continental Europe where his father Arthur was an important painter and Walter grew up surrounded by leaders of the European avant-garde. On qualifying as architect in Germany just as the Nazi party came to power, Segal moved to Switzerland, Mallorca, Egypt and finally to London in 1936.
The second section focuses on Walter Segal’s central theme of popular housing, his unique and independent form of professional practice, how he managed to spread his ideas through writing and teaching, and how his architecture developed towards the timber-frame form known world-wide today as ‘the Segal system’, which could be used by people to build their own houses.
The third section follows the development of the timber-frame form known world-wide today as ‘the Segal method’ and how it came to be used by people to build and indeed design their own houses. This culminated at the time of Segal’s death in two areas of self-built public authority social housing in London – housing which, nearly half a century later, remains as unique and highly desirable neighbourhoods.
The final part is written by Alice Grahame, whose home is a self-built Segal house and who organised the Walter Segal exhibition at the Architectural Association in 2016. She explores the legacy offered by Segal to younger generations; how his work and example, half a century after his timber ‘method’ was developed, leads to the possibility of making, and then living within, communities whose places are constructed with a flexible, easily assembled, planet-friendly timber-frame building system today and tomorrow.
The book is found – and indeed can be ordered – on the Lund Humphries website here and we are all hoping that, despite the continuing unfavourable Covid-10 climate, we can publicly share its arrival one way or another in 2021.
My text – Walter Segal, English Architect – for the nice series of 20th Century English Architects (from which sponsors RIBA and Historic England have now faded but to which Liverpool University Press has joined the stalwart Twentieth Century Society) was sent off many months ago. And now the rather different book, written by Alice Grahame and me – Walter Segal : Self-built Architect – moves to the production phase at Lund Humphries, with our draft texts off to the publisher by the end of April. Perhaps the Plague’s enforced imprisonment has also encouraged a bit of focus!
(from left) Walter Segal, elderly self-builder, Jon Broome
Keeping away from the alluring and addictive surf (I find I’ve wasted hours before I get surf-bored), I was surprisingly nudged awake this week by a younger architectural historian friend asking if I’d seen a tweet about Walter Segal’s archive. She then kindly showed it to me.
Perhaps it happens to all tweets at holiday periods which ask a question. Certainly here a fascinating chain ensued, all stemming from an innocent private chat at a New Year party. Who knows, it may end with a wonderful, safe, organised and accessible home for the life-long material left by the ever meticulous Walter Segal.
But once on the surf this morning, that soon got me floating past all sorts of undecaying plastic in the data ocean – and suddenly meeting one of my own photographs of Walter Segal up a ladder.
Ho hum. This opens a piece in a magazine called AnOther, it seems. Quite a charming little piece about the Segal self-built streets in Lewisham (actually a puff for Alice and Taran’s lovely book), it also used two more of my pictures from those early self-building days. I wonder where they found them? But at least, although I was never shown this 18-month old article before, they do correctly credit my photos. It can be read here.
This drawer (the fourth down, on the left) , is now (July 2019) unlocked, opened and labelled Walter Segal. Now there are books contracted and underway – Walter Segal: Self-built Architect by John McKean & Alice Grahame (Lund Humphries) and Walter Segal by John McKean in the ’20th century English Architects’ series which The 20th Century Society with RIBA and Historic England set on a fine trail and of which University of Liverpool Press have very recently taken the reins.
Here are a jumbled few posts (the Segal, part thingie series) and yellowing cuttings over recent years regarding an ongoing interest in Mr. Segal. However, elsewhere in this filing cabinet is a large envelope labelled Walter Segal (goodness, it turns red when you hover over it!), and in there are found various substantial, pre-digital texts I have written about Mr. Segal, mostly centuries ago, which anyone interested is welcome to steal as downloadable pdf files.
Walter Segal talking through the space left alongside his cigar, sitting in the first self-built house in his system, Mr and Mrs Holland’s house, seen in poster on right. Both photographs: John McKean
I may add links to other views on Segal as time allows, but a good starting point is a brief introduction to Segal by Colin Ward which you can read here. Meanwhile my colleagues Alice Grahame (author) and Taran Wilkhu (photographer) in 2017 published attractive tales of life in two idyllic Segal streets, self-built 40 years ago in London by people on the local authority’s list of those in housing need; it can be bought here and elsewhere. Alice has also started this useful Segal-news website here, while a range of Taran’s great pictures of the interiors in 2017 are also seen here.
SPECIAL OFFER! I have a copy of this classic masterpiece at greatly reduced price one week only – £129.99!
Otherwise, Segal fans, you will just have to wait for a while more for a new book to appear… soon…
Walter Segal next Monday – do read Rowan Moore’s great piece in The Observer 16 July – and join us!
An evening celebration of the life and work of Walter Segal is at The Building Centre from 6.30 pm on 24th July 2017
Places can be booked and full details found here .
Walter Segal photograph by John McKean
Launching the book Walters Way and Segal Close: Walter Segal and London’s Self-Build Community, its authors Alice Grahame and Taran Wilkhu (Segal residents) will be joined by
Tom Dyckhoff, TV presenter and Segal enthusiast
Jon Broome, architect and Segal’s partner, and self-builder of a house in Segal Close
and me, currently gearing up to republication of a revised edition of my 30-year old biography of Walter Segal.
Do join us!
Final preparations for the Walter Segal exhibition at the Architectural Association which opened with a packed party last night. In the foreground, a “Segal” pavilion by Assemble – winners of the latest Turner Prize – which now replaces the ‘temporary little house’ Segal built in his Highgate garden.
Beyond the model, to the left, are John Frazer and his wife, who built an interactive computer model of Segal’s system in 1980s to aid clients in designing themselves; to the right of the column are Jon Broome, Segal’s partner and successor with self-build; Nicholas Taylor, author of The Village in the City and, as Lewisham housing chair, the key enabler of the Segal method being taken up by a public housing authority; and John Segal, the architect’s son (seen again below portrait of Walter Segal by his father, Arthur Segal).
Five minutes after this picture was taken, there was barely room to move.
(This is published today, 11 January 2016, in Architecture Today and is not yet on their website. Scroll down for previous post on Walter Segal, exhibition, and links to texts)