At home with MJ Long and Sandy Wilson

Grove End road oblique view of studio

How a sculptor’s studio of the 1920s became a home and workspace for the architects and a setting for their art collection

In 1974, after the decision was made to site the new British Library at St Pancras, the architects Colin St John (Sandy) Wilson and his wife MJ Long were in need of a London home. They were delighted to discover and acquire an artist’s studio in St John’s Wood of the kind they admired in Paris. Wilson died in 2007, but Long continued to live there until her death in 2018. She successfully applied for its listing in 2015.

The studio was built in 1922-3 for the sculptor William Reid Dick, on the strength of a lucrative commission for the Kitchener Memorial Chapel in St Paul’s Cathedral. It was designed by his contemporary Thomas Tait and built behind Reid Dick’s Regency villa in Grove End Road. It consisted of an enormous, north-lit studio, into which cubic shapes were introduced to create interesting triangular projections.

When Reid Dick realised he needed more space, Tait inserted an internal balcony to allow high-level views of sculptures like Controlled Energy, and added a large workshop annexe and store to the southern flank. These ancillary spaces allowed Wilson and Long to adapt the studio to their own needs.

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