Culture secretary and Berthold Lubetkin fan Chris Smith is set to officially open Avanti Architects' £7million million refurbishment of the Lubetkin and Tecton-designed former local authority block, Priory Heights, in his Islington constituency next month.
The scheme, for Community Housing Association, is a reworking of the 1957 Wynford House in the borough's Priory Green Estate, built originally by Tecton Architects with execution by Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin for the then Finsbury Borough Council. Smith, who nominated the staircase at Lubetkin and Tecton's nearby Bevin Court as one of his favourite works in the aj's 'a life in architecture' column last year, opens the new- look Priory Heights on 17 May.
Wynford House had fallen into disrepair after almost 40 years of neglect until in 1996 Islington decided it had to sell it for redevelopment or rehabilitation. This led to an open competition judged by the local authority along with the residents.
Avanti with cha beat off 34 other teams with its plan to transform the building from being one of purely social housing into what the developers now boast is 'a model of mixed-tenure urban living'. The blocks have been reconfigured to give 62 private rented as well as 26 social-housing units, enabling cha to finance the refurbishment to a high standard and provide the council with a substantial capital receipt to plough into reinvestment elsewhere. A grant from the King's Cross Partnership secured jointly with the Islington Play Association meant a special children's facility could also be included within the development.
Avanti employed state-of-the-art techniques for detecting and treating concrete faults so it could repair cost effectively and improve energy efficiency while demonstrating that ailing concrete structures don't have to simply opt for a blanket overcladding job.
Original features such as the building's external tiling and - importantly - colour values have been reinstated, while the heating system, windows and lifts have been replaced. But most striking is the replacement of the roof-top plant and water-tank rooms with two (Avanti originally proposed four) penthouse flats. Structural engineer was Alan Consibee Associates.
cha now says it is keen to extend its private-sector experience following the success of Priory Heights with projects elsewhere in Islington, as well as in Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Westminster. It has set up a dedicated company to work closely with private sector lettings and management specialists.