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House Plan: Ben Adams on Lamble Street Housing

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This week the AJ brings back its popular series looking at influential housing plans. Here Ben Adams picks Benson and Forsyth’s Lamble Street Housing, which he used to call home

Two projects by Benson and Forsyth create a Modernist sandwich with a Victorian filling, as the section above illustrates. Built in 1973 for the London Borough of Camden, the project is a group of terraced houses and maisonettes on Lamble Street and Mansfield Road. Lamble Street combines a compact plan with a ‘slipped’ section to create five half-levels in each 90m² home. The key rooms are connected physically and visually with one another to give a convincing sense of a much larger space.

The axo shows how the terrace has been squeezed into a shallow plot and allows a direct comparison with their Victorian neighbours to the north. Benson and Forsyth were wrestling happily with the demands of concrete Modernism, family living and small spaces as they sought another new model for London housing. Low lying and fairly dense, these projects reflect a time when the perceived failure of tall residential buildings led architects to look again at the traditional terraced house.

It is inspiring to look back at when Camden council built housing of the highest design quality

I lived at 8 Lamble Street for five years, and the spaces are invigorating, challenging and inspirational. A tiny kitchen opens on to a dining area that doubles as a hallway. This top-lit space opens on to a living room a half level up, from which you can see into a master bedroom through two layers of glass.

Following the central stair up you meet a sliding glass door that gives on to an external stair running beside the angled rooflight to the dining space. At the top is a lovely private roof terrace overlooking the rear gardens. At the bottom of the house a pair of bedrooms is linked by a wide sliding door.

Each room is small but feels generous because of these connections. As we continue to live in a period of desperate housing need, and Camden Council is again building homes, it is inspiring to look back at these projects, when the council built housing of the highest design quality.

Ben Adams is founder of Ben Adams Architects

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