The history of 85 Swains Lane, next to Highgate Cemetery in north London, is not without complexity.
Currently sitting on the site is a two-storey, steel-framed house from 1982, designed by influential Modernist architect John Winter. However the house, which is mentioned in Pevsner alongside Winter’s famous Cor-Ten house, will not be there for much longer - because Camden’s planners have agreed it can be demolished. The unlisted house will now be replaced by an Eldridge Smerin scheme. ‘We thought long and hard about the issue of demolition but we finally came to the view that it was an acceptable course of action in this instance, ’ said Piers Smerin, a co-founder of Eldridge Smerin, which shot to fame with The Lawns house - shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2001.
The approach represents an about-turn from earlier proposals for the site, including one by Bere Architects, which retained elements of the existing house. However, Smerin felt the ‘slightly jaunty quality of the house’ was at odds with the sombre ‘Gothic’ cemetery. Surprisingly, there were few objectors to this development. Most were only concerned about the size of the scheme and not about the bulldozing of Winter’s house, which was, according to the council, ‘marred by poor material and construction qualities’.
The new house is to be almost a third bigger than Winter’s and will have a sheer elevation of black granite slabs and steel panels facing onto the lane. Work is expected to start at the end of October and should be completed next year.
New scheme spells the end for John Winter house