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Leading architects call on council to save post-war LCC housing block

Allbrook House and library on the Alton Estate
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Leading architects have called for action to prevent the demolition of a key building in a landmark post-war housing estate in south-west London

Richard Rogers, David Adjaye and former RIBA president Angela Brady are among the signatories to a letter calling for conservation of Allbrook House and Library in Roehampton.

The structure would be demolished under proposals for the 1959 London County Council Architects Department-designed Alton Estate drawn up for Redrow Homes and due to go to Wandsworth Council for planning consent within weeks.

A bid to have Allbrook House and Library listed was rejected by the government in 2015 and a subsequent review of the decision saw it upheld. But now architects and academics, led by retired designer Kate Macintosh, have again called for further protection for the Corbusian building and the wider Alton West estate.

‘Alton West is without doubt a high point in post-war modern architecture,’ said the open letter.

‘Following 60 years of poor maintenance, it would greatly benefit from love and care, not least better landscaping. We would therefore strongly recommend the conservation of this important complex, including Allbrook House and Library.’

We would therefore strongly recommend the conservation of this important complex

A government spokesperson said a new application to list would have to be made, and Macintosh said this would be best made by The Twentieth Century Society.

A spokesperson for The Twentieth Century Society said it would consider a fresh application should new evidence come to light.

The society said in 2015 that Allbrook House was ’an integral part of the Alton West estate, and a critical part of the whole’.

‘Their exclusion from the conservation area designation has always been illogical; they remain vulnerable and unprotected by heritage designation,’ a spokesperson said three years ago.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Digital, Media and Sport (DCMS) said this week: ‘Having carefully considered advice from Historic England, it was decided that the Allbrook House and Roehampton Library do not meet the architectural or historic interest requirements for listing.’

Historic England listing team leader South Sarah Gibson said: ‘The Alton Estate is internationally renowned for its design and planning and we therefore gave careful consideration to the application to list Allbrook House and Roehampton Library.

‘Allbrook House and the library were built as the last phase of the estate, and were not the main elements of it. The building stands removed from the heart of the estate and has been less successful functionally than other buildings in the scheme. The design intention of the library has been lost through alterations.

‘These factors led us to recommend that the building should not be listed and DCMS agreed with our advice in November 2015.’

Wandsworth Council said it retained its belief that the bid to list the building was ‘an expensive waste of time’.

A spokesman added: A council spokesman said: ’Overall, the regeneration is set to provide approximately 1,000 new homes, including newly built reprovided homes for all council tenants and owner-occupiers on their estate, more council housing, an improved park, more shops, a community hub and new library.’

Studio Egret West in 2014 was selected ahead of Levitt Bernstein, Broadway Malyan, HTA and Tibbalds to land the job of masterplanning the Alton Estate. But the practice this week said it had not been involved since 2015.

Studio Egret West's early plans for Allbrook Square on the Alton estate

Studio Egret West’s early plans for Allbrook Square on the Alton estate

Studio Egret West’s early plans for Allbrook Square on the Alton estate

Hawkins\Brown was subsequently appointed by Redrow last year to take the project forward.

Ricardo Rossetti, planning director at Redrow London, said: ‘Redrow Homes was appointed by Wandsworth Council in January 2017 as the preferred development partner to deliver the Alton Area masterplan.

’The regeneration agreement was signed in June 2017 and Redrow has since been working with the council to build upon the extensive public consultation that had already taken place prior to the adoption of the masterplan and Roehampton supplementary planning document. The feedback we receive during the latest phase of consultation will help inform the development proposals prior to the submission of a planning application in early 2018.’

Hawkins\Brown declined to comment.

Full list of signatories to the letter

Lord Rogers of Riverside

Alan Stanton, Stanton Williams Architects

Edward Jones, Dixon Jones

Tony Fretton, Tony Fretton Architects

Angela Brady, past president of RIBA

Owen Luder, past president of RIBA

David Adjaye, David Adjaye Associates

Peter Clegg, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Keith Bradley, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Peter Aldington

Peter Ahrends

Charles Jencks

Kate Macintosh

Jeremy Till, head of college, Central Saint Martins

Sasha Lubetkin

Bob Giles

Mark Crinson, professor of architectural history

Judi Loach, chair, DOCOMOMO UK

Dr Barnabas Calder, University of Liverpool and trustee of The Twentieth Century Society

Professor Iain Jackson RIBA FSA

Charles Reilly, professor of architecture, University of Liverpool in London

Professor Neil Jackson RIBA FSA

Professor William Whyte, professor of social and architectural history, St John’s College

Professor Murray Fraser, professor of architecture and global culture and vice-dean of research for The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment

Dr ir Dirk van den Heuvel, associate professor, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft Department of Architecture

Dr Eva Branscome, teaching fellow in architectural history and theory, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London

James Dunnett, James Dunnett Architects

Jeremy Dixon, Dixon Jones

Dr Alistair Fair, lecturer in architectural history, University of Edinburgh

Alton West in Roehampton, London. Image Janet Hall  RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Alton West in Roehampton, London. Image Janet Hall RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Source: Janet Hall RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Alton West in Roehampton, London. Image Janet Hall RIBA Library Photographs Collection

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Wandsworth could and should extend the conservation area boundary to include Albrook House, which as Peter Jaimeison says "The original drawings clearly show how important it is as part of the layout both in the way that it terminates the vista and helps to contain the entrance to the estate. This is definitely born out by the reality and its demolition would destroy a pivotal part of the original design."

    Allbrook House appears to be in good condition and the library, although clearly modified is used and together they still appear to perform as they were intended to. Even if they were not so important to the original and present form of the estate they are an asset that continues to have value."

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