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Open House London: AJ writers' top housing schemes

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This weekend sees the annual opportunity to visit a selection of the capital’s buildings not usually open to the public. With housing making the headlines, the AJ’s writers highlight their pick of the residential schemes on offer

Richard Waite on Trellick Tower by Erno Goldfinger (1972)

Erno Goldfinger's Trellick Tower

Golborne Road, London W10

It is Brutalism’s poster boy. Erno˝ Goldfinger’s once loathed, now widely appreciated 1972 Trellick tower is recognised far beyond the béton brut fan club. But while the silhouette of the 31-storey west London landmark is famous enough to have made it on to tea towels, the interiors are less widely explored. And they are a surprise. The grey exterior does not prepare you for the vibrant foyers, colour-coded for each floor with their vivid, multi-hued glazing. The homes too in the former council housing block are intriguingly laid out, beautifully detailed and now highly sought after. Some have painted the inside of their pulpit balconies to add yet more colour. A must-see UK version of the Unité d’Habitation.

Will Hurst on BedZED by Bill Dunster (2000-2002)

Bill Dunster's BedZed

Wallington, Surrey

In just over two months’ time a crucial global summit on the future of the environment, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, takes place in Paris. So what better time to visit BedZED? Instantly recognisable thanks to its colourful rooftop wind cowls, the south London eco village opened back in 2002, was nominated for the Stirling Prize the following year and remains an architectural achievement for its bold low-carbon design. Of course technology has since moved on, and Bill Dunster and Peabody’s project didn’t get everything right. But it pushed the boundaries - just as architects need to be doing now.

James McLachlan on Noel Park Estate by Rowland Plumbe (1883)

Noel Park Estate by Rowland Plumbe (1883)

London N22

Designed in the Gothic Revival style by Victorian architect Rowland Plumbe and completed in 1883 by the Artizans, Labourers & General Dwellings Company, Noel Park was one of the world’s first garden suburbs. Sandwiched between Muswell Hill and Tottenham, it was intended as affordable housing for the working class escaping the inner city. Prior to becoming a conservation area in 1982, Noel Park’s brickwork suffered the occasional splattering of pebbledash. But its bones remain sturdy. Composed of five housing types, each with a front and back garden, arranged on a wide streetplan, Noel Park provides respite from the density of north London. It is a welcome reminder of how well we used to build housing.

Ellis Woodman on Stapleton Hall Road houses by Stephen Taylor Architects (2014)

Stapleton Hall Road houses by Stephen Taylor Architects (2014)

London N4

This pair of semi-detached houses in Stroud Green is the latest in a series of projects built by the developer Solidspace to explore the possibilities of the split-section. In past examples, the split has always run parallel to the principal elevation, but here Stephen Taylor has turned the arrangement through 90°, with significant implications for both the interiors and façades. However the project’s interest lies as much in its response to a complex urban situation. The houses’ gabled frontages offer an abstracted restatement of the adjoining 19th-century terrace while the accommodation of the front doors behind dramatically scaled brick arches provides a visual echo of an adjacent railway viaduct.

Owen Pritchard on Pullman Court by Frederick Gibberd (1936)

Pullman Court by Frederick Gibberd (1936)

Streatham Hill, London SW2

At a time when there is a dearth of good quality housing, Pullman Court serves as an inspiring precedent - particularly to young architects. Frederick Gibberd was only 23 years old when the developer William Bernstein commissioned him to design Pullman Court. The three handsome, Bauhaus-inspired, buildings, which sit at the crest of the hill between Brixton and Streatham, contain 218 individual flats arranged around two large courtyards. The arrangement of the three blocks ensures each simple but efficiently designed flat receives plenty of natural light. The project embodies the forward-thinking ideals of a young architect who embraced the emerging technologies of the 1930s.

Flora Neville on World’s End Estate by Eric Lyons and HT Cadbury-Brown (1969-76)

World's End Estate by Eric Lyons and HT Cadbury-Brown (1969-76)

London SW10

Some have said that World’s End Estate, designed by Eric Lyons and HT Cadbury-Brown and completed in the late 1970s, has a romantic appeal, while a contemporary review in the AJ deemed that ‘as a nice place to live in, it fails’. Eric Lyons’ three founding principles in architecture were: community as the goal; shared landscape as the means; and modern, controlled design as the expression. Whether romantic or dismal in aesthetic, the estate still provides 750 units to a socially diverse 2,500 residents, many of whom are profoundly attached to their homes.

Simon Aldous on Dawson’s Heights by Kate Macintosh (1966-72)

Dawson’s Heights by Kate Macintosh (1966-72)

London SE22

Visitors to south-east London’s Horniman Museum may have been intrigued by the vast, undulating, brick structure very visible from the gardens. This is Dawson’s Heights, designed by Kate Macintosh for Southwark Council when she was just 26, and comprising 296 flats, each with its own balcony. The housing is split into two large blocks, their ziggurat forms echoing the hillside location, with the height varying from four to 12 storeys. For those who have admired it from a distance, this is the opportunity to see what it is like as a place to live.

Paul Finch on Adelaide Wharf by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (2008)

Adelaide Wharf by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (2008)

London E2

Of this year’s housing schemes (as opposed to houses), Adelaide Wharf in Hackney is an unusual example of truly mixed occupants and tenures. Designed by AHMM for Elliot Lipton’s First Base, the three-block scheme replaced a redundant factory. The canalside location prompted property consultants to advise that the block overlooking water should be for private occupation, even though north-facing. A housing association block stands between this and the social housing block, which is south-facing and overlooks a public green space. All three blocks benefit from a landscaped courtyard with play facilities. Projecting balconies (engineered by Hanif Kara) complete the picture.

Owen Hatherley on Cressingham Gardens by Ted Hollamby (1976-78)

Cressingham Gardens by Ted Hollamby (1976-78)

London SW2 (Photograph: Single Aspect Blog www.singleaspect.org.uk)

Residents of two threatened low-rise estates designed for the London Borough of Lambeth under Ted Hollamby - Central Hill in Upper Norwood and Cressingham Gardens in Tulse Hill - are opening their doors to enthusiasts this weekend, and both estates are well worth seeing. Cressingham is a good, rigorous estate in rough yellow brick, surprising, informal and friendly. Central Hill is more dramatic; a sublime, sweeping estate of cubic terraces on a magnificent site, both secluded and panoramic. Both are under threat, sitting on potentially lucrative sites, but both are great examples of housing, both strongly Modernist and deeply particular to London.

Alan Gordon on Whitgift Almshouses (1596)



Coming across it unawares for the first time from Croydon’s bustling North End shopping precinct takes you aback: the sudden incongruity, the unexpectedness of glimpsing through its iron-gated stone portico the intact and self- contained living tableau of a Tudor domestic courtyard. Founded as the Hospital of the Holy Trinity in 1596 by archbishop John Whitgift, the great benefactor of Croydon, these Elizabethan almshouses were saved from demolition by Act of Parliament in 1923, and remain a thriving community comprising 15 flats reserved for Anglican residents of modest means. Step back 400 years on one of Saturday’s guided tours.

Laura Mark on Alexandra Road by Neave Brown (1968-79)

Alexandra Estate Camden

London NW8

One of London’s last large-scale council housing schemes, Neave Brown’s Alexandra Road estate is a gem. Every year for Open House one of the flats opens its doors to the public, and I’ve known the queues to go round the block. Everyone likes to have a nosey around someone else’s home - and all the more so when it’s Grade II*-listed. The flat on show maintains many of the original features key to Brown’s vision. Every flat has its own front door, and a private garden. Bedrooms are arranged on the ground floor with living spaces above, divided by large sliding walls. Camden Council’s architecture department had ambition when it built this housing, and this remains clearly apparent as you talk down the estate’s 300m-long curved street. While you’re there, take a look at the newly revamped park in the centre of the estate.

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