Category: Open House

Cressingham Gardens, London SW2

Cressingham Gardens
Tulse Hill SW2
Low-rise leafy estate located next to beautiful Brockwell Park noted for its innovative design, incorporating pioneering architectural elements and echoing the natural topography.
Architect: Ted Hollamby
Year Built: 1967–78

This South London low-rise estate is a real grower. First impressions aren’t overwhelmingly positive (it has fallen into slight disrepair in parts) but on closer inspection there are numerous features which lift this far above the average South London estate.

For starters, the setting next to Brockwell Park and the arrangement of the buildings around a cluster of three green mounds, is quite beautiful. The estate was designed to echo the natural topography (i.e. the tops of the low-rise buildings are the same height or shorter than the trees so from a distance, the estate cannot be seen at all) and the buildings themselves, with their stepped structures and jutting balconies, are not dissimilar to those on the celebrated Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate. The estate is unusually green and there does seem to be a genuine sense of community amongst the residents.

There are a number of different property types on the estate ranging from one bedroom flats to four bedroom maisonettes. Judging from the properties that I visited, room sizes are generous, layouts have been designed to benefit from the views of the park and many of the properties incorporate multiple levels and small gardens. The overall impression is that everything has just been really well designed with the residents of the properties in mind.

It is therefore a great shame that there are very real plans for the whole site to be ‘regenerated’ next year. I cannot imagine that the development replacing Cressingham Gardens will be so well designed.

Golden Lane Estate, London EC1

Golden Lane Estate
Bayer House EC1Y
Part of Golden Lane Estate which was the first public housing to be listed. A maisonette with many of the original detailing and finishes.
Architect: Chamberlin, Powell & Bon
Year Built: 1957

I think my love for the Golden Lane Estate has surpassed my love for the neighbouring Barbican Estate. This may have something to do with the fact that I have come to accept that I will never be able to afford to buy anything on the Barbican Estate (over £500k for the smallest studio nowadays) whereas the dream of living in the Golden Lane Estate seems ever so slightly more within reach (the author of Modernistestates.com has just listed her very nice, well laid out studio for a sensible £380k – see http://www.modernistestates.com/post/97639180610/studio-flat-cullum-welch-house-golden-lane-estate )

It occurred to me on this visit that the buildings comprising the estate are all really quite different looking to one other yet have enough features in common for the estate to tie together as a whole. The injection of colour into the external walkways, window frames and doors also gives the place a slightly less gloomy feel than the wall-to-wall grey concrete of the Barbican Estate. The communal areas are all immaculately kept and there’s a pool in the centre of the estate, housed in a modernist-looking flat-roofed building.

The flat pictured below is part of Bayer House, a series of split-level maisonettes stacked on top of each other in a red, grey and brick coloured building. The ground floor is comprised of the living room and separate kitchen. Stone, wall-mounted steps jut out of the wall into the living room and lead upstairs to two bedrooms and the bathroom. The living room faces out onto a leafy porch and the grounds and the staircase is lit by a double-height window that also opens out onto the porch.

This flat provides the perfect setting for the owners’ mid century furniture (though I got the impression that they had bought it all the first time round and selected so well that their home still looks contemporary today).

I think this is my dream home.

Perronet House, London SE1

Princess Street, Elephant and Castle SE1
Purpose-built council block with scissor construction flats with spectacular views of Elephant & Castle roundabout. Commended in 1971 Good Design in Housing Awards
Architect: Sir Roger Walters
Year Built: 1970

Perronet House, the expansive concrete block that looms over Elephant and Castle roundabout, is a familiar sight to anyone who has the pleasure of commuting via SE1. Even though it’s a bit gloomy, boxy and sludge-coloured, I’ve always suspected that the interiors of the flats might be interesting due to the sheer number of large windows which span across the building almost without interruption.

Having been inside, the flats are even more unusual than I expected. The two flats that I visited were split over three levels (living room/kitchen on one level, bathroom and toilet on a central landing and then two/three bedrooms on the third level) connected by a series of staircases with a main entrance and back door at each ‘end’ of the property. The living rooms have those aforementioned large windows which face out onto a surprisingly impressive view of the roundabout.

A recently sold flat with this sort of configuration went for £350,000, which seems like good value for the size and location. On the downside, the communal areas are a bit harrowing (a cross between a multi-storey carpark and a prison) and there’s always the threat of a big ‘regeneration’ project with a slightly dilapidated block like this…

Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, London NW8

Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate
Rowley Way NW8
The last large social housing complex in London – a low-rise, high-density enclave. Terraced housing reinterpreted. Listed Grade II* in 1993.
Architect: Neave Brown
Year Built: 1968–79

To use a clichéd expression, this estate really is a concrete jungle. The exposed concrete is looking a little stained these days and many of the tenants seem to like using the balconies as dumping grounds but the stepped structure and the amount of foliage means that the overall effect is still impressive.

The photos below are of a small split-level two-bed with the bedrooms and bathroom on the lower level and an open plan living area upstairs, almost half of which consists of a very large balcony. A sliding door separates the (original and very brown) kitchen/diner and the living room. The flooring is an interesting mixture of cork, woven mats and wooden slats and there are high quality wooden features (staircase, panelling) throughout.

I’ve heard that it’s difficult to get mortgages on this estate due to the concrete structure of the buildings and local authority status but judging from recent listings, this flat would still probably be valued at about £375,000-400,000.

Highpoint, London N6

Highpoint
North Hill, N6
Grade I listed Modernist apartment blocks
Architect: Lubetkin & Tecton

A spectacular modernist apartment block split into ‘rich side’ and ‘poor side’ wings. To give an idea of scale, both wings are approximately the same size but whilst the ‘poor side’ houses 60 flats, the ‘rich side’ houses 12. That said, the ‘poor side’ flats are still extremely attractive with some interesting features such as as the original wall-to-wall concertina living room windows. A quick look on themodernhouse.net suggests that a two-bed on the ‘poor side’ is worth around £850,000. I really wouldn’t like to imagine how much the split-level, double-height, 4-bedroom behemoth on the ‘rich side’ (pictured below) is worth…

The gardens are extensive, perfectly manicured and contain a secluded swimming pool and tennis courts. I wouldn’t expect anything less for £15,000 pa in maintenance fees (figure courtesy of themodernhouse.net)…