Earlier blogs have already looked at 4 submissions from internationally invited architects, this third blog looks briefly at other remaining entries, looking at their proposed designs and main objectives. Let us start by looking at 40 years of growth, starting as ‘immaculate architect deliverd new born babies’, growing out of their original clothes (as intended) and covering their bulging bodies with colourful and attractive garbs to feel good, comfortable and impress others.

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Candilis, Josic, Woods    (France)

The housing structure is a system of walls defining built and open spaces.

There are two different width of bays, smaller one is 2.7m wide, can be entirely covered forming single or two storey accommodation, the wider bay 4.5 m wide, forming courtyard, patios and living accommodation in different combinations to suit immediate and future needs of occupants. The land can be traded off between adjacent owners to suit their particular needs.

The basic units at the start are all of equal size consisting of two small bays and one large one, and come ready with masonry walls, slabs and concrete beams with water  and drainage points and a certain amount of space is enclosed.

The streets serving the dwellings can be orthogonal or diagonal interdisperced with public squares and gardens. Shops can be formed within individual dwellings as happens in existing barriadas.

In early stages of development private cars may be limited to perimeter of the housing area, while service vehicles will use pedestrian ways but these arrangements can be readjusted to suit future car ownership demands.

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Charles Correa   (India)

Correa said that the project grew from the following four objectives:

(1)   Highest possible density commensurate with (2) Individual landownership;

(3) Minimum road and servicing cost; (4) Pedestrian /vehicle separation.

An arrangement of narrow row houses with access at both ends provided the logical answer both to vehicle segregation and minimization of service runs with porches and backyards acting as transition areas between pedestrian and car access and the interior of the houses along diagonal road and footpath routes so as to exploit the prevailing wind for ventilation purposes – aided by airscoopes over the central area of each house – and to achieve optimum orientation with respect to sunlight. Tree planting along pedestrian and service roadways can be employed to modulate sunlight and natural ventilation as well as traffic noise from the central thoroughfare.

The service structure of schools, shops, and church and recreation areas is strung out in a disjointed diagonal moving in the opposite direction to the footpaths and roads. They take the form of the covered shaded areas set in well ventilated clearings and can be easily reached on foot as they can be by vehicle. The shops can be serviced from cul-de-sac service roads. From individual porches one can walk along pedestrian ways until these join the central spine of patios culminating in the central church and shopping area.

There is a single underpass linking both halves of the site across the central area.

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The houses themselves are designed in such a way that they can either be built by their future occupants, with the assistance of the authorities as regards prefabricated elements, subsidies, skilled labour etc.: or they can be completed by the authorities themselves and sold to individual families. The former option would allow greater flexibility and, bearing in mind the efforts have been made to minimize the number of constraints that would be necessary under the circumstances.

Narrow plots resulting in narrow frontages, in architects mind ensured that the façade to be ‘controlled’ was very small and set well back into the porch.

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The short span housing offered considerable structural flexibility which could be exploited by the occupants. Further flexibility was offered by building the first stage development to be on ground floor, incorporating a front porch, living/dining area, bedroom, central patio, bathroom, kitchen and a small service patio at the rear. This was considered sufficient for a young family with one or two children. The future stages could add first floor bedrooms and bathroom.

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Correa’s ‘interlaced’ scheme generated by the saw-tooth configuration of the anti- seismic outer wall is orientated along the axis that is most conducive to natural ventilation. The major changes have been made on the scale of the city block. Individual owners have now aligned their units along the street front.

Without malleability you can not have cultural expression-

all you can get is a top-down notion of how people should live” C.C.

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Esguerra, Saenz, Urdaneta, Samper   (Columbia)

Project tries to create neighbourhoods units with high densities/low rise but individual ownership. This approach also reduces combining services and communications. The supervision of open spaces, security of motor cars, play areas is also assured through this community spirit.

Individual plots are square maximising the flexibility of layouts, reducing party walls, enclosing pedestrian routes with easy access to cars.

There are 20 unit designs available depending on locations within layout, service areas and staircases. The following standard structural components using a 50 cm module are extensively used;

  1. A standard pre-stressed concrete tee beam and accompanying hollow brick infill elements.
  2. Prefabricated concrete lintels and porch section and perforated bricks.
  3. A standard open web steel roof joist with steel support columns to support ‘Eternit’ roof sections.
  4. Standard prefabricated sinks, wcs, washbasins and showers.
  5. standardised water, gas and electricity installations.
  6. Metal doors and window frames and terrazzo stair treads.

PREVIDec12 017altOskar Hansen and Svein Hatloy   (Poland)

Earth banks and areas of planting protect the project from the main traffic route.

This scheme avoids using neighbourhood areas as the scheme avoids the formation of hierarchical structures and offers parallel opportunities for all.

Each single unit is placed in close proximity to a sheltered open space to allow free pedestrian movement and play spaces near homes. These paths/private open spaces are connected with the central servicing zones ensuring a steady pedestrian traffic.

All houses are within ten minutes walk from the central rapid-transit route with adjacent parking areas, services and recreation facilities. Construction is intended to be gradual (north-east corner to south-west) to enable progressive occupation without excessive disturbance.

The dwellings are designed to be built in two stages in variety of ways, the first consist of primary structure, building the prefabricated concrete elements placed by a three-ton crane. The secondary structure stage of completion is carried out by tenants themselves by using lighter elements of clay or concrete blocks, lintels, wall panels, partition, windows, woven fibrous screens and textiles, all capable of assembling in number of combinations to suit occupant’s needs.

The structural walls incorporate storage recesses with doors and ventilation to open air, while shaded areas cool ingoing air.

The open nature of plan still provides acoustically quiet areas in the centre of the house, where the private rooms are situated.

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J.L.Iniguez De Onzono and A.Vazquez De Castro   (Spain)

The site is divided into ten neighbourhoods, each of about 500 dwellings.

A 3 m wide main pedestrian street runs centrally connecting groups of dwellings.

Groups of one-family houses are standard plans around internal and service patios.

Upper floors are planned alongside access alleys. A circular staircase links the two floors.

The structural system of prefabrication provides a series of permanent shuttered elements for poured reinforced concrete (walls, pillar, and beams).

PREVIDec12 019altToivo Korhonen   (Finland)

The main structural grid used is 36m x 36m, derived from practical requirements. The structural grid is separate from the internal module making it independent from internal additions and changes.

The plan of dwelling type is based on a functional separation of service and kitchen spaces, general spaces, and sleeping spaces. This offers maximum flexibility to suit future needs of occupiers who will determine the forms themselves.

The boundary walls of all dwellings are built first. The simplest dwelling thus consists of an undivided space, with water and drainage laid on in the service yard, which at the outset will serve as a kitchen. From this starting point the owner fills in and extends his house. Sanitary and Kitchen fittings are fixed using standard components. Services are grouped to avoid long installation runs.

The structural system has shallow concrete foundation pads, a floor slab resting on the ground and concrete columns and beams, supporting a corrugated asbestos roof.

All basic dwellings are single storey, when the upper storey is required; the original roof acts as shuttering for concrete.

There is no traffic within each developed area, apart from service traffic which penetrates on several wider roads. Parking areas in the first stage are mainly reserved for public buildings.

PREVIDec12 020altAldo E. Van Eyck  (Netherlands)

The urban structure formed by the housing is derived from a clustering principle which operates independently of the dwelling type employed. The plot shape does not correspond to the octagonal shape of the houses, so squares, rectangles, rhomboids and free forms could be employed with equal ease. The chief advantage of the hexagonal house with its low perimeter wall is that it discourages further building by the inhabitants in any direction which would result in the loss of external spaces or internal light a frequent development in self-build barriada housing. In this sense the houses are designed so that further free development cannot work against the best interests of the occupants.

The layout is characterized by thick bands of clustered housing separated by a small number of roads placed as far apart as possible. Each band is six plots deep presenting a wall of houses made up of rows of six and two, or five and three dwellings, to the principle avenue, which is itself developed more or less symmetrically so as to achieve a more monumental character. The access footpaths serving the bands of housing have a more informal aspect which clearly differentiates from the main thoroughfares. Climatic considerations affected this layout as traffic – which is insensitive to climate – runs from east to west, whilst the pedestrian footpaths run south-east to north-west or north-east to south-west so as to take advantage of cooling breezes during the hot summer. Protection from a winter winds is achieved by means of the block staggering shown on the plan.

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The arrangement of paths described above allows the breeze to penetrate deep into each band of dwellings, a process facilitated by the lateral staggering of the houses. Both house types1 and 2 are designed to take advantage of this air movement by permitting through ventilation to all interior and exterior private spaces. The triangular patios discourage building over in the manner described above, so that the achievement of a genuinely urban character – instead of a suburban – can be realized. All schools and service facilities are accessible along the diagonal pedestrian paths whilst a variety of safe play spaces for children, communal lawns, plazas with fountains and other open spaces are grouped at the ends of the footpaths in full view of all houses for security.

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Car parking is provided along the principal avenues and also in certain areas off the footpaths.

In the design of the houses an effort has been made to avoid the appearance of an industrially produced minimum house – which carries with it a stigma not easily overcome by the inhabitants of former barriadas. Instead an effort has been made to build a measure of flexibility into dwellings which can not only interpret traditional and modern living styles but also adjust to different room arrangements corresponding to individual family requirements.

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It would be a grave error if pre-designed and partially pre-constructed urban environments such as this pilot project proposes should counteract the growth and development of the barriada idea and practice, instead of stimulating it through the erection of improved dwelling types, construction systems and overall community planning.”  A.v.E.

Prior to taking part in the competition Aldo van Eyck visited Peru where he observed that in local houses women were at the heart of the home, he placed the kitchen in the centre of the floor plan. He also took a more proscriptive approach to how the owners should expand, creating diagonally walled courtyards to discourage people building on top of them. He failed of course. Outside space is not sacred to a family of eight with another generation on the way.

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One of my favourite photos from Domus shows this combinaton of  sophisticated Danish technology, precision and grace, embellished and enhanced by this proud couple, who met Knud Svensson as they occupied this house they adored from the first day. Architect promised that one day he would come back to build them a first floor extension to match what they liked, but unfortunately that never happened.

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Collective/Community External spaces in PREVI

“Though many years have passed, bearing in mind the premise that Peter Land’s team addressed the influence of each participant throughout the design process, the composition of these elements suggests the contribution of Aldo van Eyck.
This assembly of highly static, geometric abstract objects, their gravity-defying impression of lightness and the sculptured border all recall the playgrounds of post-war Amsterdam designed by Aldo van Eyck for Amsterdam’s Department of Public Works. Van Eyck addressed the issue of interstitial voids and defined space and place, producing interventions that were both numerous and ephemeral. His ambition of creating a space for children that was “more durable than snow” was realized in the desert of Lima.
It is surprising to note how the constant transformation of the housing units distracted architecture reviewers, while the collective spaces attracted hardly any attention. The collective space, immaterial and flowing, is the most determinant and lasting element of the PREVI.” Quote from an excellent dap paper Issue 9 by Marianne Baumgartner on collective spaces. http://www.architecturalpapers.ch/index.php?ID=90

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“EL TIMPO CONSTRUYE! TIME BUILDS” by Fernando Garcia-Huidobra, Diego Torres Torriti and Nichlas Tugas Barcelona 2008. A rather difficult book to get hold of, but I understand most of the Domus graphics and details are attributed to this book

Domus April 2011, report by Justin McGuirk.

Julian Salas & Patricia Lucas from openhouse international vol 37 No 1 ‘The validity of PREVI, Forty years on.

Short description of 3 winning entries (Atelier 5, Kikutake-Kurokawa-Maki and Herbert Ohl), and one entry (Christopher Alexander) supported by a split jury.

Having covered the background of PREVI, a glimpse of the competition Brief and the resulting buildings, with particular reference to James Stirling’s proposals, were explored in my first Blog, now I would like to go through the original winning entries and their progress over last 40 years.

You would recall that the jury chose 3 winning projects from 13 International architects in 1969. Atelier5; Kikutake-Kurokawa-Maki; and Herbert Ohl were the official winners but there was a split in the jury and Centre for Environmental Structure by Christopher Alexander was considered by this jury to be worthy of a winner.

Jury thought that Atelier 5 scheme used an interesting method (possibly economical) of construction using pre-cast concrete panels small enough to be built on site and manhandled for wall and roof construction. They considered that two storey house plan appeared complex with patios and internal spaces. The external communal spaces and separation of traffic was well liked.

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In a recent interview Alfredo Pini of Atelier 5 said that their invitation to PREVI was a result of their successful Halen project. They were full of praise for the aims, objectives and the process of the competition. The implementation of their 25 units took place in accordance with their plans but the distance and complexities made the involvement difficult towards the end. They were pleasantly surprised to see the attention and care given to external public spaces after decades of use.

Pini did not consider the present situation a chaos – “…it is a fine chaos. I have nothing against it – in fact, I positively like it. That is a positive drive…. The extensions and interventions of inhabitants were quite good.”

Kikutake, Maki and Kurokawa and Associates also used pre-cast concrete system with different loadings which also included foundations, again considered well worked out and likely to save costs. House plan grouped service areas with potential of local industry producing equipment/units for Kitchen, Toilets and storage in future.

The external spaces in this scheme also separated cars from pedestrians but some jury members considered the spaces were possibly too extensive for effective use.

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Fumihiko Maki in a recent interview recalls the original brief. The large growing families would reflect the growth of houses, an important metabolist concept. He welcomed the changes to the houses but was concerned about the extra floors being built on modest original foundations in an earthquake zone.

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Herbert Ohl scheme was problematic from start. Design was sophisticated use of extensive large pre-cast elements using complex arrangement resulting in a shell which could accommodate internal changes with ease and flexibility.

There was proposal for an underground ‘service spine and car parking’.

Minority jury disliked Ohl’s scheme and considered it regimented, inhuman and expensive.

The ‘travelling crane’ in their view became a designer rather than a useful tool.

Architect anticipated a democratic interchange between human and technological factors, stimulating multiplicity, flexibility, micro and macro relations; … all using dimensional and functional modules. The mobile crane was able to provide universal frame structure at any time without disturbing the community.

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As feared, the complexity and difficulty of producing even a small part of this scheme failed to be built in the ‘sample’ project constructed under Peter Land’s supervision.

The science fiction approach may have been exciting to explore but was very unrealistic and removed from the objectives of the competition. I am surprised it was one of the 3 schemes chosen as winners.

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Interview by Martanne Baumgartner and Tomeu Ramis, ETH Zurich.

This split jury thought that Christopher Alexander’s proposal was a ‘milestone’ which addressed the brief and Peruvian conditions and produced an imaginative solution for low income housing and offering maximum freedom of individual choice. The praise continued “….a freshness of approach, a commitment to the dignity and worth of individual , a recognition and understanding of the complex linkages between the individual, his family, his belongings, his neighbours and the entire community are implicit in each part of this proposal.”

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The building system uses fewest standard components to provide maximum variety and choice of solutions… the proposed use of bamboo, urethane, and sulphur structural members may not be new or proven but was in keeping with the spirit of this competition.

It is difficult to explain the concepts behind the ‘cell structure’ of the housing layout in this short introduction but it is a fascinating report to study if you can lay your hands on it.

The house layout considers various traditional aspects of Peruvians social/living habits.

The house construction was aimed at using local materials and traditions where possible. The foundations were floating slabs supporting load-bearing walls and a lightweight plank and beam floor/roof. An ingenious interlocking mortar-less concrete-block for wall construction, reinforced with sulphur, with cavity for plumbing and conduits. The planks and beams are made of urethane foam-plastic and bamboo, reinforced with sulphur-sand topping; all are earthquake resistant methods of construction.

Information attributable to the following sources;

AD 4/70, Competition drawings and Thick Walls AD Feb 1968; Domus, April 2011,’ Metabolist utopia’; ‘The validity of PREVI, Lima, Peru, 40 years on’ by Julian Salas and Patricia Lucas.

People who have followed the development of Milton Keynes from its early days could not easily forget the names of these two grids, not only because these were the first few to get published in the architectural press but also because conceptually they were poles apart from each other, despite being neighbours. Their names could roll off the tongue as easily as Laurel and Hardy or Tom and Jerry, but I can assure you that their respective approaches to the  large scale social  housing were very serious but vastly different from each other. These projects continue to present us with the lessons in the housing layouts, renting and buying options, building construction and the resulting  Kaleidoscopic social  conditions these states were subjected to and resulting outcomes on offer now.

The Architectural Journal of 10 December 1975 published an article by Robert Maxwell* titled “Two housing schemes at Milton Keynes”. After considerable deliberation I have decided to quote significant parts of this excellent and uncannily far sighted article, including some of the photographs and diagrams from the same article** and then show the same schemes as these exist now with my own attempted  analysis to the best of ability. I hope that this attempt would  gather enough facts to examine and illustrate the role MKDC architects played in progressing the housing traditions by their own efforts and good patronage. The powers available to them ensured appropriate integration of the infrastructure in and around the housing schemes.

Robert Maxwell when reviewing these schemes in 1975 had a helicopter ride  over the heart of the new city observing its early stages of birth and observed the toy town like housing emerging, varied in shapes and layouts. He anticipated MK’s future to be a city of motor cars served by a network of roads, saying that this gridded road system within the city was likely to neutralise relationships between the individual grids…  each grid was equally accessible, and equally remote. Within each grid reigned a kind of privacy, and a kind of universality…a planning policy leading to dream of suburban bliss…private yet matey, buried in green countryside yet handy to school, clinic and shops. This, he said appears to be what people want, and it is what they will get.

Demand for new housing and need for speedy construction provided an extensive series of test beds of housing forms and layouts, almost to a point of too much choice and making differentiation between good and bad difficult.

EAGLESTONE. Architects; Ralph Erskine with Klas Tahn, Mike Linnett.             Summary of Architect’s account.

  • Attitude and aims. Living in groups from early years help form a coherent society.. avoiding isolation and social problems. A living area must be a complete and vital organism capable of change and growth. Here an attempt has been made to integrate dwell/work/shop/play/relax environments creating a sense of social community. The housing groups are subdivided into recognizable ‘gossip groups’ (30-50 dwellings) around pedestrian streets and squares car courts  with arrival bays community rooms and play spaces. Work places, schools, play spaces and front door contact create activity along main pedestrian streams-strong social lines with urban qualities. These are offset by privacy within the houses and private gardens.

  • Traffic.The 100 per cent car society is unlikely and Eaglestone offers a place where people can live, meet, and prosper away from traffic. A ring road serves the car harbours leaving extensive areas free of traffic for pedestrians.
  • Housing Identity and Layout. The housing is for sale and rent and  has been designed in various configurations to provide individuality and specific characteristics and avoid distinction between rental and private ownership. Existing site features and levels are exploited to provide variety of situations; hilltop, valley, bowl and slope. Houses are intimately grouped around common open spaces which link different areas yet contrast with open public spaces. Particular attention has been given to negate the separation resulting from busy grid roads by linking the housing to the housing on the surrounding grids.
  • Construction. The shortage of traditional building materials and suitable craftsmen during this period and both these schemes were meant to be built using light weight timber frame but these houses were built using brick and blocks. The extensive use of timber boarding is an applied elevational treatment which remains from the original timber frame days. The house types are based on a simple box design modified slightly to suit the siting and  individual desires and to certain extent avoid regimentation.


NETHERFIELD. Architects; Milton Keynes Development Corporation. Design Team; Chris Cross, Jeremy Dixon, Mike Gold, Ed Jones, Jim Muldrew, Don Ritson, Derek Walker, Philip Ware.                                                                                                                                                                                 Summary of Architect’s Account.


50 hectares, rolling farmland site with hedgerows and trees. Net housing site area 27 hectares. Brief asked for 1068 dwellings at a density of 179 bedspaces per hectare with ancillary social, commercial and school buildings.

Labour shortage and need to build quickly meant that  various options, including precast concrete, rationalised  traditional or timber construction were considered and contract for a timber platform frame construction was finally adopted.

Timber frames, including the party walls were bolted down to a power floated concrete slab. Walls were covered in a silver profiled metal sheet and back elevations were timber boarded. The 5 degrees pitch roof was covered in lapped aluminium sheeting. Windows were mostly in timber. A grp full height  cheek is applied to ends of the party wall on public side. acting as a pilaster.

Attitudes and aims.

Certain city ground rules concerning access from grid roads, cordon sanitaire, placement of social buildings, pedestrian underpasses were already in place to follow. The initial studies involved the investigation of ideas to achieve spatial continuity in spite of grid system, but this proved an immutable barrier. On closer examination the housing densities were less relaxed than implied by the master plan and rather than inventing new forms for an imaginary suburbia, the sources that came to mind were more familiar. Also implicit in a scheme of this size was the problem of developing an organisation in which a number of different people at a design stage, and later, could contribute at different scales.

The need for this kind of comprehensible idea underlies the apparent rationalism of the layout.

The following summarise some of our preoccupations:

  • Pattern of streets: the inevitability of the car in the house or on the plot as solution to housing layout, as opposed to Radburn principle with its semi-exclusivity and confusion of the public and private domains.
  • Terrace housing: conventional house plan and with as many variants as possible – fronts and backs; one formal side addressing public space; the Regent’s Park analogy; one side open with possibilities of future extensions; a private garden having a sense of being connected to other open spaces.
  • Landscape: the large scale interplay between informal landscape (existing hedges and trees reinforced by new planting) and the harder geometry of buildings – English landscape tradition. This is further established by the constant roofline , the interplay of which, with the undulating ground plans, begins to offer variety in sections (1-4 storeys) and plan types (there are 17 variants).
  • Repetition; to make the most of the formal collective qualities of social repetition. The straight line of the terrace accentuating the low curves of natural topography; the sum of the parts etc as in the 18th to 19th century street architecture or as in Oud’s little houses at Kiefhook in Rotterdam. We believe it would be premature to evaluate Netherfield fully before the landscape had established itself and the evolutionary process had played its part.

The appraisal is based on Robert Maxwell’s AJ article.

* Robert Maxwell studied at Liverpool University where he met James Stirling and Colin Rowe. He has taught at Bartlett and Princeton, writes extensively, teaches and also practices. The part two of this Blog will deal with the environmental choices faced by each scheme as perceived by Robert Maxwell and finally the role ravages of time played on both schemes.

** Black & White photos from the same article as above by John Donat.


The Camberwell Borough Council architect’s department did some very innovative work on high density housing in early 60s, well  before the ideas of environmental design movement were established by Oscar Newman in his “Defensible Space” in 1972 and further researched by Alice Coleman in “Utopia on Trial” in 1985.

The Acorn Place development, later became known as Dene Wood, was one of the most significant high density project built in early 60s. It was highly influential and possibly anticipated different outcome from low and high rise units, avoided ‘putting all the eggs in the same basket’ by producing this mix of high and low density housing, which also respects the local surroundings. The plans and the old b&w  photo here are abstracted from an article published in AD in December 1963. Original photos taken by me in early60s and a recent revisit produced the latest photographs used here for comparison purposes and to trace the evolving progress of the social housing.

I was there like a shot looking at these new forms and magical spacestransforming deprived areas of London in early/mid 60s. The warmth of red clay tiles and stained timber joinery with silver birches in the courtyards have stayed with me all this time.

Recently I saw images of higher blocks of this scheme in bad state of repairs on Flickr, describing this project as ‘Dene Wood’ and talk of its possible demolition, which was confirmed soon after wards. The news of premature demolition of housing projects, particularly from 60s, is hardly a surprise these days. However, the possible loss of the courtyards which impressed me so much as a young student,  was a bit more difficult to swallow.

The Google Earth indicated that the old carpet pattern of low hosing formed around courtyards was still there and some of my Flickr contacts offered me further help, eventually a special visit to this area became too tempting for me to ignore.

As all camera pointing’ building spotters’ know, the act of pointing a camera these days is considered an aggressive act and the pictures you see here were taken in a great hurry and the game of ‘spot the difference’ took place in front of the computer screen at home.

The initial shock of seeing the bare site where the high rise housing once stood was followed by relief of seeing the ‘carpet’ courtyards still standing, more or less intact and still covered in red clay tiled vertical cladding.

The biggest and almost predictable change was reduction of shared/common spaces in the courtyards to the bare minimum, which is just a sufficiently wide footpath providing access to the front and back garden of the houses.  The second detectable change was the complete exposure of external staircases providing access to the upper units and denying hiding spaces to intruders. The growth of TV dish antennas  has become too common to even register.

The detailed comparison at home indicated wholesale changes to the timber screens and window design which have been replaced with less quirky and more traditional design carried out with some sensitivity.

The fate of this and other local authority housing schemes must be seen in context with gradual disintegration of architects and property services departments in these offices. Some of these offices with record of brilliant architectural out-put, suddenly found themselves with almost no architects. The close co-operation between teams preparing housing briefs, choosing suitable tenants,  normal maintenance  and making the necessary changes to meet the changing requirements, became disjointed and sometimes disappeared altogether. A continuous  inter-professional pride and involvement in looking after the building stock and the tenants, disappeared and resulting fragmentation started a ‘self-destruct chain reaction’ which is still going strong.

The lessons may well be obvious  for all to see. The repeated failure of high level communal corridors for social housing at these densities are well recorded. The avoidance of communal spaces, and provision of visually supervised defensible spaces,  in accordance Newman/Coleman have repeatedly improved the ailing estates.

However, I wonder the impact of this strict distribution of private gardens and minimal footpaths to get to these resulting in almost total elimination of communal spaces is likely to have on future generations. Future generations growing here would have been denied the experience of sharing and enjoying the spaces adjacent to their houses  and understand the responsibilities of taking care of these communal assets.

I would like to draw your attention to a fairly low key social housing scheme, designed in mid 60s by Fredrick MacManus & Partners for Westminster City Council. I consider it as an important and successful urban renewal scheme of its time, which was very cleverly slotted in existing 18th century pattern of streets and with out any ‘gimmicks’, got on with the job of providing high density practical housing with  ‘Rossi-like’ dignity.

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I feel intelligent hands of Michael Gold, a member of the design team, are evident in the design process. The underground car parking under the housing and commercial blocks slots in comfortably and appears to work well (although I have no direct proof of this) and fits in the street pattern successfully. To see enlarged plans see this link;

http://www.flickr.com/photos/iqbalaalam/3816822459/

The 6 storey housing rectangular block has a calm private defensible green space in the middle, reflecting other squares in this area. The adjacent triangular block consists of commercial accommodation responding to the street demands.

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It seems a pity that new windows and cladding has undermined the original simplicity of the residential block like umpteen other recent ‘improvements’.

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The diagrams and the following quotation are taken from AD of Sept 1967.

“The building reflects an awareness of its context in its scale and in the way the accommodation has been organized to make a place particular to the dwellings around it. It also contains the implication that it is possible to revalidate areas within the existing street framework, with new buildings which generate active relationship with what exists.”

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