IMGHousApr08_0011alt

I took some slides of these houses in mid 70s while looking at modern buildings in Bristol area. Two of my slides have been on Flickr for a while and I am surprised to find that these are still proving interesting to people. I discovered an old AJ article about these houses and thought that the background information including hinted idealism (a rarity these days) may even inspire somebody else to take up the baton in the 21st century.

AJ published a little article in their 12April 1972 issue by Douglas Frank. The following plans and words are abstracted from there.

“The firm describes itself and its work in its sales brochures in these words; ‘Artist Constructors Ltd was formed in 1968 with the sole objective of creating buildings of a very high architectural quality. The company only undertakes projects where it is able to control the design and production, ensuring that design ideas are worked through to the completed building. Its staff have studied architecture and town planning in Finland, Russia, Denmark, Holland, France, Italy and UK. Each site is carefully considered on its merits, and individually designed to integrate with the environment. The Parker Morris Commission’s recommendations on building standards and heating are always followed.

BristolPlans

Plansalt

The company believes that the recommendations provide the minimum acceptable standards, and aims to increase these throughout its developments. Great attention is paid to the needs of individuals or individual families, the Serge Chermayeff’s six basic points on privacy, set out in his book Community and privacy, are observed in relation to the general siting and arrangement of space in each house. The company is pleased to select or advise on all internal fittings and furnishings, and also provide landscaping services where required.’

IMGHousApr08_0012i

The firm’s achievements have been remarkable; not least because most of the design work has not been carried out by architects. The planning, overall form, and detailing of their schemes have been under the direct control of Tim Organ, the builder, and his brother Bob Organ who is an artist and lecturer in the history of architecture. Local architects have been involved, but mainly for the production of working drawings and details to suit Organ brothers’ requirements.

Tim Organ also makes it clear to the planning committees that he will go to appeal rather than compromise. His powers of persuasion with planning committees and clients have clearly been considerable. Dedication and determination of this sort are rare enough anywhere and for them to be found in the private business today is particularly heartening.

If this thorough breakdown of barriers between the skills of all staff in office continues, even on a small scale, it will mark a welcome advance in house-building management; taking us a few steps beyond the achievements of Span and pioneering involvement of another artist, Victor Pasmore, on the design of housing at Peterlee.”

The above was written in 1972 and since we stopped hearing about Artist Constructor Ltd and their projects, we can only assume that sadly, their dream did not come true. Today I only know of Thomas Heatherwick as a sole surviving artist still prepared to tackle engineering, artistic and architectural ventures mostly against great odds but often producing exciting results.

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.

IMGCoffeeHallGoldalt

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.

LasdunJan09 043alt

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

LasdunJan09 047alt

LasdunJan09 048alt

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.”

LasdunJan09 045alti