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There was a time when the [London] borough or shire would employ their own architects, quantity surveyors, civil engineers, clerk of works and direct labour force and just get on with it.  In London of course it would have been the LCC and later [from 1965] the GLC. Those days may have gone in most cases but we need them back.

Heygate – in response to Dave Hill

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Zeilenbau orientation

December 8th, 2016

On reading Lewisham, the Notopian future of London by Owen Hatherley the other day, I was struck by this sentence.

“This particular part of the development is darkened by the canyon-like effect of tall blocks looming over a narrow service road, something avoided by postwar council estates, what with their green space and carefully arranged orientation to the sun.”

The estate that comes most quickly to mind and probably to any member of the C20th Society or DocomomoUK is Churchill Gardens by Powell and Moya.

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Google Leeds tower blocks The Parade – images

A few years ago Urban Splash bought two derelict council housing blocks which were due for demolition, at Richmond Hill in Leeds. During the “deep retrofit” (partial demolition) the project stalled and Kickstart funding was required to restart it.

Urban Splash stripped the blocks back to the concrete skeleton retaining the lift and staircase cores, then doubled the density by refitting the blocks with over 400 single aspect flats disregarding the original layout of over 200 dual aspect flats.

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The benighted dwellings 910 and 1008 will receive their only sunlight for a few minutes a day to the bedroom – providing the sky is not overcast


The other day I received an email. Here’s a paragraph from it.

“Thank you for your enquiry with regards to a new development in Manchester called One Regent provided by Fulcrum. It would be good to have a chat at some point to understand your requirements for investment as there is a lot of stock we can provide direct from the developer with no fees attached.”

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Petra – Jordan

November 26th, 2016


If you can afford to go, go. The Guardian article is right. Don’t take the donkey ride (unless you can’t walk), walk through the Siq because that will provide the long walk you need to get acclimatised to the environment. The Siq winds – you don’t see the Treasury until the end and its appearance around a corner is astonishing.

I was lucky enough to go there in 1990 but don’t expect it has changed much – and quiet is good. If the Syrian war has put people off then fine. I certainly wouldn’t want to be there when it’s crowded.

And yes. It really is that colour. It’s beautiful.

He was one of four speakers and a chair, and his talk was such a good summary of what has happened to council housing under New Labour and since that I have transcribed it, with the help of YouTube (upload, wait, download captions), below:-

Okay I’m going to start somewhat differently I’m not really going to talk about the architecture I’m not going to talk about the estates, in a way the concept of a council estate is epiphenomenal to really the fundamental key aspect of what we’re dealing with. The key aspect for council housing for me is that it’s a part of the welfare state.

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Slum clearances without the Socialism” – Owen Hatherley


I was reading the Guardian online today. This to be specific. Building affordable homes for rent is more vital than new roads then in the comments I found this . . .

Myra Fuller Dikericay

If you look at towns such as Burnley and Blackburn, the infrastructure is already there. 1,000s of two up/two downs have been bulldozed in recent years; some have been replaced by new housing however roads bounded by knee rails are all that’s left of others.

. . . and opened Google Earth. I found nothing in Burnley but then in Blackburn, this.

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UPDATE: Read Heygate profits north of a hundred million by

HT @adjournist retweet

This interview has triggered thoughts I’d tried to bury about the entitlement of leaseholders to be treated as fairly as secure tenants on a council estate, complicated by the fact I detest right to buy but count two leaseholders (second generation) among my friends. I will attempt to unravel the interwoven threads of the conflict with reference to the comments of Peter John in the interview linked above.

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Modular construction – notes

November 17th, 2016

This isn’t an article, it’s two links and a few thoughts. I found a KPMG paper today on modular construction and a linked one from Design for Homes.

Smart construction report 2016 – KPMG

Modular Steel – Design for Homes

Brief references to the whole subject would be the (unintended) extended life of World War II prefabs, designed for ten years some of which have lasted sixty years. The present and ongoing housing crisis. The shortage of skilled tradespeople in the construction industry, the need for a lot of housing, quickly, all over the UK.

In some minds prefabricated housing is still hampered by memories of Ronan Point in 1968 but that was an entirely different house of cards, the system was used way above its intended height and the bolts were left out or not properly connected.

A quality architectural image was critical to the client in order to overcome the possible utilitarian perceptions often associated with system-build housing. – Murray Grove

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Like many other London events I don’t get to, I had a ticket for this, it looked interesting, and now the Royal Academy have posted the video. So if, like me, you couldn’t get there the recording is here to watch:-

From left to right

Kate Macintosh – Architect, formerly of the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, and East Sussex and Hampshire County Councils; designer of Dawson’s Heights, East Dulwich (1964–72)

Dawson’s Heights – my walk with C20th Society

Mark Crinson – Professor of Architectural History, Birkbeck, University of London

who spent twenty minutes being rude about the Smithsons. He made no attempt to hide the fact that he doesn’t like RHG or the people who designed it. Watch the debate and decide for yourself.

The Smithsons on housing – watch the film and see what you think

The Smithsons – transcript

Owen Hopkins – Architecture Programme Curator, Royal Academy (chair)

Jessie Brennan – Artist; author of Regeneration! Conversations, Drawings, Archives & Photographs from Robin Hood Gardens (2015)

Dr Paul Watt – Reader in Urban Studies, Birkbeck, University of London

An excellent history of council estates from right to buy to the present day