The Twentieth Century Society

100 Buildings 100 Years

1958: Hallgate, London

Type: Housing
Architect: Eric Lyons/Span
Location: Blackheath Park, London, SE3 9SG

The estates built by the developer Span from the 1950s to the 1980s seem like precious things indeed: a developer, working in another time of massive housing need, which built beautifully-designed, affordable, sharply contemporary homes. These are Arcadian estates designed with light social engineering, not so as to cajole you into getting to know your neighbours, but, in that phrase so loved by politicians today, to nudge you.

At Hallgate, a block of 26 flats, this takes a simple form: having your front door opposite your neighbour’s, sharing ownership of the freehold and basic facilities such as the gardens, the bin store and the shed for bikes and prams. It’s not exactly post-revolutionary USSR. But it’s enough. Inside, the flats are designed simply but with an eye to how we were starting to live our lives in late 1950s Britain on the edge of prosperity: space is maximised in the main living room/dining room/kitchen sequence, minimised in the bedrooms and bathrooms; the windows are large, but, with cross ventilation, the rooms keep cool. Materials are affordable and ordinary – concrete, painted brick, weatherboarding – but beautifully detailed. The landscaping is pretty but easy enough for the residents to maintain.

None of this is exceptional. The fact that it is speaks volumes about British housing.

by Tom Dyckhoff

Listing description