Pictured above: Winchfield House, Alton West, Roehampton, by the LCC Architect’s Department; designed in 1952-3, built in 1955-8. Grade II* listed.
By popular demand, we have made our maisonette postcards by Thaddeus Zupančič now available to buy.
Thaddeus is a Slovenian-born writer, translator and photographer. He has lived in London since 1991. For the first 14 years he worked as a radio producer with the BBC World Service. On his Instagram account @notreallyobsessive he is now about one third through his project, London Modernism 1946-1981, which documents modernist council estates in the capital. He is also a volunteer with us and manages our Instagram account @c20society.
Wooley House, Loughborough Estate, Lambeth, by the LCC Architect’s Department; planned and designed from 1952, built in 1956-8.
Golden Lane Estate, City of London, by Chamberlin, Powell & Bon for the Corporation of London; design won in competition in 1952, built to revised designs in 1954-6. Grade II listed.
Sulkin House, Greenways Estate, by Denys Lasdun of Fry, Drew, Drake & Lasdun for Bethnal Green Borough Council; designed in 1952-3, built in 1955-8. Grade II listed.
Ladlands, Dawson Heights, Dulwich, by Kate Macintosh of the Southwark Department of Architecture & Planning under F.O. Hayes; 1966-72.
Below is an excerpt of a guest blog post about London’s Modernist Maisonettes that Thaddeus has recently written for John Boughton’s Municipal Dreams blog:
On Sunday, 23 January 1955, Margaret Willis, a sociologist in the Planning Division of the Architect’s Department of the London County Council, gave a broadcast on the BBC Home Service programme Home for the Day.
The eight-minute talk was titled My Job. Willis explained that a sociologist is a ‘sort of liaison officer between people like you, the housewives, and the Council’s technical men and women who make the plans in the drawing office’. One of their ideas, she explained, was to build ‘a compromise between a house and a flat, it’s a four-storey building like a house on top of a house’. The main benefit of these buildings was the attached gardens, but there was also something else: ‘People prefer this type of building to a flat because they like going upstairs to bed.’
Such ‘houses on top of houses’ – known as maisonettes because of their split-level plan – were not a complete novelty.
The first modernist maisonette block in London was Brett Manor in Brett Road, Hackney, built in 1947-8. It was designed by Edward Mills for the Manor Charitable Trustees.
Brett Manor was swiftly followed by Powell & Moya’s Bauhausian low-rise blocks at Chruchill Gardens in Pimlico (designed from 1946, built in 1947-51), which were the first modernist maisonettes built by any London council, in this case Westminster.
Margaret Willis’s employer was not far behind. Already in the early 1950s, as Elain Harwood points out, a group at the LCC Architect’s Department, worked on ‘an efficient maisonette plan, which they then cast into ten-storey slabs, built at Bentham Road, Hackney, at Loughborough Junction, Lambeth, and, most impressively, the Alton West Estate, Roehampton.’ (The Gascoyne Estate in Hackney was built in 1952-4; the Loughborough Estate in 1956-8; and the Alton West Estate in 1955-8.)
The last two estates featuring predominantly maisonettes were Benhill Grounds by the Sutton Architect’s Department under Peter Hirst (1978-9), and the GLC’s Odhams Walk (1979-81) in Covent Garden. That these two schemes should have been the last – mostly because of the 1980 Housing Act and its consequences – is a shame, because maisonettes are arguably the greatest housing gift that modernist architects bequeathed to London. They were – and rightfully remain – popular ‘because they gave greater privacy and the sensation of being in a house’, as Elain Harwood explained.
Not to mention the fact that Londoners like going upstairs to bed…
Only £ 7.00