Lillington Gardens Estate – Pimlico

Formerly an area of high density terraced housing.

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Lillington Gardens is an estate in the Pimlico area of the City of Westminster, London, constructed in phases between 1961 and 1980 to a plan by Darbourne & Darke. The estate is now owned and managed by City West Homes.

The estate was among the last of the high-density public housing schemes built in London during the postwar period, and is referred to as one of the most distinguished. Notably, seven years before the Ronan Point disaster ended the dominance of the tower block, Lillington Gardens looked ahead to a new standard that achieved high housing density within a medium rather than high-rise structure. It emphasised individuality in the grouping of dwellings, and provided for private gardens at ground and roof levels.

The estate’s high build quality, and particularly the planted gardens of its wide roof street, blend sympathetically with the surrounding Victorian terraces.

The estate’s high quality design was acknowledged by a Housing Design Award 1961, Ministry of Housing and Local Government Award for Good Design 1970, RIBA Award 1970 and RIBA Commendation 1973. Nikolaus Pevsner described it in 1973 as “the most interesting recent housing scheme in London”.

The site surrounds the Grade I listed Church of St James the Less, built in 1859–61. The entire estate, including the church, was designated a conservation area in 1990.

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Lillington and Longmoore Gardens Conservation Area Audit

On the day of my visit, London in the grip of a July heatwave, the open areas, narrow alleys, byways, steps, stairs and roof gardens and play area were largely empty, citizens preferring the cooler interior environment of their homes.

The materials, warm brown brick and sheet-metal cladding, form complex interlocking shapes and volumes, creating a variety of heights and spaces. This makes exploration and navigation of the estate quite an adventure, disorienting at first, until one grasps an overall sense of the development’s structure.

Lillington Gardens provides homes, community, green space and an exciting range of vistas, a prime example of social housing on a human scale. Leafy glades, light and shade, grassy knolls abound.

Municipal Dreams for further reading.

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