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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Pleasure Gardens – Battersea

So suddenly the war ended and all of a sudden the fun began, followed with indecent haste by a wholesale national lack of fun, no fun anywhere no how.

Well why not have a festival, a Festival of Britain!

The south bank of the Thames had once been home to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

Why not put it there or thereabouts.

‘This was always a raucous place, but a temple of the muses too. Under the management of its gifted, quixotic master of ceremonies, Jonathan Tyers, it was perhaps the first public art gallery, hung with paintings by Hogarth and Hayman. The buildings – first Palladian then Gothic and exotic – were splendid and the music inspired. The Vauxhall season was unmissable. Royalty came regularly. Canaletto painted it, Casanova loitered under the trees, Leopold Mozart was astonished by the dazzling lights. The poor could manage an occasional treat. For everyone it was a fantasyland of wonder and pride.’

It was decided there and then, the government would enforce state funded fun!

Programmes were printed and works undertaken.

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Posters were pasted, let the fun begin in Battersea – and all the rest is history.

16 Poster for the Festival Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park

Then just as suddenly the fun was all but blown away, by the chill wind of the incoming Tory Government.

Much to my surprise there are still remnants and  reminders to be found on the site, planting, fountains furniture and sculptural structures abound, restored in 2011 by Wandsworth Council – a timely reminder of a time when we were encouraged to have fun on the rates.

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Lansbury Tower – London

Neither wrought from purest ivory, nor containing some woe begotten, long gone, misplaced Rapunzel, but conceived as a democratic symbol of a new age of concrete, brick and steel.

Frederick Gibberd’s almost triumphal tower interlocks zig-zag diamonds of cast concrete upwards towards a silently clicking clock, at the head of the Chrisp Street Market.

Lewis Mumford wrote of the adjoining Lansbury Estate:  

Its design has been based not solely on abstract aesthetic principles, or on the economics of commercial construction, or on the techniques of mass production, but on the social constitution of the community itself, with its diversity of human interests and human needs.

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I was privileged to ascend the internal staircase, once open to the public – now reserved for high days, holidays and nosey northern interlopers. Having mildly vertiginous inclinations when so inclined, I gingerly went up in the world and leaned out to take the air and the view.

And this is what I saw.

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Lansbury Estate – London

The Lansbury Estate, to the north of East India Dock Road, is the most important, largest and best-known council estate in Poplar. It demonstrates the different trends in post-war council house design and layout. The interest of the estate lies as much, if not more, in the story of its planning and construction, as in what was actually built. This is especially true of its first phase, which formed the basis of the Live Architecture Exhibition in the 1951 Festival of Britain.

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Originally outlined in the 1943 plan for London, replacing the bomb damaged homes of displaced dockers, the estate has weathered well enough, though changes in demographics, the ever greater engulfing tide of gentrification and the containerisation of all ports, brings a fresh set of challenges and changes.

Go east – I visited the V&A Micro Museum, which has become a focus for residents’ and visitors’  memories and projections of a certain uncertain past and future. Arriving by the Docklands Light Railway, I was immediately drawn towards my destination, by the prominent Lansbury Tower, its clock patiently ticking away the time to and from 1951. Welcomed by staff and fellow travellers at the Chrisp Street Market site we began our tour at the heart of the Festival area – further details of which can be found here at Municipal Dreams.

A mix of market, shops, Festival pub, warm cream London brick terraces and low rise, later tower blocks, schools, churches and open grassed communal areas. On a cold and getting colder late winter’s day, a smattering of residents went purposefully about their business.

Life goes on.

Next time everything’s going to be different.

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Balfron Tower London

The Balfron Tower Conservation Area was designated in October 1998 around the two residential blocks designed by Ernö Goldfinger for the London County Council in the 1960s. The Conservation Area boundary protects the listed Balfron Tower and Carradale House, and other buildings in the ‘Brownfield Estate’, including Glenkerry House, a community centre, shops and associated low-rise housing development.

The 27-storey Balfron Tower is Goldfinger’s first public housing project, and a precursor to his better known Trellick Tower in North Kensington. The neighbouring Carradale House and Glenkerry House sit within the landscaped areas developed at the same time. The Brownfield Estate, also known as the East India Estate, is now recognised as a fine example of planned 1960s social housing. Considered to be exemplary examples of the post-war housing schemes, Balfron Tower and Carradale House were listed in 1998 for their cultural & architectural merit.

This was my first visit, to a key building in the short history of modernist post war housing, currently something of a sleeping giant, awaiting Prince Charming’s kiss.

What will it awake to?

Tower Hamlets are mid consultation, as evidenced in this here document.

On an overcast and ever darkening afternoon, the rain cutting in on a chill wind, set against a slate grey sky, its surfaces and volumes were ever so slightly forlorn.

There is much to be done by way of regeneration, with the attendant issues of heritage, funding, gentrification and inevitably who lives where and why?

Everything you may care to almost know is here.

I walked around the area and took these pictures.

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Adolfine Ryland

Adolfine Ryland worked as a printmaker, sculptor, painter and designer. Her practice across these different media was united by her keen-edged, modern style and inventive graphics. She had studied at Heatherley’s and at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art under printmaker Claude Flight. 

Ryland’s main exhibiting venue was the Women’s International Art Club, where she showed from 1927 onwards, becoming a member from 1936 to 1954. She also undertook public commissions, and worked for London County Council designing low reliefs for a number of buildings, among them the School of Butchers and St Martin’s School of Art. Her reliefs for the art school, which still decorate the entrance, show students at work. But Ryland’s work is not always easy to identify as she sometimes signed herself ‘Koncelik’, her mother’s maiden name.

In 1987 the Michael Parkin Gallery in London held an exhibition Printmakers of the 20s and 30s and Adolfine Ryland. On show were Ryland’s paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and designs for book jackets and posters. Amongst them were two designs advertising London Underground, which speak of an optimistic age of efficient, modern public transport to the new suburbs.

It says so here

I was sauntering down Charing Cross Road on Saturday last, minding my own and everyone else’s business, then perchance I chanced upon a series of low reliefs, tucked neatly away in a nearby portal.

The London County College for the Distributive Trades – rightfully adorned with appropriate public art depicting the lasses and lads, going about their very practical business.

These are the work of Adolfine Ryland.

The building is currently in use as Foyles Bookshop.

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Returning home, I did a little online research, turning these examples of her work. As is often the case with those figures considered to be on the margins of the big bad Art World, time and the subsequent neglect, conspire to leave little by way of evidence of their invaluable efforts.

This is our loss.

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Haymans and Coverley Point – Vauxhall

Vauxhall a London borough south of the river, a drained marsh.

– A home to earlier market gardens.

Vauxhall former site of the renowned Pleasure Gardens.

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Vauxhall post war housing development, including two adjacent tower blocks Haymans and Coverley Point. labelled as a concrete jungle home to mainly manual workers, forty percent non-white, amid a mix of Eastern European and Portuguese emigres.

Vauxhall playground of the free-runners, film location and thrill seekers:

Haymans Point is an imposing, concrete, council estate tower block in the north of Lambeth, part of the Vauxhall Gardens Estate, which has an active residents and tenants association. The rooftop is fairly restricted in terms of outlook due to its high walls, but some interesting features are available including atmospheric interior corridors, outdoor walkways and underpasses over public spaces.

They are currently undergoing a transformation from problem area to greener pastures, through a collaborative community regeneration project.

– It’s also giving young Lambeth citizens work experience in the construction industry.

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Vincenzo  got his interest in construction from his Mum, who was a Brixton-based painter and decorator, and his original work experience with London charity Build-it was decorating Lambeth Council blocks in Blenheim Gardens. “I’m fanatical about learning things. I like moving about and in building you’re always somewhere different. Nadine from Build-it said this job would be hard work, so I was right on it”

Two blocks without a chip on their respective shoulders, set in a green sea of history.

Go take a walk in the garden, go take a look.