Posted: Tuesday, December 25th, 2012
I’m a big fan of British 50’s / 60’s housing blocks. I know they get a lot of stick these days, but they seem to be slowly coming back in fashion again, in a similar was to how no-one liked Art Deco housing in the early nighties but now they do. Asides from the aesthetics they have, I like the fact that the best examples (or rather, all of them except the very worst) had a very strong idea behind them – generally they were an effort to bring Utopian living into cities or in Span Developments case, to provide young homeowners a high quality house within a community, incorporating innovative landscaping schemes at their heart – “Homes within a Garden”.
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Span was formed in the late 1948 by Eric Lyons, Geoffrey Townsend, Leslie Bilsby and (later) Ivor Cunningham. Townsend actually had to quit RIBA to pursue his work with Span as, at the time, RIBA rules restricted architects from being developers as well. They went on to create 75 new estates in London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Cambridgeshire. From the outside, the buildings can look fairly typical of 60’s housing (their style was copied a number of times by less scrupulous designers), but it’s the attention to detail, ethos, landscaping and size and layout of the living spaces that set them apart.
Park Gate in Hove was one of their developments and I was asked to head down there and photograph it ahead of some renovation work that will be going on there. I’ve been keeping my eye on Park Gate for some time now, as I’d love to live there. One day….