Chapter 1 of 24
Fleet Road, North-West London. Aerial View
The work that I'm going to be showing you, is, altogether, housing; and it relates to mainly London, and English local authority housing, and it ends up with a small scheme that I did in Italy. The theme, I suppose, has to do with the nature of objects which you put in cities, these elements of housing are objects, but they're objects in particular places, and they have to belong to those places. So there is a very strong idea of context, not just the physical one of the place where the houses are, but a cultural one because the pursuit of the idea has been to integrate ideas of modernity, and freedom, and equality, and all of those things, with a respect and a regard for an ongoing culture.
So the housing which I'm showing is exactly, and explicitly, London and England and British modernism because the culture it is belonging to is English. But, despite that, there are obviously ideas which pertain particularly, to the European city, but maybe even to urban ideas in general.
The first of the schemes that I will be showing you is Fleet Road, in the Camden Town area of north central London. And it's a small scheme because it's about seventy eight dwellings, and it forms a solid block, a rectangle, that entirely fills its site. And all around the scheme, when we started it, on two of the adjoining sides, were Victorian and Edwardian typical London terraced housing, and on the other side, the edge of a large area which was also post-war housing down by Camden. But the characteristic of them was that they were blocks of building on open sites.
But Fleet Road, in a way, is a critique of that, because unlike them, the rectangle of the site, which was created by the planners, is solidly filled by the block building, so that all its floor sides constitute frontages, either onto streets or walkways, and the building is low, and continuous, and solid within that. And therefore, despite its differences, it has a characteristic fit with the traditional English housing from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; certainly working class housing of the late industrial revolution period.
The other aspect, quite apart from this notion of buildings in place, that is of great importance to me, is the relationship between the, the private dwelling, the plan of a private dwelling, within itself, and then the way it fits into a public scheme. You can say that there is a tremendous transition at the front door between the private world and the public world. That was certainly the characteristic of the old working class street.
This is different, because I prefer to think of things as having change of meaning between public, and semi-public, semi-private and private; in order that the dwelling itself, and the whole life, which is private, can have interval between it, and the public realm, which constitutes a small group with varying degrees of communality. The reason why this is important is that the densities we're working at, and with the motor car, and with a variety of other factors, I think we have to structure our environment in a different way from the traditional one.
So, if you look at this photograph, you will see there are basically three blocks of building, with green areas in between. And, round the outside, there are these flat frontages, which are similar to the sort of frontages you'd expect in nineteenth century housing.