Open House 2017: Highgate

Posted on September 20, 2017 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

omved gardens

Highgate's hidden gem – Omved gardens

 

Honestly, I am finding it harder to enjoy London these days, and it is partly due to the city being overcrowded. The worst time is June and July when tourists and school children from abroad flock over here – it is a nightmare. September used to be pleasant, but not anymore. Once upon a time, the Open House weekend used to be a well-kept secret, but now it has become a major event in London where every ticketed events are sold out weeks in advance.

Hence I decided to focus on neighbourhoods outside of zone 1, hoping that I would not have to spend hours queuing or being turned away when I arrive. On day one, I headed up to Highgate village to visit a well-hidden and delightful Omved gardens, which is not normally open to the public.

 

omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens

 

A few years ago, the sloping site of a former garden centre was bought by developer Omved International hoping to convert the site into luxury homes, but locals protested and the council later rejected the plans (thank god!). Later, London-based architectural firm Hasa Architects was hired to transform the six derelict glasshouses into a multi-functional events venue.

This garden project aims to explore the possibilities of a forgotten piece of land, and how it could be rejuvenated. It was a collaboration between architects, structural engineers, landscape architects, artists, artisans and craftsmen; and the result is very impressive. Besides the glasshouses, the community garden is lovely as well, and it offers a nice view of the local area.

 

omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens  omved gardens

A temporary exhibition at the Omved garden focusing on the architecture in Highgate and the planning and building process of the garden

 

Built in only 6 weeks, the architects have retained the frame and construction of the original building. They used birch plywood panels for the platforms, joinery and walls for the space, as well as sliding doors, while the original metal frames and glazing of the structures have been restored.

The truth is that London actually has a lot of derelict buildings and lands, but instead of regenerating these wastelands, the local councils and property developers are constantly gentrifying areas in London that do not require it. I think London desperately needs more innovative projects like these rather than the current social cleansing projects that are ruining the city and pushing out poor Londoners from their homes.

 

highgate school

The nearby Highgate School

 

My second destination was 8 Stoneleigh Terrace in Highgate New Town, a social housing estate that I have always been curious about every time I passed by it. In recent years, I became interested in London's post-war social housing, and I have visited several estates at the Open House in the past like the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, Golden Lane estate and Balfron Tower. If we could ignore the grim and untended concrete exterior, we would pleasantly surprised by the functional and thoughtful layout and designs of these buildings. Do not judge a book by its cover. I think the demise of the English social housing scheme (and NHS) is quite tragic because some of the architects and planners behind these projects were visionaries and pioneers who made a difference during the difficult post-war period.

 

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  retcar place

stoneleigh terrace

 

Located next to Highgate Cemetery, 8 Stone Terrace – within the grade II listed Whittington Estate – was designed in the 1970s by the architect Peter Tabori (who used to work for Ernö Goldfinger) during Camden Council’s ‘golden age’ of progressive social-housing development under Borough architect Sydney Cook. Inspired by architect Neave Brown's designs for Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, and has a similar ziggurat-style exterior.

The estate is also know as Highgate New Town stage 1, and like most housing estate at the time, concrete was used as the main material. There are 273 dwellings, varying from one-bedroom two-person flats to six-bedroom eight-person houses. Due to overspending (4 times the original estimate) at this estate, therefore the houses at Stage 2 and 3 of the estates nearby were assigned to Bill Forest and Oscar Palacio with less flattering exteriors.

 

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

 

Our host/resident at the estate gave us a tour around the estate and provided us with fascinating history and information about it. Being a musician, his home is filled with Scandinavian mid-century furniture and decor that look harmonious with the modernist style flat. Interestingly, the entrance leads to first floor where the living room, kitchen and terrace are situated, while the bedroom, study and another terrace are located downstairs on ground/road level. Although the flat is not very big, the heedful layout and design created a space that is livable, functional and very cosy. It is no wonder why flats like this from this estate has become very fought-after by modernist lovers in recent years.

 

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

 

My last stop of the day was another Grade II listed building – Acland Burghley School – in Tufnell Park. The comprehensive school was built in 1963-7 and designed by the foremost post-war architectural practices at the time: Howell Killick Partridge & Amis (behind the Young Vic theatre).

The Brutalist style school was listed in 2016 for the following principal reasons: "the design’s bold elevational treatment and skillful handling of precast concrete components and their finishes confer a strong aesthetic while respecting the wider Victorian townscape. The jewel-like, top-lit assembly hall is a particularly notable feature where the use of timber and concrete gives a rich texture. Plan-form: the innovative plan, comprising three towers radiating from a central administration core with the linked assembly hall, remains relevant and fit for purpose, affording permeability and appropriate levels of accessibility combined with practical and humane functioning spaces."

 

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

 

Although inspired by the ideas of the iconic French architect Le Corbusier, the school's Brutalist gloomy concrete exterior is probably not everyone's cup of tea. But inside, the departments are divided by a clever colour scheme with spacious public area and bright classrooms due to natural light from the large and roof windows. The school's emphasis on the arts can also be seen from the art work on the walls throughout the school.

I was particularly impressed by the former hexagonal assembly hall which had been refurbished in 2010 by Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects into an experimental teaching/learning laboratory. The 490m2 floor space can be used as a a large classroom or as a theatre with raised platforms and seating area. The new lighting scheme of vertical and horizontal strip lights are also highly innovative.

 

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

A former assembly hall has been transformed into a Superclass by Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects

 

wall mural

Intriguing wall mural near Tufnell Park

 


This post was posted in London, Architecture, British designs, Gardens & parks, Design, Modernist & Art Deco, Contemporary and was tagged with London, architecture, open house, Brutalism, contemporary architecture, modernist architecture, social housing

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