27. Kent House 1935 (Connell, Ward & Lucas) London

Often cited for its orthodox European modernist aesthetic what is overlooked is the careful organisation of the two slabs around a court. Entry is under the first slab (there are shops to the left of this). The stair is an open air sculptural affair and is an early attempt at celebrating vertical movement in housing. The gap between the stair/lift tower and galleries (which are part of the volume of the dwellings) provides a subtle bridging effect. One side of the stair run is now fully glazed with obscured glass; it was originally open to the elements. The court between the two slabs has a playground (not original) while the spaces under the slabs are left rather utilitarian, providing access to storage spaces. Though functionalist in its approach the sculptural sensibilities of the architects demonstrated in their single-family houses is subtly present in the stair sequence and does a better job than most at making it a light-filled and exterior-connected sequence. The lift is a later addition and apart from making the stair ‘float’ less than it used to hasn’t done much damage to the original sequence. The original state of the stair and its effect was more like that of the Isokon building.

Their is some evidence of the galleries being lightly appropriated. Their use as primarily for access may be mitigated by the communal roof which is still in use. Maintenance has not be great and the estate has a tired look.

Schema

  • street (city) ⇒ ‘archway’ (now gated – boundary; formerly open – threshold) ⇒ courtyard (estate territory) ⇒ stair hall ⇒ stair (ascend) ⇒ landing/small gallery ⇒ door (one of two)

Unit identity

  • Fair; the balconies and small scale make individual units easily identifiable but the sequence does not focus on a direct street to unit relationship

Digimap Kent House

  • Black & white images © The Courtauld Institute of Art, London except for:
  • Black & white image with old cars from the Denis Sharp Archive, Paul Mellon Centre.
  • Colour images courtesy of Yassine Atikfour.
  • Map courtesy of OS Digimap.

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Next Entry 28. Comber Grove Estate

 

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