34. Spa Green Estate 1950 (Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton) London

The urban planning of this estate, along with many of Lubetkin’s other estates, is based on the modernist slab-in-free-space model and generally does not contribute positively to the relationship between its individual dwellings and the city. Although estates like Churchill Gardens and Golden Lane utilise slab blocks set back from the street, the space between buildings is generally composed and designed in an integrated and specific relationship to the blocks. In Spa Green we have an early example of the more common abstract or undefined space that acts like a buffer and separator between the city and the housing (“…the buildings are placed in any old direction” – Nikolaus Pevsner). This is still handled better at Spa Green than most estates but it is at the level of the building that the estate contributes positively to the evolution of arrival sequences. In all of Lubetkin’s designs there is an interest in the transition into the building and, generally, up and through them. At Spa Green this is carried out with a variety entry types with each block having a distinct entry and lobby arrangement even thought two blocks are identical in plan (mirrored arrangement). Wells House has perhaps the most elaborate entry – a pair of ramps within a projecting box volume on the court side and a sculptural canopy with integrated planters and benches on the park side. The lobby and vertical circulation are otherwise standard. It’s mirror copy, Tunbridge House has a subdued entry facing the main road leading to  three stair cores. The gently serpentine Sadler House originally had an open stair within the middle of the block. This is now obscured and gated by a lift tower added in 1987.


  • Sadler House: street (city) ⇒ enter site territory (various entry points) ⇒ cross site ⇒ lift/stair lobby (boundary – originally open) ⇒ stair/lift (ascend) ⇒ gallery ⇒ door (1 of 8 per floor)
  • Wells House: street (city) ⇒ enter site territory (various entry points) ⇒ cross site ⇒ enter projecting volume (threshold) ⇒ ramp or steps to plinth level ⇒ enter stair hall ⇒ stair (ascend) ⇒ lobby ⇒ door
  • Tunbridge House: street (city) ⇒ enter site territory (various entry points) ⇒ cross site ⇒ steps (ascend) ⇒ enter void under block (threshold) ⇒ gate (added boundary) ⇒ stair lobby ⇒ stair (ascend) ⇒ door

Unit identity

  • The use of the alternating rhythm of balconies allows for a clear reading of unit boundaries, however, on the taller blocks this technique makes it simultaneously difficult to identify specific units in relation to entry sequence.

Digimap Spa Green

See also:

Previous Entry 33. Churchill Gardens

Next Entry 35. The Lawn


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