35a. The Lawn 1950 (Frederick Gibberd) Harlow

The Lawn is generally acknowledged to be the first tower block in Britain. While the design is often admired it sets the template for much that is wrong with tower blocks from the perspective of an entry sequence. The nondescript arrival could be explained, and perhaps forgiven, due to its suburban context and assumption that arrival is by car. However, for the housing type that most disconnects dwellings from its surroundings, the entry, with its dinky canopy, does nothing to create a suitable transition or bring dignity to the ritual of arrival. Most contemporary photographs show cars partially parked on the pedestrian path leading to the entry. The lobby and core are small and without particular merit. This is somewhat acceptable given the quiet, suburban context, but the type has been rarely adapted for inner city use where the transitions and thresholds are particularly important. In many later tower blocks the lack of considered routes from the edge of the site to entry lobbies, themselves too frequently treated as no more than an airlock, contributes to the alienating experience of movement and experiences of daily routines in point blocks. And despite its more ‘luxurious’ location, the line of bins adjacent to the entry illustrates a recurrent problem – the association of arrival with rubbish.

Ironically, the low block accompanying the tower has pronounced entry with a void linking the parking forecourt with the green beyond. The void also provides access to the stair core which leads to gallery access. 

Schema

  • bus stop (city) ⇒ footpath (city) ⇒ block path (unclear territory; partially blocked by parked cars) ⇒ canopy (threshold) ⇒ door (boundary) ⇒ stair/lift lobby ⇒ lift (waiting and ascending) ⇒ lobby ⇒ door (one of four)
  • arrival by car picks up the trajectory above from the block path

Unit identity

  • Fair: the number of units and their limits are somewhat legible in the composition of the facades; however, there is very little opportunity for individualization and there are too many levels to be able to quickly identify one’s dwelling.
  • Sepia image source unknown
  • Black and white from http://www.gibberd.com
  • Street View courtesy of Google Maps
  • Map courtesy of OS Digimap

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Previous Entry 34. Spa Green Estate

Next Entry 35b. Alton East 1952-55 (Rosemary Stjernstedt for the LCC) London

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