Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Peabody Avenue social housing in Pimlico, London, by Haworth Tompkins

A new social housing scheme in central London for Peabody marks a deliberate move away from novelty in favour of longevity
Stretching 280m along the railway sidings south of Victoria station, Pimlico’s Peabody Avenue stands as a linear monument to early social housing. This relentless brick gauntlet, constructed between 1875-78, is perhaps the most austere of Henry Darbishire’s designs for “cheap, cleanly, well drained and healthful dwellings for the poor” built during his time as the Peabody Trust’s architect from 1862-1885 — a period that saw his blueprint used for 14 different sites across London, from Islington to Shadwell.
Squeezed into a narrow, leftover plot between the railway to the west and the well-to-do grid of Thomas Cubitt’s stuccoed terraces to the east, the estate’s 26 blocks were arranged end to end in two parallel rows, like two great trains come adrift from the tracks. Here, the usual Peabody courtyard form was adapted into two opposing tenements, five storeys along the western range, four along the east, separated by an avenue of stately plane trees. Walking between the imposing brick cliff faces today, it is not hard to see why the estate has been used as the film set for a grim Victorian jailhouse.
Bombing in the second world war resulted in the loss of four blocks at the avenue’s southern end, an area that has since accrued the usual bombsite flotsam — a strip of lockups, a ball court, ad hoc parking — and became a magnet for antisocial behavior. Two other blocks were damaged, but remained partially inhabited until the 1990s, when Peabody was finally forced into action.

Read the full article here.

Originally published in BD, 18 January 2012