21 September 2013

Open House London: Langham House Close

Langham House Close, off Ham Common, is about 200m away so I had no excuse for not visiting it as part of Open House London 2013.

The three apartment blocks in Langham House Close were designed in 1955 by James Stirling and James Gowan for the Manousso Group as a speculative development. They were built in 1957-58 on a site that was formerly the back garden of a Georgian manor house. The blocks were Grade II listed in 1998 and upgraded to Grade II* in 2006.

The blocks present a tidy fa├žade of yellow brick with concrete highlights that is neatly offset by the planting around the blocks. The impression is very much the same as the larger Parkleys development nearby. First impressions matter and Langham House Close makes a good one.

The yellow brick and concrete theme continues inside. This is the sitting room of a one bedroom flat. The brick wall is nice enough and is made even better by the quirky concrete bocks mixed in with it and the high narrow gap.

The rooms show all the characteristics of the modern style at that time with white walls and rectangular windows of various sizes. The owner of this flat said that the old technology of the windows (wooden frames with single glazing) meant that they are bad at temperature control but I was only there to look at them and they looked great.

We were allowed in to one of the other blocks to see the communal areas and I loved this corridor of more brick and more concrete. There were a few metal railings too that added a few gentle curves to the dominant straight lines.

The blocks are arranged in a long plot that runs all the way from Ham Common to Craig Road (there is a tall locked gate to stop people taking the short-cut) with landscaping between them. The mound is a nice feature though I was surprised not to see any seats outside.

The flats may have problems according to one of the owners but considered just on their design and setting they are a fitting testament to the period. They are over fifty years old and show few signs of ageing, unlike some of their neighbours. They also look a lot prettier than most of their contemporaries.

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