TQ 2887 40/181 NORTH HILL
G, H, I, K, A to D,
Nos. 1-12, 12a and
10.5.74 14-48 (consecutive)
Block of sixty flats. 1933-5 by Lubetkin and Tecton, engineer Ove Arup, for Sigmund Gestetner. Reinforced concrete monolithic construction with central spine of columns, the other reinforcement being built into the walls and floor slabs. Double cruciform plan, six storeys high, flat roofs, on falling land. EXTERIOR. Curved driveway leads between pilotis under projecting cantilevered curved porch to angled front. All windows of steel, by Williams and Williams, with mullions giving a regular rectangular glazing pattern. The long horizontal windows to the living rooms have a `concertina' opening arangement, sliding along metal tracks. Larger flats at right angles to main spine have long balconies, the end flats have short end balconies, all with cyma curved fronts. Square glazed windows in corners serve utility areas. INTERIOR. Hallway follows the line of the angled front, with porter's lobby to right, terrazzo floors and semi-circular seating area at end, whence four steps rise to inner hall with lifts and stairs at either end. The space is broken by two lines of columns, one on the main building line and one in its centre, with metal ceiling lights. Flats set at four cardinal points off each staircase, one set at half landing above or below the other three. At rear of block a wedge-shaped tearoom, anticipating the plan of the Finsbury Health Centre auditorium, whence a curving ramp reminiscent of that at the Penguin Pool leads between walls to the garden. Above this open, free-flowing foyer each stairwell serves four flats of two types, larger (three-bedroom or type A) flats at right angles to the main spine with long living rooms and balconies facing outwards, and smaller (two bedroom or type B) flats along the length of the block with living rooms all facing south. All flats with elliptical central columns, one exposed at entrance to each flat and access to service lift (disused). Original features include small tiled floors, shutes for dirty laundry, partly glazed doors to utility areas - these and plain doors to other rooms with chrome handles and switches set in the frame, and `Highpoint' sinks. Ground floor maids' rooms now converted to further flats.
Highpoint One was the ultimate expression of modern movement styling in Britain, offering a relaxed serviced lifestyle on a stunning hilltop site with extensive grounds in a building demonstrating technical sophistication and exceptional elegance. Henry-Russell Hitchcock opened his account of Modern Architecture in England, an exhibition in New York in 1937, by dclaring it `one of the finest, if not absolutely the finest, middle-class housing in the world'. For though intended for a wide range of incomes, with some subsidized, low rents, such was the block's success that it quickly attracted an up-market clientele. Many eminent designers of the day visited this building soon after its completion, among them J J P Oud, Theo van Doesberg and L Noholy-Nagy. Without exception, they echoed the enthusiasm of its most famous visitor, Le Corbusier himself, who inspected the building in 1935.
Peter Coe and Malcolm Reading, Lubetkin and Tecton, Architecture and Social Commitment, Bristol, Arts Council, 1981, pp.120-4, 152-8
John Allan, Berthold Lubetkin, Architecture and the Tradition of Progress, London, RIBA, 1992, pp.252-312
The cruciform plan and height was controlled by local covenants and by-laws, while inspired by the form of the blocks in Le Corbusier's Plan Voisin which Lubetkin had seen exhibited in 1925.