Social housing scheme of 1983-1987 by Islington Architect’s Department, under Chris Purslow (job architect Gerry Jury).
Reasons for Designation
The Belvoir Estate, 1983-1987 by Islington Architect’s Department is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* a bold and lively estate in a Post-Modernist style, designed using a limited palette of materials and motifs to striking effect, with playful classical references and richly-detailed elevations;
* contextually considerate in terms of the scale and form of its buildings, though with variety in massing and composition, using a combination of traditional and modern materials;
* thoughtfully planned with a bias towards the quieter side of the site, with the creation of an inward-facing street onto which a mixture of housing types face, with each unit provided some outdoor space;
* exemplary provision for mobility-impaired residents, anticipating the Disability Discrimination Act 1995;
* degree of survival: the buildings and site stands little altered since its completion.
* the scheme marks the culmination of Islington’s return to high-density, low-rise terraced housing and bookends almost a century of social housing in inner London.
Post-Modernism, a movement and a style prevalent in architecture between about 1975 and 1990, is defined in terms of its relationship with modern architecture. Post-Modernist architecture is characterised by its plurality, engagement with urban context and setting, reference to older architectural traditions and use of metaphor and symbolism. As a formal language it has affinities with mannerism (unexpected exaggeration, distortions of classical scale and proportion) and the spatial sophistication of Baroque architecture. Post-Modernism accepts the technology of industrialised society but expresses it in more diverse ways than the machine imagery of the contemporary High-Tech style.
The origins of the style are found in the United States, notably in the work of Robert Venturi and Charles Moore which combined aspects of their country’s traditions (ranging from the C19 Shingle Style to Las Vegas) with the knowing irony of pop art. A parallel European stream combined an abstracted classicism or a revival of 1930s rationalism with renewed interest in the continental city and its building types. In England, the American and European idioms converged in the late 1970s, to produce works by architects of international significance, including James Stirling, and distinctive voices unique to Britain such as John Outram. The 1980s revival of the British economy was manifested in major urban projects by Terry Farrell and others in London, while practices such as CZWG devised striking imagery for commercial and residential developments in Docklands and elsewhere.
Responsibility for the provision of public housing was delegated to the inner London boroughs on local government reorganisation in 1965. Like Camden and Lambeth, the London Borough of Islington, under chief architect Alf Head and his successor Chris Purslow, moved from a policy of comprehensive redevelopment and system building, to low-rise terraced schemes and the rehabilitation of C19 stock. The design of some projects was parcelled out to private practices such as Darbourne and Darke, Andrews Sherlock and Partners, Pring, White and Partners, and John Melvin, while other schemes, such as the Belvoir Estate, were undertaken in-house. Islington’s architect’s department adopted a neo-vernacular style, starting at the New North Road estate (c 1980-1981, job architect Mary Hogben). Local details were sometimes quoted to witty effect, as at Catherine Griffiths Court (1987-1988) which echoes the square tiling of Tecton’s Finsbury Health Centre, opposite.
The number and scale of new-build housing schemes dramatically decreased from the mid-1970s in response to reductions in local government expenditure. The Belvoir and Highcroft and estates to the north of the borough were amongst Islington’s last new-build schemes, thus ending almost a century of public housing provision in London. The two estates, separated by Hillrise Road, were designed by separate teams at around the same time. The Belvoir site (job architect Gerry Jury) was planned between July and November 1983, with design work completed in 1984, and construction completed in 1987; at Highcroft, to the east, the job architect was Mary Hogben.
The Belvoir scheme comprises a total of 48 units, providing a range of social housing from single-bedroom bungalows to three-storey four-bedroom family homes, with sheltered housing and units designed specifically for mobility-impaired occupants. It respected the existing street layout and was designed to be contextually appropriate to its suburban site in terms of the type, scale and massing of its dwellings, and its principal building materials. A bold and playful Post-Modernist design though restrained in its gestures, suited to its domestic function and suburban setting, and exhibiting the influence of Stirling’s Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, and CR Mackintosh. Very thoughtfully planned terms of the end users, and anticipating the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, it was described by the Architects’ Journal as ‘an example of public housing at its best’ (19 October 1988). It is little altered externally, beyond the occasional replacements of doors, and changes to the original paint colours.
Social housing scheme of 1983-1987 by Islington Architect’s Department, under Chris Purslow (job architect Gerry Jury).
STRUCTURE and MATERIALS: load-bearing London stock and red bricks in cavity wall construction, with clay roof tiles and timber window and door frames.
PLAN: the site is an acute triangle bounded by Hornsey Rise to the west, Hillrise Road to the east and Hornsey Rise Gardens to the north. It is bisected by a drive, Marie Lloyd Gardens, which runs west from Hillrise Road, curving to the north to emerge at Hornsey Rise Gardens. There is a pedestrian close further south, again leading west from Hillrise Road.
The housing at the Belvoir estate ranges from one to three storeys and comprises a mixture of sheltered flats, some designed for mobility-impaired residents, and three- and four-bedroom family houses. The sheltered accommodation is located to the south of the site and includes 20 flats and 4 bungalows, each with a single bedroom. The houses, arranged in short terraces, occupy the north of the site.
The flats (1-7a/b Hillrise Road, 11-15a/b Hillrise Road and 34-38a/b Hornsea Rise) are disposed in short terraces of two-storey buildings, each unit containing two flats with separate access. The ground floor flats are designed for mobility-impaired residents, with a large, gated porch for a battery car or wheelchair. The turning circles of the residents’ wheelchairs or mobility scooters cue the broad curves of the terraces and stairs. The upper-floor flats, intended for able-bodied residents, have their own front doors, reached via external stairs. 34-38a/b Hornsea Rise are sited on a retaining wall above street level and are accessed via gated steps and a pedestrian walkway. 1-7a/b Hillrise Road are set within the estate boundary and are accessed from a gated entrance on Hillrise Road. 9 Hillrise Road is a three-storey building with a south-facing, semi-circular common room.
Edith Cavell Close is a roughly symmetrical group of four L-plan bungalows; each have one bedroom and a terrace and are designed for wheelchair access.
To the north are several terraced groups of housing for larger families. 1-6 and 9 Marie Lloyd Gardens are two-storey, three-bedroom houses, and 6-7, recessed from the line of the terrace, have one bedroom each. 10-13 Marie Lloyd Gardens are four two-storey houses with three bedrooms and large terraces on both floors. Adjoining these are 14-15, two houses of three storeys and four bedrooms, with access to a flying freehold forming a carriageway arch into Hornsey Rise Gardens. East of the archway, 63-65 Hornsea Rise Gardens are two three-storey narrow-frontage houses with four bedrooms. 17-27 Hillrise Road is a ‘crescent’ of six houses with three storeys and four bedrooms.
EXTERIORS: the housing is mainly of London stock brick laid in stretcher bond, and has contrasting sections in red brick, and with red brick details and dressings. Windows and the frameworks to sections of panelling are stained timber, and roofs are shallowly pitched and covered in clay tiles. Front doors, generally, are painted white and glazed with a grid ten lights, or are solid timber, painted royal blue. The grid is a recurrent device, manifest in window arrangements, metal canopies and frameworks, gates, and panelling, and along with the quadrant and semi-circular details and devices elsewhere, and blocks and bands of contrasting brickwork, it creates a strong sense of geometry in the elevations.
1-7a/b Hillrise Road, 11-15a/b Hillrise Road and 34-38a/b Hornsea Rise: the front elevations of the two-storey groups of sheltered flats have square windows and bands of red brickwork. Prominent red-brick projections house the external stairs to the upper units with lockable bin stores below. A square trellis-like grid encloses the stairs while a porthole window provides a view out. The projection has one curved end of header bond, with a ramp leading to the ground-floor flat. The entrance is articulated by an oversized triangular lintel of pre-cast concrete, painted white. Above is a metal-framed porch-cum-conservatory to the upper-floor flat, painted bright yellow. The rear elevations have a similar treatment of banded brickwork, and have double-height triangular oriel windows with white gridded aprons.
1-9 Marie Lloyd Gardens: a concave crescent of nine two-storey, two-bay houses. Porches of rusticated, painted concrete project from the northern elevation and contain paired entrances beneath a triangular pediment. The remainder of the ground floor is glazed, with metal-framed gridded windows. On the first floor there are two square windows, and the continuous pitched roof terminates in a shaped gable at either end. 6-7 Marie Lloyd Gardens are smaller, single-bedroom units, and are recessed from the building line towards the west end of the terrace. On the southern, concave side of the crescent, each house has a symmetrical elevation with a central doorway on the ground floor with a square window to either side, and a pair of square windows to the first floor, with a gridded panel beneath.
10-13 Marie Lloyd Gardens: a group of four houses, each of which has wide three-storey bay with a monopitched roof and a large ground-floor gridded window, and an adjoining entrance bay, set back behind a gateway and in contrasting red brick. The front door is recessed behind an oversized triangular lintel in white-painted pre-cast concrete. A boldly-curved parapet wall conceals the first-floor terrace; it is mirrored by a concave parapet in red brick to the monopitch roof of the main bay. The rear elevation has a similar treatment of bays, with a projecting semi-circular terrace at ground floor level.
14-15 Marie Lloyd Gardens: a pair of three-storey houses with red-brick banding and a hipped roof. The west elevation has two oriel windows with a pediment and grid panelling beneath. There is a terrace projecting at first floor level, shared by the two houses. To the east, adjoining 14-15 at first floor level, is the flying freehold, which forms a carriageway arch entrance to the north end of Marie Lloyd Gardens.
63-65 Hornsea Rise Gardens: a pair of narrow-frontage, three-storey houses stepping up the steep street. They are gabled and the ground- and first-floor windows are linked, with a panelled grid, to form a T-shape. Red brick edges and breaks up the facades.
17-27 Hillrise Road: a short crescent of three pairs of three-storey houses stepping up the hill. Each is of two bays, and has paired entrance porches covered by a lead-covered semi-circular arch springing from rendered and rusticated piers. The larger first- and second-floor windows are joined with a gridded panel. The roofs have an uneven pitch, the rear being much deeper with skylights into the attic. The gable ends of the row are built up with a high parapet, cut out on one side and with blocks of red-brick detailing.
1-4 Edith Cavell Close: a row of four bungalows, each with two perpendicular, monopitched ranges with semi-circular balcony terraces. Access is via the gated, pedestrianized pathway to the north, which has a continuous boundary wall adjoining the four bungalows.
INTERIORS: not inspected (2017), but understood to be of standard specification: plastered and painted walls throughout, with wooden doorframes and skirting.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are brick boundary and retaining walls with painted metal railings; they are detailed in red brick with semi-circular scoops echoing the geometry of the adjoining sheltered accommodation.