A set piece of two adjoining pairs of semi-detached, three-storey houses of 1981-1984 by Colquhoun and Miller for the London Borough of Hackney.
Reasons for Designation
23, 23A, 24 and 25 Church Crescent, two pairs of semi-detached houses and attached fences and gate piers, designed by the firm of Colquhoun and Miller as public housing for the London Borough of Hackney and built between 1981-1984 are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* for their abstract yet allusive design in which multiple historical references, including Palladio's Casa Cogollo at Vicenza, Regency villas, the work of C R Mackintosh and 1930s white modernism, cohere into an elegant whole;
* for the planning and spatial interest as a resourceful re-interpretation of the semi-detached villa plan, with clever user of side windows to avoid overlooking and impressive staircases.
* as an important example of the notable partnership of Alan Colquhoun (1921-2012) and John Miller (b 1930), Colquhoun also having particular influence as a historian and critic.
* part of a planned group framing the Church of St John of Jerusalem (Grade II*) to the rear.
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.
Hackney was one of several inner-London boroughs to revert to a policy of low-rise housing in the 1970s, after widespread public disillusionment with large-scale, system-built developments. Borough architects T R W Roberts and later Graham Elson reconditioned C19 housing, while commissioning several imaginative infill schemes. For Hackey Colquhoun & Miller designed several such projects at Church Crescent, Albion Road, Brownlow Road and Shrubland Road. Church Crescent was intended for large or extended families, each of its four dwellings being designed for eight persons. The contract sum was £210,000.
After studying at the Architectural Association, Alan Colquhoun (1921-2012) worked at the Housing Division of the LCC Architects Department (1950-1955), Candilis Woods (1955-1956) and Lyons Israel Ellis (1956-1961), where he met his future practice partner John Miller (1930-). Colquhoun taught at several schools of architecture including Princeton University (1968-70 and 1981 onwards), while his publications included Modern Architecture (2002) and Collected Essays in Architectural Criticism (2009). Miller had studied at the AA from 1950-1955 and his work for Lyons Israel Ellis included the Old Vic Annexe (1957-1958, Grade II). He latterly established the practice of John Miller and Partners.
Active between 1961 and 1988, the architectural practice of Colquhoun and Miller is noted for such works as Forest Gate High School, South London (1965); Pillwood House, Cornwall (1971-1974); housing at Caversham Road and Gaisford Street, Kentish Town, London (1975-1979); and Two Mile Ash (1973-1984) and Oldbrook 2 (1976-1982) housing at Milton Keynes. The practice also developed a specialism in the refurbishment of cultural and education buildings including Whitechapel Art Gallery (1985) and Royal College of Art (1989-1990), both in London.
The buildings were added to Hackney’s Local List in 2012. Number 25 is now in private ownership.
A set piece of two pairs of adjoining, semi-detached, three-storey houses of 1981-1984 by Colquhoun and Miller for the London Borough of Hackney.
MATERIALS: concrete block cavity walls, finished in stucco above a brick plinth. Window frames of powder-coated aluminium; concrete tiled roof. The windows to number 25 have been replaced with double-glazed windows.
PLAN: two handed pairs of semi-detached dwellings, occupying a wedge-shaped site framing the view to the Church of St John of Jerusalem (Grade II*). Each has a side entrance onto a lateral entrance hall and stair, with a kitchen to the front and living room to the rear, a front bathroom and bedroom and two rear bedrooms to the first and second floors. The larger of the second floor bedrooms have cantilevered alcoves with side windows, the front room having a balcony.
EXTERIOR: each semi-detached pair is unified by a symmetrical elevational treatment, with white rendered walls with aluminium-framed openings, above a low brick plinth; lines are incised into the render, referencing C19 incised stucco or C20 panel construction. Each has a shallow-pitched hipped roof with deep eaves. There are four bays to the front elevations, the projecting central bays having small side windows, blind walling to the first floor and second-floor balconies set under the eaves; the balcony to number 25 has been subsequently glazed. There are porthole windows to the flanking second-floor bays. Side elevations have a central entrance with a porch supported on cylindrical corbels and flanking ground-floor windows; number 25 has a single-storey later C20 extension to the side elevation. The staircases and landings are lit by a continuous vertical strip window with a square grid of square panes, flanked by blind, cantilevered alcoves at second floor level. The rear elevations have wide outer bays breaking forward and upper windows of square or horizontal proportions.
INTERIORS: have plastered and painted walls throughout with wooden door frames, flush doors and skirting. The staircases have solid balustrading.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: front and dividing fences of square gridded metalwork are carried on rendered masonry gate posts.