Marlow House, Hallfield Estate

The Hallfield Estate is a modernist estate in Bayswater, W2 6EH. It’s a short walk south from Royal Oak Station on the Hammersmith and City Line.

It was constructed in the 1950s, to a design of Berthhold Lubetkin. The construction was supervised by Lindsey Drake and Denys Lasdun. Now it’s Grade 2 listed. Here’s what the listing says:

Reasons for Designation

The fourteen blocks and laundry at Hallfield Estate are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

  • Architectural interest: a sophisticated and distinctive aesthetic approach to social housing, whereby the facades are treated like works of abstract art;

  • Planning: the estate fulfilled its brief to provide mass housing and open space in a crowded urban borough, in a plan inspired by Le Corbusier’s ‘Radiant City’

  • Authorship: designed by Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton, and constructed under the supervision of Lindsay Drake and Denys Lasdun, the estate is the work of some of the C20’s most significant architects;

  • Historic interest: a seminal post-war housing estate that was widely exhibited and published, and provoked divergent contemporary responses which illuminate post-war architectural theory.

Here is a sketch of Marlow House. I drew it standing on a strange hummock, a small hill, inside the estate near the Battle Bridge Road.

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“The estate presents a convincing riposte to criticism that postwar council housing is grey, drab and utilitarian. At Hallfield, the exteriors of each block are treated like works of abstract art – some are patterned with a chequerboard of blue and red brickwork; others have a zigzagging screen of white concrete panels. The estate now exists amongst an elite group of 16 listed post warhousing estates estate in London – estates that are successful as places to live and are cared for by their residents.” Hannah Parham, the English Heritage Designation Advisor (2011).

Shown in my picture is the “zigzagging screen of white concrete panels”.

The gardens were beautiful, and well maintained. The buildings themselves are showing signs of wear. Tiles are chipped and cracked at the edges, and staircases look covered in soot from a previous era. But it’s still a stately collection of buildings. The white tiling is a work of art. On Marlowe House, the frame of the building is covered in ivory tiles, in squares of 25 tiles arranged in 5×5 grids, which are themselves arranged in a grid. So the effect is that of graph paper. I was impressed that these tiles are carefully made, and the edge ones are shaped, with rounded edges.

I also enjoyed the pillar, in the lower left of my drawing. It is fluted.

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Fluted pillar. The lighting conductor rather mars the effect.

The stairwells are completely open. I could have gone up, but I didn’t. The postman did, however. While I was drawing I saw him doing his rounds, his black woollen hat moving along the balconies, passing behind the facade and down the stairs.

Here is a map and work in progress. Click to expand the picture.


Drawing took 1½ hours, drawn and coloured on location.