More Than 200 Projects are included in the Archigram Archival Project. The AAP uses the group’s mainly chronological numbering system and includes everything given an Archigram project number. This comprises projects done by members before they met, the Archigram magazines (grouped together at no. 100), the projects done by Archigram as a group between 1961 and 1974, and some later projects.
With the announcement of the result of the Lillington Street Housing Competition it looks as though history might well be repeating itself down Westminster way. For when Powell and Moya won the Churchill Gardens housing competition organised by the Westminster City Council shortly after the war, they were both in their twenties and almost completely unknown. The Churchill Gardens scheme, which when completed next year will comprise a total of 1,680 dwellings, is rightly one of London’s showplaces in the housing field and its architects have established a secure place in the forefront of their profession. Now the second post-war Westminster housing competition (this time for an important site on the Vauxhall Bridge Road) has been won by another young man, 26-year-old Londoner J. W. Darbourne, also an unknown.
In many ways this competition may prove a model of its kind. The sponsors, already experienced in the holding of a housing competition, had the wisdom to invite Philip Powell (of Powell and Moya) to act as assessor, a man in whom they had the fullest confidence and who possessed ample knowledge of the specific requirements of the Westminster City Council. The conditions were most carefully prepared, generally precise and explicit and yet permitting, and indeed encouraging, competitors to express new methods of approach to the problem of urban housing design. The drawings and photographs of the site accompanying the conditions were suitably comprehensive; and the fact that the winning scheme was prepared in the United States bears ample testimony to the fullness and adequacy of the information given to each competitor.
The problem set was a difficult one. A roughly rectangular site covering twelve acres, bounded by Vauxhall Bridge Road (an important by not the most prepossessing artery from South London to the West End), and three stucco fronted Pimlico streets, dilapidated in places but scrubupable and quite cosy; a Victorian church, by appointment to Pevsner, to be retained; provision for schools and other special buildings to be made; leaving some 9½ acres for hosing at a required density of 200 to the acre. Some 60-75 per cent of the dwellings were to be one- or two-roomed and the balance larger. Competitors were asked to plan the housing in the form of flats, maisonettes or houses, with special accommodation for the elderly, and also to incorporate three children’s playgrounds, a tenants’ social hall and a tenants’ car park for 350 cars. A comparatively free hand was allowed in the form of layout and no restrictions were laid down concerning the height of buildings. Existing planning and building bye-law requirements had to be observed and, of course, economic factors had to be taken into consideration. To this challenge some 148 architects and students responded, jointly submitting a total of 68 schemes.
By and large they were a dull and stodgy lot, but with some 15 or so schemes of interest and worthy of closer examination, which may be a reasonable proportion. Of these better schemes, that of the winner is quite outstanding. At first glance it may appear somewhat humdrum, probably because of its low scale (no building over eight storeys), but this is deceptive, for it is a most efficiently conceived solution, pleasantly domestic in character and eminently liveable in. Its particular merits and those of the other premiated and mentioned designs are best summed up in the excellent and detailed assessor’s report which follows (with architects’ names substituted for assessor’s numbers).
Of the other prize-winning and commended schemes, it is the order in which they are placed that appears a trifle mystifying. They are all obviously runners up to the winner but there really is little to choose between any of them. Once can only suggest that if the winner won by a length, then the places must have called for a photo. And of the unplaced designs, your correspondent picks that by M. J. Attenborough, W. Chalk, D. Crompton, D. Currey, R. Herron, T. E. Kennedy, J. A. Roberts and A. Waterhouse, here illustrated and the scheme by B. H. Binsted, D. Codling, A. W. Lester and C. Lush as being schemes which for their boldness and originality he would have added to those commended.
This has been a successful competition, for although the number of new ideas emerging may have been small, it should yet serve to encourage the younger members of the profession to take part in future contests. Not the least remarkable has been the feat of Philip Powell, the assessor. Handling in day was July 10, and only ten days later the council received their assessor’s recommendations. This is concentrated assessment on the grand scale – the more notable for being accompanied by a written report of most commendable clarity.
The shape of the site, its enclosure on all four sides by continuous walls of buildings, the high density of the population required, the abnormally large proportion of small flats and the formidable number of cars to be parked, all make it hard to reach a solution which goes beyond the successful piecing together of a jigsaw puzzle.
No restrictions were placed on the height of buildings within the site and this has so widened the range of individual solutions that it is not easy to generalise on the character of the designs submitted. Yet it is clear from them that there are two clearly defined and opposing lines of approach.
Several competitors placed a girdle of buildings round the site and left the centre space to be developed as a park, the church being the only building of any size within it. The most thoughtful and successful design of this type is that by M. J. Attenborough’s group (illustrated on p. 165) which consists of highly articulated groups of maisonettes and flats, varying in rapid and jagged succession from seven to 10 storeys in height and clustered round their public staircases and walkways. The treatment of the site is original and successful but the treatment of the site is original and successful but the system of passenger lifts is grotesquely inconvenient. R.T. Simpson’s scheme, ten storeys high throughout, is a simpler and more restful statement of this scheme. With less height, implying, however a design for a lower density development, this would have been a very fine scheme.