Two maisonettes, 1972-3, by Jeremy Lever, the larger, upper one, 29 and a half, effectively a house for himself and his family.
Reason for Listing
29 and a half, 28 and a half Lansdowne Crescent is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design interest: pair of maisonettes, the upper house designed by the architect for his own use, a successful and imaginative interpretation of the London town house on an awkward infill site;
* Use of materials: external treatment that is sympathetic to the existing C19 houses; high quality detail, particularly in the internal timberwork;
* Plan: ingenious planning on split levels on a very tight site, incorporating two dwellings and originally a garage, the upper house having a particularly airy and spacious double-height living space; the whole closely linked to its garden;
* Intactness: modified by the architect, the building is otherwise little altered, and in particular retains its internal built-in fixtures and finishes;
* Context: designed to fit into an existing mid-C19 crescent it also expresses the ethos and skill Lever applied in integrating housing and landscape for Darbourne and Darke’s ground-breaking public housing scheme at Lillington Gardens;
* Acknowledgment in the architectural press: extensively published, it won a RIBA award in 1974 for `courage, invention and skill’ with particular praise for `the section and the consistency of detail’.
29 and a half, 28 and a half Lansdowne Crescent was designed as two maisonettes squeezed into a very small infill site between two Victorian terraces set on a steep slope. They were built in 1972-3 to the designs of Jeremy Lever, who went on to became a partner in the firm of Darbourne and Darke in 1977. Set one above the other, and incorporating a series of terraces and steps that lead to communal gardens at the rear, the larger upper unit - effectively a house - was for the architect and his family.
Darbourne and Darke established a reputation for housing with a human, domestic scale and a focus on landscaping. It made its reputation with its first major public housing scheme at Lillington Street, Westminster (1964 -1972, in three phases) for which John Darbourne won the competition in 1961. Built in red brick, the Lillington Estate (listed Grade II* and Grade II) broke down the conventional housing block into organic forms and was celebrated for its integration of building and landscape. This last was Lever’s forté, and the same ethos is followed in the architect’s own house.
The house presents ingenious planning on a very tight site by a young architect, a successful and imaginative interpretation of the London town house working creatively with the stylistic restrictions set by planners. It was extensively published and won an RIBA award for ‘courage, invention and skill’, with particular praise for ‘the section and the consistency of detail’ (RIBA Journal, August 1974, p.26).
Since it was built, the third floor of 29 and a half has been modified. Two small separate rooms on the garden side were made into one larger room with sliding doors making the third floor less cellular, so that what had been five rooms with five doors became three and, effectively, with one door only. A separate lavatory and bathroom were turned into a shower room with WC, wash basin and washing machine and dryer.
In 1986-89 change of use of the garage was granted and completed. A two-car garage had been a planning requirement in 1972 though it was never used as such - although still known as the garage it had been used as a store for bicycles, tools, jam, rolled up carpets in the summer, and so on. Change of use was eventually given by Kensington and Chelsea and a new front door, slightly recessed behind the front elevation, and with a narrow window either side, replaced the double garage doors. The old front door that had been to the side was taken out and the small porch incorporated within the house, the old ‘slit’ openings having windows fitted to them.
MATERIALS: reclaimed London stock brick, with painted render at the front. Floors are reinforced concrete and timber. Windows are softwood with hardwood sills. External timber is stained dark, except the front projecting window, which is painted white. Interior in British Columbian pine.
PLAN: the ensemble is in the centre of a crescent terrace, and is laid out on seven levels at the rear and six on the street frontage. It includes the separately accessed two-storey lower level maisonette, 28 and a half. It is a very narrow wedge-shaped gap site with a width at the front at street level of 3.9m (13' 2 1/2"), 6m (16' 5") at the rear that is narrower than the standard 22' frontage elsewhere in the crescent. The gap is also narrower at the top than the bottom. Built of load-bearing brick.
The footprint of the ground and lower-ground floors extends out at the rear, occupying the space beneath the terrace. The ground floor of 29 and a half has an entrance hall (formerly a garage for two cars), and stair on the right hand side which runs through the house. A kitchen/dining room and WC occupy a mezzanine level at the rear of the house, with access to a terrace. The split-level living room occupies the whole of the first floor, with projecting windows in both front and back. The room is double-height at the back, overlooked by a gallery at upper floor level. The projecting double-height rear window gives access to a small terrace. The front of the second floor has a bedroom and small bathroom. On the third floor there were a further two bedrooms, a bathroom and study; the study was amalgamated with the smaller of the two bedrooms in 1986. The uppermost floor is set back at the front and back, and is occupied by a large, high-ceilinged playroom, now library, with access to a small terrace at the rear.
The lower maisonette (28 and a half), reached via an external stair at the front, has living accommodation on the lower ground floor and sleeping accommodation in the rear of the ground floor, linked by an internal spiral stair. The site slopes down sharply from front to rear, and at the rear a projecting enclosed spiral stair leads down from the mezzanine floor terrace to the communal gardens below the lower ground floor.
EXTERIOR: planning conditions required harmony with the surrounding terrace, so the street facade is rendered. There is a pierced screen at ground floor level, the stained timber entrance recessed, within the former carport. Windows are recessed with splayed reveals, and are generally paired for each floor, narrower on the right, wider on the left. At the front 4th and 5th floor levels there are three windows, a single right-hand window and paired windows on the left. A living room window projects at first-floor level. The uppermost storey with a pitched roof is concealed behind a parapet. The rear facade is of brick, blending with its neighbours. The façade gradually steps down, with the double-height, projecting, first-floor living room window, terrace at mezzanine level and projecting stair tower.
INTERIOR: interiors have predominantly timber detailing, in British Columbian pine, lighter in colour than the exterior. Walls and ceilings are timber-lined or white painted render and floors are pine boards, except the quarry-tiled kitchen, kitchen terrace and entrance hall/store, the latter formerly the garage. Fitted wooden furniture remains throughout. The double-height living room is an impressive and light space with two-storey windows on to the gardens and views of the crescent. There are timber steps between the two levels. The space can be observed from the timber balcony, or through windows from the staircase at first and second floor levels. The large, high-ceilinged playroom with high level ‘den’ is timber lined, with a scalloped coffering following the line of the pitched roof, and fitted bookshelves covering an entire spine wall. The principal space in the maisonette is the lower-ground living room, the curved brick wall of the spiral staircase protruding into the space. The maisonette has been refloored, and the kitchen and bathroom have been refitted.
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