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Description: Highpoint II
Date Listed: 10 May 1974
English Heritage Building ID: 201443
OS Grid Reference: TQ2826987801
OS Grid Coordinates: 528269, 187801
Latitude/Longitude: 51.5745, -0.1504
TQ 2887 NORTH HILL N6
800/40/180 Nos 51-62 (consecutive)
Block of twelve flats and penthouse. 1936-8 by Tecton. Reinforced concrete, the central bays a prototype of the egg-crate or box-frame construction that revolutionised the design of flats after the Second World War, with monolithic construction to either side - reflecting the different plan forms of the maisonettes within. Cladding of faience with inset brick panels to centre reflects the structure, marble cladding to entrance; flat roof with curved roof to penthouse. Six storeys. Large cantilevered canopy to front, partly resting on two casts of Erectheion caryatids obtained from the British Museum and intended by Lubetkin `to be read not as part of the building but as a garden ornament'. Square paned windows to entrance foyer, and bronzed doors; metal windows with mullions forming regular rectangular openings to all flats, glazed bricks to service stairs. Rear aviary. INTERIOR. Central six four-bedroomed maisonettes, with double height living rooms and an oval stair giving on to open landing. Double-height living rooms were a feature of luxury modern flats at this time, for instance the particularly complex planning of No.10 Palace Gate by Wells Coates. Maisonettes at either end with four bedrooms intended for larger families. Separate lifts and stairs for tradesmen and servants. Suites of maids' rooms on the ground floor. The main entrance leads under canopy to boomerang-shaped foyer, with curved travertine ramps on either side leading to lifts, which open directly into the flats. Conoid metal wall-lights a distinctive feature. On top, penthouse flat was originally Lubetkin's own London home. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms and large living room under curved roof which suggests a symmetrical plan below that is in fact disturbed by axial lines placed off-centre below, with concealed light sources within and to inglenook fireplace. Large fully-opening windows on to terrace, with built in marble seat within. Tiled floors throughout, while the entrance lobby and living room are lined in thick sand-blasted Norwegian pine panelling, likened to an early form of brise soleil or to a Russia dacha. John Allan has written that more even than the cayatids, this interior cameo of a world both modern and filled with history seems to support Colin Rowe's thesis of another tradition of Modernity, in contraddistinction to the supposed minline of Gropius, Meyer, Marinetti; a counter-formulation represented by such as Stravinsky, Joydce, Picasso, Eliot and Proust that embraces metaphor, irony and multiple meaning (p.303). Le Corbusier's own penthouse at the Porte Molitor in Paris may also have been an inspiration.
Highpoint Two is remarkable in that it advances the imagery of modernism beyond that of the classic white concrete box found next door at Highpoint One. It is at once luxurious and rich in its materials, while anticipating the use of box framing with brick and tile infil that Lubetkin, Tecton and others were to employ in low-cost housing after the war. The caryatids also anticipate the ironical historical statements of recent post-modernists. When it was completed critical reaction to the building was hostile, as young architectural students seeing Lubetkin as the master of modernism in England could not understand how he had progressed beyond the confines of the international style. Now it can be appreciated as perhaps the more revolutionary of the two Highpoint blocks.
Peter Coe and Malcolm Reading, Lubetkin and Tecton, Architecture and Social Commitment, Bristol, Arts Council, 1981, pp.120-4, 152-8
John Allan, Berthold Lubetkin, Architecture and the Tradition of Progress, London, RIBA, 1992, pp.252-312
Listing NGR: TQ2826987801
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.