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Latitude: 51.4328 / 51°25'57"N
Longitude: -0.3105 / 0°18'37"W
OS Eastings: 517541
OS Northings: 171772
OS Grid: TQ175717
Mapcode National: GBR 77.JDL
Mapcode Global: VHGR8.K7QZ
Entry Name: 25-30, Langham House Close
Listing Date: 22 December 1998
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1051027
English Heritage Legacy ID: 471921
Location: Richmond upon Thames, London, TW10
District: Richmond upon Thames
London Borough Ward: Ham, Petersham and Richmond Riverside
Traditional County: Surrey
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London
Church of England Parish: Ham St Richard
Church of England Diocese: Southwark
22/23/10044 LANGHAM HOUSE CLOSE
22-DEC-98 HAM COMMON
Block of six flats. Designed 1955, built 1957 -8 by James Stirling and James Gowan for the Manousso Group of Companies. Stirling designed the main block and Gowan the two pavilion blocks, which accounts for some of the variation in the flat interiors. Second-hand stock brick and in-situ reinforced shuttered concrete. Flat felt roof. Two-storeys. Three asymmetrically placed units, each with a flat on each floor, around long central two-storey entrance hall with suspended access gallery to upper flats.
EXTERIOR: Central brick stack to each unit. Roof and floor levels expressed internally by concrete bands. Identical fenestration to both floors except where noted. Thick timber windows with strong horizontal sill bands, and thick timber double doors with glazed panels. Entrance facade has narrow central bay containing entrance doors in margin-light surrounds; first floor fully glazed with margin-light at skirting level. Projecting bays to either side. The fronts of these are fully glazed with strongly horizontal composition of three lights below, four above, in wide surround with narrow full-height sidelights in returns. East elevation shows separation of each pair of flats, linked only by staircase hall in centre. This set back, but with slightly projecting bay of full glazing. To sides fully glazed returns match those in projections of entrance facade. Rest of elevation comprises brick crosswalls, each side with three small casements, one with narrow toplight and concrete infil panel below. Rear facade strongly asymmetrical, with rear pair of flats projecting to left; both fronts fully glazed, matching the projections on the entrance facade. Long return has two-storey hall window with concrete floor slab exposed between each section, and narrow windows in return, the L-shaped pair with opening top lights have concrete panels beneath.
INTERIOR: Internal materials balance those used outside. Entrance hall of stock brick with shuttered concrete ceiling, gallery and stairs, and quarry tile floors. Steel balustrade to stairs and gallery. Flats have living, dining and kitchen spaces planned around fireplace set in exposed brick wall with pre-cast concrete mantelpieces and corbels, and squint to side of stack. The kitchen surfaces and handles are made from 'iroko', a substitute for teak. The other walls are plastered, as are the ceilings. Nos. 25-30 form an integral part of a group with Nos. 1-18 and Nos. 19-24 Langham House Close, to which last it forms a mirrored pair.
HISTORY: Thirty flats were built as a speculative development on 999-year leases in the garden of a late Georgian house. They are often known from the locality as their Ham Common flats. The unusual long, narrow shape of the site largely predetermined the layout and daylighting of the blocks. The enlightened developer felt that a good modern design, that was well built, would sell better than the conventional mediocrity of traditional speculative building then being widely derided. In September 1955 and March 1956 Stirling had published two articles in the Architectural Review on Le Corbusier's recent work, one on the Maisons Jaoul, the other on the Ronchamp chapel. At the same time both he and Gowan had looked at the 1920s work in brick of the Dutch de Stijl group. It has been suggested that Ham Common is a correction of the forms of the Maisons Jaoul according to their own rationale. Unlike the Maisons Jaoul the load-bearing brick walls were related to a calculated structural minimum, and to the warehouse buildings of Stirling's native Liverpool. This mix of vernacular and early modern movement influences with raw Corbusian concrete (far better finished here than in Le Corbusier's work), heralded a new style of architecture in Britain, which with its acknowledgement to the massiveness of many buildings of the nineteenth century industrial revolution was a truly British contribution to the international modernist canon of the late 1950s, and gave an appropriate aesthetic to the title 'New Brutalism' - hitherto claimed by the Smithsons as an ethic or way of seeing things rather than as a style of building. Stirling and Gowan had little time for such a tag, and they were in no way followers of the Smithsons, rather they offered an alternative course. Yet the conscious over-design of the Langham House Close flats was a fully developed reaction against the curtain-walled public housing of the period. It was also Stirling and Gowan's first major work in partnership together.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: Langham House Close is an early and highly influential example of 'New Brutalist' architecture used to great effect in a speculative development. The development derived aspects of Le Corbusier's work at Maisons Jaoul, in particular the combination of brick and exposed shuttered concrete, in what was considered an 'honest use of materials'. The development displayed a quality of design and attention to detail not seen in traditional speculative building or public housing of the period. This is still evident today in the essentially complete interiors and exteriors of the three blocks.
SOURCES:Anon., Flats at Ham Common, in The Architect and Building News, p.16-17, 7 January 1959
Anon., Privately-Built Housing at Ham Common, Surrey, in The Architects¿ Journal, p. 577-582, April 17 1958
Banham, R, The New Brutalism, 1966 (The Architectural Press)
Girouard, M., Big Jim: The Life and Works of James Stirling, 1998 (Chatto and Windus)
Harwood, E., England: A Guide to Post-War Listed Buildings, 2003 (Batsford)
Harwood, E., Interview with James Gowan, April 5 2005 (unpublished)
Harwood, E. and Powers, A., Something Worth Keeping?: Post-War Architecture in England, Housing and Houses, 1997 (English Heritage)
Stirling, J. and Gowan, J., Flats at Langham House, Ham Common, Richmond, in Architectural Design, p. 448-455, November 1958
Stirling, J. and Gowan, J., Afterthought on the Flats at Ham Common, in Architecture and Building, p. 167-169, May 1959
Stirling, J., Garches to Jaoul: Le Corbusier as Domestic Architect in 1927 and 1953 in Architectural Review, p. 145-15, September 1955
Stirling, J., Writing on Architecture, 1998 (Skira)
Listing NGR: TQ1753871777
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