All images: copyright Stefi Orazi
Modernist Estates: The buildings and the people who live in them today by Stefi Orazi
We were very excited to hear one of our favourite blogs, Modernist Estates, was becoming a book. Written by Stefi Orazi (who shared her love of the Golden Lane Estate in MidCentury 08), it explores what it’s like to live on a modernist estate through the lives of its residents.
Modernist Estates: a celebration of people and communities
The book of the blog focuses on twenty-one different housing estates, each introduced with a brief background on their history and architect, before moving onto the residents themselves. If you already follow Modernist Estates, you’ll know what to expect – it’s really a celebration of the people and communities that can be fostered in estates.
Stefi asks each resident a simple but revealing set of questions about how he or she came to live on their estate and what they enjoy about living there. The interview is accompanied by lovely, warm portraits of the individuals followed by a photographic glimpse inside their very stylish homes.
The Hall, Span estate, Blackheath
Modernist Estates: MidCentury favourites
There’s an interesting mix of estates featured. The examples selected are mainly from London (hopefully a more nationwide selection will come in book two!), with the addition of examples from Newcastle and Sheffield. They encompass estates that are admired and much sought after, such as the Barbican and the Span estate in Blackheath, to others that have been more maligned, such as Sheffield’s Park Hill (featured in MidCentury issue 03).
There are several that will be familiar to readers of MidCentury magazine, such as the Dulwich Wood Estate or the Isokon Building – and it was a pleasure to see Tim Bubb’s home in Manygate Lane again, which appeared in MidCentury 04. Others, such as John Spence and Partner’s Christchurch Estate, sent me straight onto Zoopla. And I’ll definitely be planning a visit to Sir Frederick Gibberd’s Pullman Court in Streatham this Open House weekend.
Manygate Lane, Shepperton
Modernist Estates: concrete dreams
While everyone featured in the book has embraced the positives of estate living, it’s interesting to discover how they ended up there. Some sought out the properties, others ended up there by fluke. One unique example is from the Dunboyne Road Estate in London’s Gospel Oak, where the architect Neave Brown still lives. He flags up the fact that the original aim of some of these developments has become slightly lost since they were first built. Affordable housing, he says “should mean it is affordable for a good lifestyle for people on minimum or low income”.
Douglas Murphy reflects on those original aims in the foreword, when he writes, “Modernist housing is the result of an era in architecture of soberly optimistic considerations of what humans were capable of, and how they might live together, and the dreams of the period can still be sensed in the concrete of its houses.”
Sivill House, Bethnal Green
The residents featured are united by both the love of their homes and for their communities – it’s a refreshing alternative to more ego-driven architecture and a reminder that there are other ways to build and live.
Modernist Estates – with its yellow cloth quarter binding and grey card covers – will sit beautifully on any mid-century bookshelf or coffee table. Filled with fascinating architectural history, interesting people, and a good snoop around some gorgeous interiors, it’s hard to see what’s not to love.
Modernist Estates: The buildings and the people who live in them today
By Stefi Orazi
Published by Frances Lincoln
192 pages, £25.00
Dimensions 255 x 220 mm
Read Stefi Orazi’s article on the Golden Lane Estate in MidCentury 08
Order your copy of Modernist Estates here
Discover more on the Modernist Estates blog
Read our article on the Manygate Lane Estate An alternative to Span Housing
Read our article on the Park Hill Estate The Regeneration of a Brutalist Icon
There’s more on the Dulwich Estate in A hillside haven in south-east London