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© Ms Clare Glenister

IoE Number: 471965
Location: SULKIN HOUSE, KNOTTISFORD STREET (west side)
  BETHNAL GREEN, TOWER HAMLETS, GREATER LONDON
Photographer: Ms Clare Glenister
Date Photographed: 12 October 1999
Date listed: 22 December 1998
Date of last amendment: 22 December 1998
Grade II

The Images of England website consists of images of listed buildings based on the statutory list as it was in 2001 and does not incorporate subsequent amendments to the list. For the statutory list and information on the current listed status of individual buildings please go to The National Heritage List for England.

TQ 3582 TOWER HAMLETS KNOTTISFORD STREET (West side) 788/10/10065 Sulkin House GV II Includes: Sulkin House USK STREET . Block of 24 maisonettes. Designed 1952-3, built 1955-8 by Denys Lasdun (Fry, Drew, Drake and Lasdun) Margaret Rodd assistant architect. Ove Arup and Partners engineers. Reinforced concrete cross-wall construction with ends formed of pre-cast permanent shuttering and some brick cladding. Eight floors (four maisonettes) high with district heating system in basement; six units per floor set ill butterfly plan of two ranges, the rear unit in each group of three set at right angles to the other pair. The ranges set around central lift tower and staircase treated as a distinct element ill the composition and linked to the housing only by access landings. This arrangement refilled became known as the cluster block. All windows save flats Nos. 13 and 14 retain original style doors and metal abutting windows to hallway. The other windows renewed in UPVC. Projecting copings and balconies. Each maisonette has an L-shaped lounge with balcony, and kitchen on ground floor; two bedrooms and bathroom above; their fittings not of special interest. HISTORY: Bethnal Green MB was one 0¿ the most progressive housing authorities in London, whose dynamic policy of providing new housing was constrained by the limited amount of land available within the borough. Faced with a need to build on an awkward collection of small sites (Sulkin House is on the site of the bombed St Simon Zelotes), at a high density but with a housing committee reluctant to sanction expensive lifts or building high, the combination of eight and four storey blocks found on the St Simon Zelotes and Usk Street No.2 sites was an efficient compro11lise. It is significant in introducing a nascent fonn of Cluster Block, which anticipated his mature and more refined work at Claredale Street (1957-9) also listed, before Lasdun visited America ill 1954 and before Kevin Lynch's article on 'The Form of Cities' was published there the same year and brought the concept to a wider audience. The concept is related also to Lasdun and Lynch's theories of the 'grain' of cities; a cluster block could be fitted into a small site as here without disturbing the existing street pattern or character. By clustering his flats in separate elements around a detached core Lasdun broke down the bulk of his flats, whilst segregating the noisy service functions from the flats to either side. The flats thus gained in privacy, yet their grouping ensured that the traditional neighbourliness of the old slums was transported here. The concept was also efficient here; the separate service tower removes the need for a secondary escape stair, whilst Lasdun ensured he provided the maximum accommodation permitted round a single lift. Maisollettes were a particularly efficient and popular method of providing generously proportioned housing within government defined budgets in the mid 1950s. Sulkin House forms a group with Trevelyan House (item 10066) (qv) and three lower blocks by Lasdun, one incorporating a nursery; smaller flats were provided in the adjoining development by Yorke Rosenberg Mardall to which the scheme is also related. In 1958 the two developments became collectively known as the Greenways Estate. Sulkin and Trevelyan Houses were intended to be landmarks: 'In their primary job of giving identity they certainly succeed, buzzing like alarm clocks in a part of London which is being steadily drained of its character' wrote Ian Nairn. Included for their important and early contribution to new ideas in urban housing, and for their sculptural architectural form. Source: (Bethnal Green Housing Committee Minute Books: Vol. XVII-XXVI: 1951-1958; Architectural Review: January 1954; Architectural Design: April 1956; 125-27; Architectural Design: February 1958: 62)

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