Replacing Victorian terraced houses extensively damaged during the Blitz, the estate, built in four phases over 16 years, is a pioneering example of mixed use development and has been influential on much subsequent post-war public housing. Philip Powell and Hidalgo “Jacko” Moya, who are best known now as the architects of the Skylon at the 1951 Festival of Britain, were aged just 25 and 26 when the won the competition for the scheme and would establish a reputation off the back of the scheme for an approach best described as ‘humane modernism’.
The completed Churchill Gardens comprises 1,661 homes, housing over 6,000, in 36 blocks spread over an area of 31 acres (12.6 hectares). The blocks are a mix of tall slabs of up to eleven storeys and low rise terraces of no more than two storeys which was a first for a UK estate. The skilful arrangement of the different blocks allows for a feeling of openness and light design, despite a residential density of 200 persons per acre. The estate is also notable for its early and rare example of district heating in the UK. A striking 136 ft (41m) glass-faced accumulator tower was built to collect the by-product heat in hot water from the now-disused Battersea Power Station on the opposite side of the Thames, providing heat and hot water throughout the estate.
Although recognised at the time, the first blocks were awarded the R.I.B.A. London Architectural Bronze Medal in 1950, the design has come to be seen as a prime example that high density inner city housing can be enduringly successful. This was recognised in 2000 when the estate won a special award from the Civic Trust. Churchill Gardens was designated a conservation area in 1990, and in 1998 six blocks and the Accumulator Tower were listed Grade II. Powell & Moya would go on to lead the way on hospital design, bring modernism to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and mature in style, which we will see at our next stop.
Powell & Moya (TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTS) [Paperback] Kenneth Powell (Author)