As first stage of the project, we focused on the theoretical underpinnings behind the design of Claremont Court housing scheme and how it responded to the social changes in the post-war period. Although some stylistic studies on the housing scheme have been published, the ideas that ruled the design still needed to be investigated.

The research at this stage has been interpretive-historic in nature. We examined archive drawings of the original architectural design as developed by Spence in 1958-62, and analysed them in relation to the relevant literature in architecture, history, sociology and contemporary housing policy, through the lens of community and home-making. First, the project focused on how the dwelling types originally supported diverse meanings of home, addressing needs and desires of new household types. Then, it traced shared spaces and social ties in Claremont Court that allow the creation of a collective identity or sense of belonging.

The findings of this initial stage revealed Scottish architect Basil Spence sought to address a wider socio-cultural debate, hence moving towards a more ambitious and innovative social approach supported by architectural design.

Our research brings to the fore the social agenda purposefully integrated with the architectural design of dwellings and communal areas in Claremont Court. In fact, Spence tried to translate into architectural language the ideal of designing houses ‘for all’ in an attempt to house an inclusive community, including the new household types: single people (including working women), the independent elderly and childless couples . To this extent, the provision of communal spaces (such as the landscape courtyards and the drying areas on the roof) was a key design element to nurture a sense of community and support the collective life in the housing scheme.

Previous studies have explored the link between the architecture of Modernist housing estates, the residents’ perception and their individual and collective behaviours. Drawing on this, we focused on the survey and analysis of open decks and stairwells, types and position of the entrances and the spatial organisation of the landscape courtyard.

Typological richness, vertical and horizontal distribution across the different blocks, walkways, units internal distribution, to allow all the balconies to face the courtyards, were all actions put in place to increase the chance of casual encounters and eventually facilitate neighbours interactions.

Related publications:

Costa Santos, Sandra, Bertolino, Nadia, Hicks, Stephen, Lewis, Camilla and May, Vanessa (2017) Place-making theory behind Claremont Court. In: ICATCP 2017: 19th International Conference on Architectural Theory and Construction Processes, Zurich Switzerland Jan 13-14, 2017, 19 (1) Part VI – pp. 790-795.

Bertolino, Nadia and Costa Santos, Sandra (2017) Testing the theory of ‘planned communities’: an exploration of the link between community design and everyday life through a participatory approach. In: Cities, Communities and Homes: Is the Urban Future Livable?, 22-23 June 2017, Derby, UK.