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19-24, Langham House Close

A Grade II* Listed Building in Richmond upon Thames, London

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Latitude: 51.4331 / 51°25'59"N

Longitude: -0.3099 / 0°18'35"W

OS Eastings: 517578

OS Northings: 171814

OS Grid: TQ175718

Mapcode National: GBR 77.JJV

Mapcode Global: VHGR8.L70P

Entry Name: 19-24, Langham House Close

Listing Date: 23 December 1998

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1033381

English Heritage Legacy ID: 471920

Location: Richmond upon Thames, London, TW10

County: London

District: Richmond upon Thames

Electoral Ward/Division: Ham, Petersham and Richmond Riverside

Built-Up Area: Richmond upon Thames

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Ham St Richard

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Listing Text


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.
EXTERIOR: 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. Central brick stack to each unit. Roof and floor levels expressed externally 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 projecting top-light and concrete infill panel below. Rear facade strongly asymmetrical, with rear pair of flats projecting to right; both fronts fully glazed and 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 on return, the L-shaped pair with opening top lights have concrete band 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 handles and work surfaces are made form 'iroko', a teak substitute. The other walls plastered, as are the ceilings. Nos. 19-24 form an integral part of a group with Nos. 1-18 and Nos. 25-30 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 Stirling and Gowan's 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, which 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 Langham House Close 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 a way of seeing things rather than 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: TQ1757771818

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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