The spirit of Bevin House
Cllr Sheila Chapman, Islington’s new Arts Champion and local councillor for Junction ward recounts her visit round the iconic Bevin Court during Open House London.
“Islington is home to some fantastic buildings, both historic and modern, and there was no better time to explore them than during Open House London last weekend. As Islington’s new Arts Champion, I was pleased to join a group of other architectural enthusiasts on a tour of Bevin Court, an iconic modernist housing project designed in the immediate post war period.
“Our Clerkenwell and Islington Guide Association guide, Jiff Baylis, explained that the first tenants of Bevin Court came from the overcrowded, run down private rented sector. For many of them, it was the first time they had hot and cold running water, an inside toilet and that most precious of things – security of tenure.
“Everything from the bold red and white spiral staircase, to the mustard-coloured lobby with its deconstructionist mural painted by Peter Yates, to the spectacular views across the City, reflect the architect Berthold Lubetkin’s belief that ‘nothing is too good for ordinary people.’
“Working with what was then Finsbury Council, Lubetkin delivered social housing on Cruikshank Street that was both functional and inspiring. That is an impressive feat given that the early 1950’s, not unlike our own, was a time of austerity and global political uncertainty.
“Lubetkin’s ethos is reflected in that of the Open House London project itself. Open House was founded 25 years ago by Victoria Thornton and provides free access to some 800 of London’s most remarkable building with the aim of showing how great design can transform lives.
“As well as being an advocate for Junction Ward where I live and Arts Champion, I am a member of the Planning Committee. As I get to grips with these new roles and responsibilities, I will carry with me the message from Bevin Court – nothing is too good for ordinary people and even in difficult times we can and must deliver housing that empowers people.”