At the end of the war Westminster Council organised a competition for the redevelopment of the 30-acre site between Lupus Street to the north and the river. Many of the old buildings on the site had been bombed, the rest were seen as obsolete and were demolished.
The winning architects, Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, were aged just 25 and had met as students at the Architectural Association.
Their concept, which was influenced by Dutch housing of the 1930s, was for a mix of slender nine storey slabs interspersed with lower maisonettes and terraces. In contrast to the more rigid continental examples, Powell and Moya’s layout was based on a curving road; the slab blocks are subtly angled to improve views and reduce echoes. A key element of the plan is the district heating distributed from the glazed accumulator tower, and originally piped under the river from Battersea Power Station.
Churchill Gardens was the only estate to be built wholly in accordance with the Abercrombie Plan. In 1951 the first five blocks received the Festival of Britain Merit Award. Six blocks, Gilbert, Sullivan. Chaucer, Coleridge, Shelley and Keats, as well as the accumulator tower, were given Grade II listing in 1998 and the remaining blocks have been designated ‘Unlisted buildings of merit’.
Churchill Gardens was designated a conservation area in 1990. In 2000 the Civic Trust conferred its ‘Award of Awards’ on what it called ‘the best housing estate in Britain’.
What has been said:
“With an economy of means and repetitive use of simple elements it manages to create a harmonious whole with a simple palette of materials. It is robust enough to have endured yet visually delicate and its beauty is achieved through the elegance of the detailing.” Luke Tozer. Architects’ Journal 2015