64 Heath Drive
Lubetkin & Tecton
- Original design
- Lubetkin & Tecton, 1934
The 2017 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2018 programme in July.
Built 1934 – Pell & Clayton Ltd.
Site Manager – Mr Ove Arup
Architect – Lubetkin & Tecton
Materials – Monolithic Concrete with cork lining, steel windows.
Hollow Pot-tile roof / 1st floor.
Established in 1909, the Gidea Hall Development Company set out to create Romford Garden Suburb on the 500 acre Gidea Hall Estate. By 1911, 150 new houses were built, mostly in the Arts and Crafts style, including work by C. R. Ashbee, Baillie Scott and others equally well-known at the time, and others who would become well-known later.
The next notable phase of development was based around the Modern Houses Exhibition of 1934. Around 35 houses on Brook Road and along Eastern Avenue were built by notable architects of the period, including Holford, Stephenson & Yorke, Euston Salaman, Geoffrey Ransom, and Tecton.
64 Heath Drive was the responsibility of a named partner in Tecton, Francis Skinner, and won the gold medal in its class. Edward VIII visited while the build was underway, and John Betjeman enthused over it for the Evening Standard newspaper.
Berthold Lubetkin controlled the Tecton offices closely at this time and oversaw even insignificant design details of their work. Inspiration doubtless came from the ‘weightless floating horizontals’ featured in the design for Highpoint1, which was taking shape at the same time.
Careful attention to site aspect and solarisation make the house a delight to live in. Morning sun shines into the kitchen and what was the maid’s bed-sit, also through the terrace proscenium, lighting and warming the bedrooms. In high summer the long balcony shades the extensive living room glazing from the midday sun. By mid-afternoon, sheltered corners of the terraces give "shirt sleeve" temperatures even in February. The last rays of the setting sun shine into the living room providing warmth before the chill of evening.
From a craft viewpoint, the house was well made. Most problems remedied during refurbishment were the result of ill-considered “improvement” or poor maintenance. Despite there being no conventional damp course, there is no evidence of penetrating or rising damp anywhere. The floor slab was made in the form of a shallow concrete tray, filled inside with insulating foamed cement, covered with a hard screed. The main walls are 4” reinforced concrete with 2” cork insulation.
The flat roof on the main house is the original, and because of its rigid masonry construction has remained problem-free for almost 80 years – longer than many conventional roof types.
Refurbishment was a major project. From the 1940s on the house had been altered extensively. The upper sun terrace was partially enclosed, the maid’s bed-sit knocked into the kitchen and the garage became a dining room. During the 1970s, many Tudorbethan features were added – all removed in 15 skips. Kitchen, hall, dining room and ground floor cloakroom were stripped out completely, services were replaced and proper provision made for pipe runs, etc. The sun terrace extension was remodelled and a metal catwalk added to restore the original circulation logic – access from all rooms to the garden. The design of the catwalk balustrade echoes the original sun deck detailing.
Installation of around 100 sq. m of thermal laminate wall insulation and the replacement of all windows with custom-built sealed double glazing to the original pattern were required. The living room windows are the last originals. Another 100 sq. M. of ‘thin-skin’ insulation was added in places where thick thermal laminate could not be used without compromising the design.
All works were carried out in close consultation with English Heritage who were very helpful. Grateful thanks are also due to our architect, the late Patrick Curtin, who was instrumental in turning our ideas about ‘recreation’ into reality – a task he relished having been a student in the period when Tecton’s Modernism was ‘the new black’. The house is listed Grade 2, and has been suggested it should be G2*.
The garden was also remodelled. Extensive land drains were put in, and 200 tons of topsoil shipped in to raise and level the surface. Work was to an exciting – but relaxed and simple –design commissioned from several times Chelsea Gold Medal winner Dan Pearson, which reflects the modernist principles on which the house was designed. Offers of help to work on the garden are welcomed btw.