Housing and the City: Typology

Trafalgar Road Housing, Greenwich by James Gowan (1964–68)

James Gowan, Trafalgar Road study sketch 1, DM 2780.5 IN SET – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), Trafalgar Road Housing: study, 1964 – 1968. Pencil and colour pencil on paper. © Estate of the architect.

James Gowan, Trafalgar Road study sketch 2, DM 2780.10 IN SET – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), Trafalgar Road Housing: study, 1964 – 1968. Pencil on paper. © Estate of the architect.

James Gowan, from Low Cost Housing, DM 2842.2 – Drawing Matter

, Low Cost Housing, c. 1965. Book. © Estate of the architect.

James Gowan, from Living Rooms, 1946, DM 2842.1 – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), Living Rooms: Research Project, Summer 1946, 1946. Book. © Estate of the architect.

James Gowan, Trafalgar Road model, c.1965, DM 2842.3 IN SET – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), Trafalgar Road Housing Model, 1964 – 1968. Wood. © Estate of the architect.

Throughout his career, Gowan developed both the plans and sections of his projects on the basis of a rigorously maintained 10ft grid. At Trafalgar Road, this module is forcefully expressed by the recessing of alternate bays on the final two storeys to monumental effect. ‘The configuration of the flats has been contrived to give a very large scale, almost like a giant Order’, the architect explained. ‘This is not characteristic of British terrace housing, which tends to be based on the precedent of the flat Georgian facade. However, there are one or two serrated terraces with a giant scale, Leinster Square, the north end of Gloucester Terrace and Powis Square, and these were all models for this project.’ The drawings featured here show Gowan exploring a double-height window arrangement and a faceted wall treatment, neither of which he incorporated in the final design.

SAAL Bouça Housing, Porto by Álvaro Siza (1972–73; 1974–79; 2004–07)

Álvaro Siza, Bouça Housing study sketch c.1974 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), SAAL Bouça Housing, Porto: study, c. 1974. Pencil on paper. © The architect.

Álvaro Siza, Bouça Housing study elevation c.1974 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), Study for SAAL Bouça Housing, Porto, c. 1974. Ink on trace with smaller pencil drawing attached. © The architect.

Álvaro Siza, Bouça Housing sketchbook study c.1974 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), SAAL Bouça Sketchbook Study, c. 1974. Biro on paper. © The architect.

Álvaro Siza, Bouça Housing large elevation c.1974 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), SAAL Bouça Housing, Porto: elevation, c. 1974. Ink on paper with markings in pencil and red biro. © The architect.

 ‘The problem of building a house can no longer be seen in isolation. Each unit of design, when it is multiplied, constitutes a mediation between general and individual interests; it requires an overall idea and detailed approximation at the same time – real or simulated; it requires a relationship between Plan and Design, each one containing the other, without limiting or dispersing it, or placing them in an hierarchy, reducing significance in either one or the other.

‘In the society in which we live, design without dialogue, without conflict and encounter, without doubt and conviction by turns, in our search for simultaneity and liberty, is unthinkable … Architecture means commitment transformed into radical expression, in other words, a capacity to absorb the opposite and to go beyond contradiction. To learn this requires teaching us to seek the Other within each of us.’

‘Educational Journeys’, published in ‘Jornadas Educativas’, Porto University Faculty of Architecture (FAUP), 1995

East Hanningfield Housing, Essex by James Gowan (1975–78)

James Gowan, East Hanningfield sketchbook, 1977, DM 2658.31-32 – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), Valmarana adapted to a 'semi', May '77, 1977. Pen and colour pencil on paper, 148 × 214 mm. © Estate of the architect.

James Gowan, East Hanningfield models in sketchbook, 1976-82, DM 2656.25-26 – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), Sketchbook with photographs of models for East Hanningfield Housing, 1976 – 1982. Photographs and biro sketch pasted into sketchbook, with labelling in ink. © Estate of the architect.

James Gowan, East Hanningfield housing with doodle, c. 1975, DM 2786.1.18 IN SET – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), Housing for East Hanningfield, Essex: study, c. 1975. Pencil and colour pencil on paper. © Estate of the architect.

One of the sketchbooks included here incorporates photographs of a model made to test the houses’ roof profile. The annotation explains that Gowan’s client rejected the proposal on the grounds that it involved areas of flat roof. The solution that was ultimately adopted set the roofs of the variously sized house types at the same angle, with regulating lines being employed to tie the roof and facade into a unified composition. The architect noted, ‘A good deal of importance is attached to the proportional arrangements which are very simple and therefore visually recognisable and enjoyable. For instance, the house floor plan has a main subdivision into two equal spans, one of which is then subdivided into three.’ Another sketchbook featured here shows a contemporaneous development of the East Hanningfield language as a semi-detached house of semi-circular plan.

Florbela Espanca Cooperative Housing, Vila Viçosa by Álvaro Siza (1979–81)

Álvaro Siza, Florbela Espanca Vila Vicosa study sketch 1, c. 1980 – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), Study for Florbela Espanca Cooperative Housing, Vila Viçosa, c. 1980. Biro on paper. © The architect.

Álvaro Siza, Florbela Espanca Vila Vicosa study sketch 2, c. 1980 – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), Study for Florbela Espanca Cooperative Housing, Vila Viçosa, c. 1980. Biro on paper. © The architect.

Álvaro Siza, Florbela Espanca Vila Vicosa (typology) plan, 1981 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), Plans for Florbela Espanca Cooperative Housing, Vila Viçosa, 1981. Ink on paper with markings in pencil. © The architect.

Álvaro Siza, Florbela Espanca Vila Vicosa (typology) plans and elevations, c, 1980 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), Florbela Espanca Cooperative Housing, Vila Viçosa: plans and elevations, c. 1980. Pencil on paper. © The architect.

Álvaro Siza, Florbela Espanca Vila Vicosa aerial view, c, 1980 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), Aerial View of Florbela Espanca Cooperative Housing, Vila Viçosa, c. 1980. Ink on paper with markings in pencil. © The architect.

‘I have never been able to build a house, a real house. I don’t mean designing and building houses, a minor thing which I can still manage to do, although maybe not very well.

‘The idea I have of a house is the idea of a complicated machine, in which every day something breaks down: a lamp, a tap, a drain, a lock, a hinge, a socket, and then a cylinder, a stove, a fridge … the security bolt. When there is a garden, the grass is growing menacingly, whatever free time you may have is not enough to deal with the madness of nature …

‘Living in a house, in a real house, is a full-time job. The house owner is at the same time a fireman … a nurse … and a lifeguard, he commands all the arts and professions, he is a specialist in physics, in chemistry, he is a lawyer, or he does not survive … This is why I consider owning, maintaining and renovating a house to be a matter of heroism.’

‘Living a House’, Porto, March 1994