Sivill House has been Grade II listed today following an application by residents wanting to ensure the building’s original design is preserved. The block, on Columbia Road, was designed by leading modernist architects Douglas Bailey, Francis Skinner and Berthold Lubetkin and completed in 1966. Currently undergoing a major works programme, residents have had to fight against Tower Hamlets Homes plans to replace the windows with a new designs that would “destroy the integrity of the composition” of the building as well as other unsympathetic design plans put forward by the management organisation.
The listing application was supported by John Allan (Lubetkin biographer) and the Twentieth Century Society who cited Lubetkin’s “reputation and legacy as one of Britain’s most prominent architects of the C20”, the building’s material palette, its form and plan that “enables light to reach all flats” and its central spiral staircase. They also paid tribute to the success of Sivill House as “gauged by how current residents have sought listing for the block, as well as their ongoing efforts to retain original design features in the face of proposed alterations.”
In their Advice Report, Historic England noted that “As the social housing programme of the post-war years recedes further into the past, the scale and ambition of what was achieved appears increasingly remarkable. Clearly not all of what was built served its cause well, so it is important that those that best did, and which have survived high rates of attrition, are recognised as exemplars in what has proved to be an exceptional period in the history of public housing.”
Kevin McKenna, a Sivill House Resident and Chair of the Columbia Tenants and Residents Association, said, “The listing of Sivill House will protect a building that is incredibly important to all its residents and which is of undoubted architectural merit. Sivill House anchors Lubetkin’s Dorset Estate to Columbia Road and has an important place in the long history of the fight to provide decent homes for ordinary Londoners.”
Mark Sullivan, who made the application on behalf of the Sivill House residents group, said “I have been staggered at the support that this application has generated. Sivill House is clearly valued as much by the general public as it is by those who live in it. I hope that the listing of Sivill House will remind the council that, going forward, it should involve residents in the decisions that it makes, rather than forcing through unnecessary, costly and divisive changes regardless.”
In summarising their decision Historic England went on to say “We have carefully considered the architectural and historic interest of Sivill House, and conclude that the overall composition of this important post-war public building type, its meticulous planning and detailing, and its importance as a late work by Lubetkin, confers special architectural and historic interest.” The full Historic England listing report can be read here.
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