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The Depth of the Street

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2015
Author Davidovici Irina,
Project Between autonomy and integration. Housing estates and the European city, 1865-2000
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal AA Files ANNALS OF THE ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
Page(s) 103 - 123
Title of proceedings AA Files ANNALS OF THE ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE

Abstract

The Peabody Trust was established in 1862 with the charitable aim of providing appropriate accommodation for London’s urban poor. While part of an established reform movement, it was among the first organizations to employ a professional architect. Until 1885 Henry Astley Darbishire (1825-1899) supervised the design of all Peabody estates, importing then adapting a high- density urban housing type already common in Europe. Darbishire developed the characteristic Peabody model of yellow stock-brick tenement blocks in a stripped Italianate style, grouped around courtyards. Despite its ambitions of dignified urbanity this model had, throughout its history, a mixed reception: a “truly humanitarian” enterprise seen as ”depressing in its results” (Pevsner). Conversely, Darbishire’s surviving estates have recently seen a rise in popularity, signaled by English Heritage listings, upgrading and, for better or worse, privatization. The increase in market value signals an inevitable distancing from their initial, all-inclusive social purpose. It is however worth considering the deeper reasons behind this renewed appeal. Through the typological analysis of three estates (Islington, 1866; Blackfriars, 1871; and Pimlico, 1878), this paper examines those elements of the Peabody model that achieve communality and urban decorum. In contrast to the ornate High Victorian of its time, this architecture found expression through spatial means and was enriched over time through inhabitation, appropriation and capacity to sustain community life. This study sustains that Darbishire’s Peabody model was ahead of its time and constitutes a valuable precedent for contemporary urban housing.
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