Fifty years ago James Stirling* was commissioned to design new housing for Preston. The scheme was completed in 1962 and was one of his earliest built projects in independent practice. In ‘Complete Works 1950-1974’ the scheme is illustrated alongside a reproduction of an L.S. Lowry painting and a descriptive text which refers to the ‘horizontal approach’ of housing in 19th century towns: “…you pass perhaps twenty or more front doors coming to your own; with children playing in the roads, parents chatting on the pavement and sitting in doorways, and the old peering through windows…the 19th century solution seems more dynamic than later planning solutions for mass housing.”
The scheme was built in an area of ‘slum clearance’ adjacent to four new tower blocks (map comparison 1955 & 1984)…
…and took the form of thin blocks of flats and maisonettes around a communal garden. The associated cubic forms were housing for old people.
Pictures taken soon after construction show Stirling’s idea of using utility structures on the facade to articulate individual dwellings. His own pictures show the occupants using the communal ramps at the end of the block and include 19th century dwellings in the background.
By the early ‘nineties the housing had been significantly altered, losing the stark parapet in favour of a standard local authority eaves detail. The mound depicted in the original drawing is there but less sharp than before…
…and the old peoples’ houses have lost their pyramidal roofs.
The whole scheme was recently demolished along with the adjacent tower blocks.
*Stirling & Gowan