Inside The Apartments Of Golden Lane Estate

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 20 months ago
Inside The Apartments Of Golden Lane Estate
A studio flat in Cullum Welch House, the smallest unit of all the flats. To delineate the sleeping zone from the living space, half of the floor is covered in quarry tiles, the other in finger parquet.

Golden Lane in the City of London rubs shoulders with the elite of London's housing estates. Alongside the likes of the neighbouring Barbican, and the Alexandra & Ainsworth estate in South Hampstead, it's earned a reputation as a modernist microcosm of everything that's right with post-war architecture. It really is golden.

The living room of a ground floor maisonette in Bayer House, with views towards the balcony and communal gardens beyond. The double-height window features a vertically sliding balcony door.

But aside from using its public pool, popping into the Shakespeare pub, or nabbing a slot on an Open House weekend, people rarely get to see inside Golden Lane.

Now though, we can go through the looking glass, thanks to the book Golden Lane Estate: An Urban Village by Stefi Orazi. With photographs by Mary Gaudin, here's a glimpse into the kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms of those who call this Chamberlin, Powell and Bon estate home.

An original kitchen in a typical maisonette, with a north-facing window. All kitchens, and bathrooms, in the maisonettes have natural light and ventilation.

Taking us inside the likes of Bayer House, Hatfield House and Crescent House, we see how some apartments retain their original 1950s/60s features — such as kitchens with dark-stained hardwood work surfaces, and floors that are part quarry tile, part finger parquet.

View of Bayer House balconies and gardens.

In keeping with the exterior's bold palette of primary colours, some apartments continue the theme inside, with bold blues and yellows.

One of the bedrooms in a two-bedroom maisonette in Bayer House.

There are moments of interior design genius; such as a bookcase stashed in the back of a staircase (want, want, WANT). And to pile on the house envy factor, we find huge light wells overlooking tiered balconies, brimming with potted plants. A concrete jungle this ain't.

A living room of a top floor two-bedroom maisonette in Bowater House. Bookshelves are neatly inserted into the underside of each step of the stairs.

Elsewhere in Orazi/Gaudin's book, we're introduced to some of the estate's residents. Joan Flannery has lived here since November 1969 and still remembers moving in: "It was fantastic as there was central heating!"

Grade II* Crescent House was an extension to the original scheme, intended to incorporate housing for 400 people without losing the character of the overall design. The long horizontal block, facing Goswell Road, echoes Stanley Cohen House on the east side of the estate. Raised on pilotis, the building stands at four-storeys high, with flats on either side of a central corridor. At the south end of the block (pictured), access is around open courts.

The book also delves into the genesis of the estate, with architectural mock-ups, and photos of Golden Lane's construction, in a quarter of the City that was obliterated by second world war bombing.

View of a top floor flat in Crescent House, which has distinctive barrel-vaulted ceilings.

A form of urban paradise it might be, but Golden Lane is not without it troubles. Orazi herself lived here for almost a decade, and admits that she agreed to write this book 'with a degree of reservation' owing to the fact she'd seen a decline in its maintenance, and increasing frustration from residents who felt unheard by those running the estate.

An original kitchen with hardwood work surface and splash-back, and a circular stainless steel sink.

The author does go on to say: "The sense of community, however, is still very strong — and like nowhere else I have experienced before or since."

Kitchen in a one-room apartment in Hatfield House.

Golden Lane Estate: An Urban Village by Stefi Orazi is published by Batsford. Photographs by Mary Gaudin. RRP £25

All images © Mary Gaudin/Batsford

Last Updated 05 April 2022

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