‘All housing should have pleasant surroundings. The block of flats, especially in large clearance schemes, is essentially a means of freeing built-up areas and of introducing grass, flowers and trees. The block of flats which fails to introduce at least some green space is defective from the point of view of living.’  The Flat Book 1939, J L Martin and S Speight

In 1939, architects Sir John Leslie Martin and wife Sadie Speight published The Flat Book, which outlined their principles of design when living in the modern apartment.  In the opening pages they set out their vision of the necessary components to support these new vertical communities.

In 1956 a housing estate in South West London was completed.   A product of the post war housing boom and mid-century modernist optimism, the Fitzhugh Estate in Wandsworth was designed by Sir John Leslie Martin, the principal architect of the Royal Festival Hall. To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the estate this year, photographic artist Sharon O’Neill is curating the group exhibition Blueprint for Living.

In collaboration with the award-winning filmmaker Marc Isaacs and using photographs, unseen for 60 years, from the Architectural Press Archives, the exhibition explores ideas of home, community, design for the living space, architecture, public spaces, post-war British modernism and social housing.

The exhibition is an artistic response to photographs taken in 1956 of the newly built estate by Bill Toomey for the Architects’ Journal and uncovered at the Royal Institute of British Architecture Collections.

The use of these archive photographs brings to life the architectural and design ideas that inspired the buildings. This is juxtaposed with contemporary photographs of the estate by O’Neill, that illustrate the present-day lived experience, and a sensitively observed film installation by Isaacs offering a unique portrait of a vertical community.

Blueprint for Living acts as a visual letter from the future back to the British modernist architects of the mid 20th Century.

Exhibition Runs from 31 May – 4 June 2016 10 – 6 pm daily.

Fitzhugh Estate, Fitzhugh Grove, Wandsworth, London SW18 3SA

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