I’m delighted to announce that Blueprint for Living Exhibition will be part of the programme of events for the London Festival of Architecture 2016.

The theme of the London Festival of Architecture 2016 is “Community”, and the festival aims to connect with as many people as possible to demonstrate architecture’s relevance to London and its diverse communities. The festival programme features exhibitions and events organised by London’s leading architectural, cultural and academic institutions alongside architects, designers, curators and community groups from around the UK.  Check out the whole programme of events at www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org.


When first built, the entrance to each block on the Fitzhugh Estate had a wall of patterned ceramic tiles, same design but each with a reconfigured graphic pattern. Over the years these have been stripped away so that now there are only two blocks remaining with them. Do you know who may have designed them?

Clues discovered are that architect Oliver Cox was involved with the building of the estate. Cox was very keen to include murals and sculptures by young artists on new housing being built by the London County Council in the 1950s. He had also created a mural himself for St Crispin’s School in Wokingham. Perhaps it was his design?

Contact [email protected] if you can you shed some light.


Joan is a resident on the Fitzhugh Estate. The photograph here shows her on her balcony in the late 1950s.

One of the original residents to be housed on the estate, Joan was a young mother with two small children when she moved in with her husband in 1956.

They had been on the housing waiting list for 7 years. She recalls that she was so desperate to be housed, she would have been happy if they’d offered her a cowshed. However, the flats were beautiful when she first moved in, they had central heating and she loved living up high with the beautiful views across the Common.

In the early days it was mainly families on the estate and everyone’s door was always open.

Back then, there was a caretaker who lived on the ground floor who used to rule the place with a rod of iron. You couldn’t walk on the grass but only use the paths and if you missed your slot in the communal laundry on the ground floor of each block you were scuppered for the week.

For the children there was a playground at the back of one of the blocks, and at the front, a small sandpit to play in. The big grassy bank behind the outbuildings that housed the boiler was particularly fun especially when it snowed.

One of Joan’s son’s was there one day when I visited and I showed him the article in the Architects Journal from 1956 showing photographs of the Estate, some of which will be exhibited at the Blueprint for Living exhibition. He was fascinated. He seems to have really loved growing up there, always lots of children to play with.

Joan has now lived on the estate for 60 years. I asked her recently what her favourite view was. She says it’s when the chestnut trees on the common are in full blossom.


 ‘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

 For more information go to: historic.blueprintforliving.co.uk

Email: [email protected]