In walking to the best of the local supermarkets (Simply Fresh on the Roman Road), I pass two key early blocks by Denys Lasdun -Trevelyan House between Morpeth Street and Warley Street and Sulkin House, slightly further north on Usk Street, the name by which these blocks are commonly known. I used not to realise their significance as the place where Lasdum worked out the idea of the so-called cluster block in the early 1950s, providing as much accommodation as possible in maisonettes stretching out from a central lift, designed before he went to the States in 1954 when he was running the practice of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, but not completed till 1958. The listing quotes Ian Nairn as saying how, ‘In their primary job of giving identity they certainly succeed, buzzing like alarm clocks in an area of London which is steadily losing its identity’, but in Nairn’s London, he was much more lukwarm, writing that there was ‘A lot of talk about the vertical re-creation of the old East End street, but not much performance in fact…If you want to like modern architecture, don’t come to the East End’. This seems unnecessarily harsh, as they’ve got quite a nice post-Festival of Britain spikiness.
This is Trevelyan House:-
And this is Sulkin House:-