Open House Festival

4 Bayer House


Chamberlin Powell & Bon, 1957

Golden Lane Estate, EC1Y 0RN

Part of Golden Lane Estate which was the first public housing to be listed. A maisonette with much of the original detailing and finishes.

Getting there


Barbican, Old Street




4, 55, 56, 153, 243




This Open House is a maisonette on the ground floor of one of the five similar low blocks which are part of the Golden Lane Estate. The estate is Grade ll listed, with one building, Crescent House listed Grade ll*.

The estate is the result of a competition set by the Corporation of London in the 1950s. Probably the best-known entry for the competition was Alison and Peter Smithson’s, with the famous collaged perspectives, featuring fashion photographers and Gerard Philippe.

The winner, however, was the young practice of Chamberlin Powell and Bon who later were to become famous for the nearby Barbican Estate, a much more monumental City of London project. The firm went on to build Golden Lane in the years immediately following the 1951 Festival of Britain. The first phase was completed in 1957, and the second phase, including Crescent House, in 1962.

The Maisonette

The maisonette consists of an unstepped entry from the walkway into a small hall. Off this is a galley kitchen to the left, and through to the living/dining room. This opens onto a terrace, through a sliding door, made of glass and steel.

The terrace is the top one of four levels which descend into the communal rose garden that lies between Bayer House and its neighbour to the south, Bowater House.

The south face of the maisonette has big windows. Directly from the living room an unusual cantilevered ferro-concrete stair rises up to the first floor. The double-height space thus made available to the room gives the dwelling a permeating sense of spaciousness despite the tight overall dimensions (the maisonette is only four metres wide). Upstairs are the bathroom and two bedrooms, the smaller of which has a grating balcony on the north side.

The detailing, the materials used and the ingenuity employed are of a uniformly high standard. The individual buildings in the open spaces are very proportionate, based on a 4ft. x 4ft. module.

In addition to dwellings, the other facilities on the estate include a swimming pool, a badminton court, a nursery school, community hall and bar, guest rooms, and a roof garden on top of the one high-rise block, Great Arthur House. The concrete forms which make up this roof were outstandingly bold when the estate was built. Even half a century later, they are still strikingly so.

Although it is still mainly public housing, Golden Lane Estate has become a sought-after place to live in recent years, making the photographic collage that went with the Smithsons’ entry appear, some 60 years later, almost a visionary glimpse of what was to happen.

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