Architect: Howard & Rotherham

Highgate Spinney
Crescent Road, London N8

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Favourably located on the Highgate side of Crouch End, within a short walk of the Broadway, this exemplary two-bedroom maisonette occupies the upper floors of one of the area’s most sought-after Modernist buildings.

Highgate Spinney was built between 1964 and 1966 to a design by the noted architects John Howard and Bruce Rotherham. It consists of 30 apartments in a secluded position, surrounded by trees and communal gardens.

This particular apartment is the finest we have seen on the development. It has been refurbished with great attention to detail by the architects Gemma Douglas of Herzog & de Meuron and Jim Heverin of Zaha Hadid Architects, who have brought it up to modern standards while respecting the original intent. The glazing has been replaced with double-glazed units in the same configuration, both the kitchen and bathroom have been refurbished in recent years, and electric heaters have been added, along with underfloor heating in the bathroom.

The property is entered from an external walkway on the first floor. There is an entrance hall with storage for coats, and an open-tread staircase up to the split-level living accommodation that occupies the whole of the second floor. At the rear is a reception room with views onto trees, and at the front a kitchen and dining room with doors onto a terrace. There are windows to two aspects, providing outstanding natural light. The third floor contains two double bedrooms and a bathroom, as well as a second terrace at the rear.

The flat has use of an off-street parking space on the development.

Crescent Road is a tranquil tree-lined street within walking distance of Crouch End Broadway, with its many shops and restaurants. To the west is Highgate Wood and the adjacent Queen’s Wood, with a playground and a large expanse of playing fields. To the north is Alexandra Park and to the south is Finsbury Park, which are connected by the beautiful Parkland Walk, a former railway line.

Local transport links include Crouch Hill British Rail station and Highgate Underground station (Northern Line), as well as excellent local buses. The property is within a short walk of Coolhurst tennis club, and Coleridge Primary School, which is rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Tenure: Leasehold with Share of Freehold
Lease: 999 years from June 1989
Service charge: £742 per quarter

Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. The Modern House has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.


History

Highgate Spinney was developed by Beale Construction Ltd. on a 1.3-acre suburban site that had previously accommodated four 19th-century houses. The first unit was opened as a show home in April 1965. Hornsey Borough Council stipulated that the historic trees at the front should be retained, that 75% of the accommodation should be earmarked for families, and that the height of the building should not exceed that of neighbouring houses.

Highgate Spinney is a linear block with a south-east street elevation. Its linearity and regularity are reminiscent of a Georgian or Victorian terrace. It has a reinforced concrete frame, clad with a skin of red brick.

The architects for the scheme, John Howard and Bruce Rotherham, managed to fit five storeys in to the structure, while not exceeding the height of neighbouring houses, by excavating to what was effectively the basement and creating downward sloping access to the lowest level. The five-storey bulk is articulated by a cantilevered gallery at mid-level and, above it, balconies that are cantilevered even further out, stretching beyond the gallery balustrade. The building’s two short end walls are notable for their complete lack of openings. Here, projecting ramps and stairs provide access to the mid-level. In plan, the block comprises a middle tier of six studio apartments, sandwiched between two rows of 12 maisonettes, a reflection of the fact that the bulk of the building was intended for families.

John Howard and Bruce Rotherham brought earlier experiences to bear on the design of Highgate Spinney. For Rotherham, a New Zealander, this included his formative years with Group Architects in Auckland, which produced innovative small houses, particularly in timber. The group greatly admired the work of Le Corbusier, Frank Llloyd Wright and Alvar Aalto.

Rotherham moved to London in 1955, earning his Diploma from the Architectural Association and spending the bulk of his career in Britain. At the AA he was taught by both Peter Smithson and James Gowan, who had recently completed his seminal Langham House Close flats[link] at Ham Common, which can be seen as something of a precursor to Highgate Spinney.

After graduation, Rotherham worked for Llewelyn-Davies & Weeks, which undertook housing, hotels, offices and urban planning projects, most notably the master-planning of the new town of Milton Keynes. Concurrent with his time at the practice, he undertook several house additions and alterations under his own name, and he also had a brief partnership, between 1964 and 1966, with John Howard. Highgate Spinney is the partnership’s only known building.

Howard had attended the AA a few years earlier, and worked for a range of practices, including Ahrends, Burton & Koralek, the three partners of which had been among his AA classmates. Both architects had much in common, from their AA diplomas to their mutual passions for art, music and building. Both built houses for themselves: Rotherham in the Auckland suburb of Stanley Bay and Howard in Camden, north London (which was sold previously by The Modern House. Camden Mews).


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