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Journal

2.7.24

Modernist London: Keeling House, one of East London's most iconic residential buildings

A view of Keeling House from the nearby Winkley Estate

Towering above neighbouring Victorian terraces and low rise post war blocks stands the iconic Keeling House, four interconnecting 16 storey high tower blocks of maisonettes. The design is not to everyone's taste, for some, the stark exterior is an eyesore amongst the rather more attractive red brick Victorian terraces and tenament buildings below it. For others, it is the embodiment of Brutalist architecture. But love it or hate it, it does have a very interesting story behind it.

Keeling House was designed by famed British architect Denys Lasdun. Lasdun's primary aim was to create a social housing solution that gave residents a sense of space but also community, replicating the neighbourly feel he came across in the traditional Victorian terraced streets, and which the first post war blocks failed to take account of.

His resultant and innovative design became known as a  ‘cluster block’, the key element of which was a central, free-standing tower containing all the services such as lifts, rubbish chutes, stairs and drying platforms, with separate towers containing accommodation  ‘clustered’ around it - this allowed more light and air into the building whilst also providing greater privacy to the housing areas. Almost all the homes were built as maisonettes with their own private balconies to give a greater sense of living in a house, essentially Lasdun wanted to take a Victorian terraced street and turn it on its end, but unlike the Victorian houses, these homes also got to enjoy fresh air and views across the capital.

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The building was finished in 1957 and served as social housing up until the early 90's where it sadly suffered a number of social problems. It was closed in 1992 due to fears over the original construction quality.  In 1993, the building was given it's Grade II* listed status in recognition of its architectural significance, the first example of post-war council housing to receive this designation. However, unable to afford the much needed renovation costs, Tower Hamlets were forced to sell the building and it was bought by a private developer in 1999.

Architects Munkenbeck + Marshall were commissioned to refurbish the building. With plans approved by Lasdun, the flats were modernised, the concrete was given a new protective coating and a new entrance foyer and landscaping were built at the front of the building. In 2002, the redevelopment won an RIBA Award and a Civic Trust commendation.

Homes in Keeling House are still predominantly 2 bedroom, 2 storey maisonettes with the exception of some 1 bedroom apartments.  Lift access to each floor is further secured with individual floor door codes. Approached by a secure set of gates, the building has a communal courtyard with two water features, secure cycle storage and car parking area (undesignated).

We at Easthaus are proud to know Keeling House and many of its residents very well, having sold and let a number of homes in the building. It is an extremely well run and private yet neighbourly place to live, in part due to their superb day porter Graham.

Click on the links to see what is currently for sale and to let in Keeling House.

If you currently live in Keeling House and are thinking of moving, we'd love to talk.

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