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In 1935 Le Corbusier visited, and endorsed, Berthold Lubetkin’s middle-class apartment block ‘Highpoint’, housing about 100 people on a 1-hectare site …at the highest point and in the wealthiest part of London, calling it ‘an achievement of the first rank’. 10 years later, after London's wartime devastation, Lubetkin’s consultancy 'Tecton' was invited by the Metropolitan Borough of Paddington to design an enormous housing estate of ‘Highpoints’ in Tyburnia, to house about 2400 people on 7 hectares of cleared land. Corbusier’s 'La Ville Radieuse' was by no means the only model their design could have followed. But given Lubetkin’s passionate belief in the power of progressive architecture to improve society, it was inevitable the Hallfield Estate would turn out to be a version of that famous idea—one of few, probably the largest, and most faithful. Of course, Tyburnia, despite being a ‘Lost Village’*, is today the opulent, gilded, perfectly polished home to celebrities and politicians, a stunning succession of leafy squares and terraces, graced with towering trees and blessed with fresh air from Hyde Park. In 1945 it was seen as the squalid relic of a discredited housing system, with bomb damage, poverty, and worst of all, inadequate ‘open space’. At Hallfield, dedicated Modernist Lubetkin responded unsentimentally to his client’s requirements: if it dramatically busted the grain and scale of Tyburnia, he had no regrets. He saw it as the Flagship of A New Order, its residents the ship’s officers and (wo)men, intended to be developed into of a new urban layout, with industrial and office zones, all landscaped and connected by high-speed roads. But as a manifesto, it sank, almost without trace. Few architects copied its unique features. It spawned no new ‘school’ of design. Its designers argued among themselves, and dissolved the partnership. Today it is little known. We may ask, ‘how could 20 acres of the most beautiful late-Georgian London be given up so easily to an experiment? That failed?’ This walk will answer that question...PLUS, lay out the whole story of Tyburnia, as we move through its magical spaces. We will meet at the entrance to Connaught Place, near the ancient location of the Tyburn Tree, opposite John Nash’s ‘incongruously isolated’ Marble Arch, and around the corner from Marble Arch Station. By Stanhope Place we enter Connaught Square: a stupendous pyramid of trees and terraces, home to former Prime Minister Tony Blair…through ‘Connaught Village’, and by Titchbourne Place into Hyde Park Crescent, passing St John’s Church. So into 800m long Sussex Gardens, the ‘North Circular Road’ of its day, with service roads on either side. The same pattern is seen in the even longer Westbourne Terrace, built on an even grander scale, which we follow to Craven Road. Glancing back we can see Wyatt’s Great Western Hotel in front of Paddington Station, and the bizarre curved bay fronts in Gloucester Terrace. We follow the bucolic Gloucester Mews to Chilworth Street and so to Cleveland Square, the first sight of which will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience! In Cleveland Gardens, as the liet-motifs of Tyburnia reach fever pitch, we can turn on heel and go directly down Lubetkin’s signature spiral access road into the lush and lavish mature landscape** of the Hallfield Estate. Still going strong after 60 years, and now Listed Grade II, after all, we will observe the strengths--and weaknesses, if we can find them--of this remarkable and curious place. Eventually, on the far side of the 'Radiant City', we reach Waitrose’s upstairs window seat café! Bring your re-usable coffee cup! *see our last walk: ‘Lost Villages, New Squares’. **retained when the Georgian buildings were cleared.

At the entrance to Connaught Place from Edgware Road

1 Connaught Place · London

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    What we're about

    With the aim of unravelling just one strand per walk of the fascinating but complicated interlocking pieces that go to make up the history of our city environment, we will meet at a significant spot for an orientation then after suitable seasonal refreshment we will follow the story in question wherever it leads, but always to a thrilling end point...along the way we will gather information from buildings, landscape, artefacts and street furniture...

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