Category Archives: architecture

Living the good life

Last weekend was ‘Open House’. Basically, a load of buildings are opened up to the general public so they can look at what should be award winning or significant buildings in the history of the city. There are some mediocre offerings, old ones, new ones, super exclusive ones everyone wants to see, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I debated going to see the Bank of England as it has a Sir Herbert Baker connection – back to the homeland of the Union Buildings and Boys High in Pretoria. I got a bit put off by the full body scan and ID required thing, also the fact that compared to other years, this year an astounding number of people seemed to want to take part and I kept bumping into small groups of people with SLR cameras and green guide books. I couldn’t deal with the volume of visitors to even ordinary structures. Although some of them may have been designers, they can’t ALL have been so it’s clearly picking up as something nosy people like to do.

So we bagged limited entry tickets to see a block of flats out in Highgate. The original block had a service lift going into each apartment (think Poirot Agatha Christie). Apparently in the old days you called the greengrocer and they would send you food deliveries up the lift to be left by the door. Even today the building has a concierge although the rooms are not particularly large.

A second phase was built next to this first block. It does not have a concierge but it does have marbled floors and huge glass windows as it was the more luxury of the two.

They built over one of the tennis courts at the bottom of the garden the two blocks share. I say ONE. There are still two tennis courts and an open air pool- sheer luxury in England – and a formal garden in a sloping landscape for residents use only.

The four bedroom flats in the second block filled me with envy. Built midway through the last century, they have huge double volume spaces as you enter into the a very generous living/dining area. (Having the money to custom make the curtains to cover the door and the huge windows above would break a normal budget).

At a time when England was still feeling pretty austere after the second world war the flat has two bathrooms that mirror each other across the stair landing. Two big bedrooms and two smaller children’s rooms. The ability to shut the kitchen off via french doors from the original dining room so that the staff could work on the next course without obstructing the dinner party. Huge concertina doors that fold out completely so the balcony meets the living space.

Even today and even in SA where flat sizes are larger and generally airier and better lit than the UK I would be happy to live there.

This, I thought, this is how the other half used to live and probably still does live. Just why isn’t that me?

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