bay windows create  a column

An enclave with deco features

Northview has much architectural, historical and social interest.

Northview map showing Holloway Road, Tufnell Park Road and Parkhurst Road Northview is very well designed as a whole, its architectural design and layout creating a community feel. The buildings have pleasing proportions with a restful rhythm. Tall windows light the stairwells and curved rendering between windows (right) create columns and height, and long white balconies create width (below, right). It has survived reasonably intact.

Although Northview is surrounded by main roads (see map), it is an attractive quiet enclave, with its horseshoe-shaped layout, gardens and mature trees giving it the feel of a village green.
Northview long balconies

Architects of the 1930s wanted to replace the gloom of Victorian architecture with light and airy buildings, and this can be seen throughout Northview, from its layout through to the positioning of windows within flats.

As architect James Dunnett said: “The Modern movement was exceptionally concerned with matters of light, space and greenery, and these concerns did in fact permeate down to commercial developments. U-shaped plans around a green space and with an open outlook at the narrow end are quite common in 1930s developments.”

Contemporary features include concrete balconies, roughcast render (frequently seen in 1930s semi-detached houses) and metal Crittall window frames, as well as deco ornamentation.

Similar styles but nothing the same

loraine estate Holloway Road Although the layout and building style are typical of its era, residents of Northview know of no other place like it in Islington, nor within neighbouring boroughs.

Local 1930s domestic architecture tends to be houses and large estates of social housing of plainer design – a typical example of the latter on Holloway Road is shown left.

Other 1930s estates tend to be much larger. Few smaller ones have the same courtyard style as Northview. We haven’t found it a twin in London.

Evolving architecture in the 1930s

The strong sense of line, cuboid shape and minimal decoration show Northview’s roots in modern architecture. Items on top of blocks, such as water tanks, are set back so as not to detract from clean lines of roofs.

By the time Northview was completed, a more muted style had evolved from Modern architecture, with curves and ornamentation adopted from other cultures. This evolution and combination of styles are reflected in Northview. Back block, which was built shortly after front block, has softer lines, shown in the curved rendering and bay windows.

Much 1930s architecture in Britain exhibits conflicting desires to move forward towards a streamlined, modern view, or backwards to the traditional, known reassurance of rural England – a feeling that was heavily promoted by suburban building companies. With both deco and suburban features, Northview, unusually, combines both.

While containing many typical features of the time, Northview contains a few rarer ones, often to differentiate it from other homes of the same period. See Living in a flat, 1930’s style.


baluster with papyrus deco motif luxor temple carving in Egypt showing papyrus Deco patterns and materials

Like many buildings of its time, Northview adopted patterns and icons from central America and Egypt.

There was a huge fashion for Egyptian styles, following the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. Northview’s balusters use an Egyptian papyrus design, typical of 1930s Moderne buildings in that it is highly stylised and repeated. The balusters, ilke many of their time, are made of steel. Patterns of repeated rectangles, which were also fashionable, can be seen above the door of front block on to Tufnell Park Road.

Shown here are Northview's balusters with their papyrus motif – which survive intact throughout the estate – and an ancient Egyptian carving showing papyrus from Luxor Temple.

Ziggurat stepped patterns, influenced by Mayan and Aztec stepped pyramids, were popular at the time. These can be seen at the rooflines of both blocks and of the Odeon opposite, pictured here with the Mayan stepped pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico.

ziggurat skyline on Northview front block

Odeon showing ziggurat on roof Chichen Itza pyramid

Light and privacy within flats

tall window lighting stairwellAs with much 1930s architecture, considerable thought has gone into natural light within the flats. For example, in the north-facing flats in front block, the windows and internal doors are aligned to allow sunlight from the south to flood the flats throughout, preventing the chillly feel of many north-facing flats. Likewise, bay windows increase natural light to remove north-facing chill within back block flats. Stairwells are well lit by tall Crittall windows, topped with ziggurats and detailing, with thin metal frames to maximise light (left).

The internal arrangement pays attention to privacy, with the spaces relating to each other. In the two-bedroom flats in front block, for example, the more public spaces, such as living rooms and kitchen, are the nearest to the door. The second bedroom is set slightly back and the main bedrooms is set away from the other rooms down a short corridor, as befits a more private area.


Changing lifestyles

Northview demonstrates the 1930s move in middle class living towards simple practicality and sociability. The flats overlook each other and the courtyard, and have purpose-built single large living rooms – a fashion that became the norm after the Second World War.

The variation in heights of the two blocks illustrates the move at the time away from rigid blocks that had prevailed, which was intended to make flats attractive to middle-class families. (The leases still state that each flat should only be occcupied as a high-quality residence for a single family.)

There was considerable prejudice against living in flats in the 1930s, and several of Northview’s features were designed to combat this. See Living in a flat, 1930’s style.

The previous decade had seen an exodus of people from central London to the suburbs. The Metropolitan Railway Company’s hugely successful advertising campaign promoted the “charm and peace” of the suburbs as rural areas within easy reach of the city. Developments such as Northview represented an attempt to offer suburban lifestyles in the city.


Northview back block

Modern design that works

Modern architecture still has a bad name. Northview shows that modern designs, with thought to light and sociability, and built on a human scale, can work and continue to do so for decades.


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Home: Northview – a rare survivor of its time

Northview news

Fifth threat to deco heritage

Northview’s architecture – an enclave with deco features

Living in a flat, 1930s style

A 1930s corner of Holloway – group value

Living over the Hackney Brook

Buildings at risk – neglect at Northview

Archive: New threat to 1930s oasis

Archive: It started with a Nissen hut … stop architectural vandalism

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