Odham's Walk Estate, Covent Garden, London

Donald Ball - Greater London Council
Date Built
Long Acre
In the 1960s the Greater London council drew up plans to redevelop 37 hectares within Covent Garden from Holborn to Charing Cross Road.  The plans, had they been implemented would have resulted in the demolition of large numbers of 18th Century buildings and large numbers of residents and shop owners relocated..  After much opposition from local residents, this plan was shelved and replaced with a new proposal in 1973 that included redevelopment but also extended protection to 250 listed buildings.  The Odhams Walk Estate was part of that plan and involved the redevelopment of the former Odham's Print Work to a design by Donald Ball.

An article by Isreal Nagore on the 20th Century Society website describes Odham's Walk as being ahead of its time featuring, as it does, "... complex geometry – stepped flats organized around common courtyards, elevated galleries, and private terraces – generates a fascinating and diverse built environment.  .... he design is based on the combination of basic geometries (square and L shaped flats), which create a rich environment of spaces of different scale and character: a piazza, elevated corridors and platforms for public use, common courtyards and private terraces. This variety of spaces seeks to generate a gradient in the public-private relationship, from the bustle of the street to the domesticity and calm of the homes. "

"Odhams Walk proves how the clever use of simple building types does not necessarily produce monotony.  The design offers each resident their own outdoor space which, although private, is connected visually to neighboring properties, in an attempt to strengthen the sense of community. The famous Jane Jacobs mantra of “eyes on the street” providing security applies here, with the upper level dwellings overseeing the lower levels and the piazza.  The density of the scheme, the domesticity and character of the spaces and the use of simple architype forms and materials, create a strong sense of place and makes us feel as if we are walking through a vernacular mediterranean village, mysteriously transported to central London. "

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