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Highpoint II
North Road, Highgate, London N6, UK
Highpoint II
associated engineer
Sir Ove Arup
date  1937 - 1938
UK era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  TQ281878
photo  Jane Joyce
Although immediately adjacent to the pioneering concrete high-rise apartments of Highpoint I, having the same architect and client, and reaching completion only three years later, Highpoint II is a little different. The prominent position of the site had drawn attention to the first project and local residents were successful in restricting the scale of the new one. Even so, both are considered masterpieces of the English Modern Movement.
Ove Arup’s association with architects of the Modern Movement continued after Highpoint I, primarily with its Russian born architect Berthold Lubetkin. Shortly after the completion of that project in 1935, Lubetkin persuaded the client, Sigmund Gestetner, to buy adjacent land and extend the "workers' housing", the phrase Lubetkin had used for Highpoint I, referring to a socialist concept of community living. Despite their intentions, both blocks were always home to residents firmly from the middle classes.
There had been local opposition to the design concepts of Highpoint I and under the powers of the Town & Country Planning Act 1932 local residents were able to dictate fundamental changes to the design of Highpoint II. The site's locality is the highest point in London and its prominence brought close attention. The new building was restricted to one fifth the massing of Highpoint I, and the development ended up as 12 luxury maisonettes instead of the 57 workers' houses intended by Gestetner and Lubetkin.
Highgate II is two joined rectilinear blocks that extend one leg of the street-front cruciform of Highpoint I. They are eight storeys high, with a shared lobby and roof terraces. The facade scheme of the first building is continued in the second at the block ends, with two maisonettes per floor. The central zones are differently configured, with recessed two storey panels and a cantilevered balcony on every other floor.
Like Highpoint I, Highpoint II has a concrete frame. Its end walls are in situ concrete panels, constructed using the movable shuttering system Arup developed from civil engineering uses for the first project. However, the central zone uses brick in-fill. The staircase towers are expressed as vertical bands of glass blockwork. They start their ascent just above ground level, so the bands of glass blocks appear to float unsupported.
Lubetkin and his wife occupied the penthouse apartment at Highpoint II from 1938 to 1955, when they moved to the country. Both buildings have remained very sought after and both are Grade I listed.
One could think it an interesting twist of fate that a scheme devised as utilitarian workers’ housing should become an exclusive piece of real estate but then the process did start with Lubetkin's abandonment of utilitarian principles in the design of Highpoint II.
Architect: Berthold Lubetkin, Tecton
Contractor: JL Kier & Co
Research: ND
"Modern Architecture, a Crirical History" by Kenneth Frampton
Thames & Hudson, London 1980

Highpoint II