What’s in a name? (Part 1)

Perhaps you wonder how I hit upon “Highpoint One” for the name of my blog. Is it a forbidding and little-known mountain in Tibet? A reference to losing one’s virginity? A prototype spaceship? Codename for a new blend of scotch? A random collection of euphonious syllables I happen to fancy?

Well, it’s a building.

I love this building: Highpoint 1, one of two blocks of flats built by Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton in Highgate, north London, in the late 1930s. There’s much to love about its modernist aesthetic: its clean lines, its brilliant whiteness punctuated by strips of windows, its clever and efficient double-cruciform plan (see below) that allowed bedrooms and living rooms to each capture the best sort of light at the proper time of day.

 

Lubetkin and his Tecton group were among the British pioneers of moderist architecture (although Lubetkin himself was born in Tiflis, Georgia), responsible for, inter alia, the penguin pool at London Zoo. And while projects like Highpoint 1 were most certainly grounded in a classic socialist (even communist) Corbusian vision of the way man ought to live, the design was good enough for the building to actually be used in a completely different way: the social experiment found itself well-suited to providing middle-class Londoners with a taste of modernism.

There are several reasons why I like Highpoint 1 — most of all its sheer architectural beauty, standing as a human triumph in an Edenic setting. I’m not suggesting, though, that Highpoint 1 is my favorite building — I have more than one — or even my favorite block of flats. Some time ago, I needed an anonymous username for a website, and the idea of using the name of a building seemed intriguing. Ever since then, I’ve been rather struck by the name’s pleasant evocation of all that was wonderful and whimsical about British design in the 1930s.

Speaking of British design in the 1930s, today I’ve been reading two articles (here and here) about one of my favorite British architects of the twentieth century, Oliver Hill. I feel a bit of affinity for the fellow, as he sounds more than a bit eccentric as well as quite funny. One of the commenters on the first link in this paragraph says that Hill was married to the writer’s godmother, and that a design he prepared of a country house for a tobacco plutocrat was based on the design of a packet of cigarettes. Also, Hill owned a musical toilet-paper dispenser. Any man with one of those must have some good in him.

Coming tomorrow: “What’s in a name? (Part 2) and Trance Around the Office — Stuck in the Skybox edition.” Stay tuned….

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Posted November 16, 2011 by HighpointOne in Architecture, Introduction, Randomness, Words

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