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Lakenham, Norfolk
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Sound Recordings of Stefan Muthesius

  • AUD 45
  • Fonds
  • nd [1983]

Harry Perry; 1920-?; Mayor of Norwich, politician, magistrate; Marylebone, London, and Norwich, Norfolk

Recorded interview of David Percival, architect [by Stefan Muthesius]

Relates to Percival's career as architect, focussing on his work on Norwich housing in capacity as Norwich City Architect. Third unnamed male [Miles Horsey] also present. It seems probable that this interview took place as part of the research for a study of two decades of Norwich council housing, which resulted in the creation of the booklet: 'Provincial Mixed Development, The Design and Construction of Norwich Council Housing under David Percival 1955-1973' by Miles Horsey and Stefan Muthesius (Norwich 1986). The aim of the booklet was to describe and explain how the various types of council housing design developed in Norwich and how they fitted into the wider national context.

The interviewers (hereafter SM and MH) ask for some chronological background and David Percival (hereafter DP) discusses his early interest in architecture, education and first part of his career e.g. mentions his early interest in inner urban housing, influence of Albert Richardson. One of his first jobs (late 1930s-1940) was with the Miners' Welfare Commission, working on projects such as welfare pavilions and children's playgrounds. During the Second World War DP worked for the Munitions Factory programme and with aluminium factories. He went into local government employment with Kent County Council after the Second World War where he designed branch libraries (also involved with the rehabilitation of Wye College of Agriculture) and then moved to Newport Borough Council (1947) where he qualified as a town planner. He was subsequently employed by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (1948-1952) to work on the designation of new towns and selection of sites. DP discusses issues surrounding typical post-war townscapes with particular reference to estates in Wales. Refers to problems of Duplex housing in Norwich. Then became the town planner for East Kilbride new town (first in Scotland) and describes his attempts to create a balanced population there (1952-1953). In 1953 he became deputy City Architect to Donald Gibson at Coventry; briefly talks about his experiences of housing planning there.

DP became Norwich City Architect in 1955. Discusses the history of the early pre and post First World War housing developments in Norwich (e.g. Angel Road, Mile Cross, Woodcock Road, North Earlham) and refers to Stanley Adshead, consultant housing architect. DP digresses about his architectural heroes and aesthetic motivation. DP talks about the main housing developments and achievements of his predecessor, Leonard Hannaford, from 1938 e.g. estates at Tuckswood and West Earlham. DP then goes on to discuss his own main priorities and philosophy when appointed Norwich City Architect and his relationship with the housing managers at Norwich City Council. DP explains in depth that the chief principle of his policy was the importance of mixed (balanced) developments and social variety with regard to the overall health of the community e.g. need for sufficient one bedroom accommodation for older people in order to free up larger properties for families, concerned with the under-occupation of some Norwich pre-war estates. Refers to his relationship with Len Newton (housing chairman). Developments discussed in this section of the interview include Mousehold, Earlham Road, Marlpit Lane estate (influx of civil servants for Stationery Office late 1960s), Heartsease estate (point blocks), Mile Cross estate, Long John Hill (Netherwood Green area) and West Pottergate (old people's home).

SM asks a question about the Childs [?] Square area (where three storey blocks abut onto Dereham Road in an irregular fashion) and DP explains the thinking behind this development. DP and SM discuss the Midland Street development (second housing medal scheme). DP refers to Patricia Hollis's (hereafter PH) preferences as housing chairman with regard to nineteenth century terraces in Norwich e.g. quality of bricks used for construction of terraces. They refer to features of a development near St Michael Coslany church. Two of PH's predecessors as housing chairman were [George] Carver who was not keen on old style housing and [G.A.] Winter who was an advocate of social housing. SM then asks about and DP responds with regard to the role of the housing committees. DP talks about the contribution of some of the main designers in his department i.e. Tony [Anthony] Whitwood (with particular reference to Willow Lane), David French (West Pottergate), Peter Cooper (Heartsease), James Bamford (Ber Street, Midland Street, Heigham Hall), Peter Eccleshare (St Leonard's Road). DP talks about his relationship with Tayler and Green (architects) and their style as an inspiration. They discuss characteristics of typical Tayler houses e.g. decorative brickwork. DP refers to the (Nelson) Barracks development at Heathgate where old materials were re-used in the paving patterns. DP then discusses the influence of the Yorkshire Development Group (YDG) on local planning policy and describes the experiment of importing the design of a 'DG' house, sponsored by R.G. Carter. They then used the 'Deck Block' for the Chapelfield (Vauxhall Street) development; DP discusses merits of this design. DP expresses his pride in the design of the estate on Ber Street featuring square 'Arab style' houses. MH, SM and DP discuss the design of various developments e.g. at Globe Place, Grove Road, Cadge Road, Rosary Road and Midland Street. DP describes the formative influences of Albert Richardson and the Danish Architect Arne Jacobsen on his own work.

MH asks for information about DP's relationships with the chairmen of the Norwich Housing Committee (DP makes particular reference here to Harry Perry, Freda Hartley and PH). DP then talks about the work of private architects for the City Council and the internal organisation of the City Architect's department where there was a division between administration and social policy/design. Developments discussed in this section include those at Old Palace Road, Pockthorpe Gate (Bull Close Road), Paradise Row (Rouen Road) and West Pottergate. DP talks about the ideal design for terrace houses which he wrote about with George Atkinson and typical problems with semi-detached properties. DP describes the advantages of 'step and stagger' design of terraces on the Heartsease estate and point block developments (e.g. cluster blocks creating courts). He talks about the ideal arrangement of windows in housing developments. MH asks about high rises in Norwich and DP then talks about issues relating to high rise developments and the theory of architectural determinism. DP discusses the general lack of System built high rises in Norwich [i.e. new construction method of industrialised building] and attitudes to high rise developments. They had a competition between Systems in Norwich. DP refers in this section to construction of Netherwood Green, Heigham Grove, Marlpit Lane and Penn Grove developments. MH asks for a case study of the Heartsease and Mile Cross block developments and DP explains how the plans for housing schemes were generated e.g. social policy, market research. DP mentions the abortive high rise scheme on Ber Street which was scrapped due to subsistence problems and how original names for these blocks were transferred to the Heartsease estate.

MH asks about the Wimpey blocks and DP talks about the rehabilitation of the Argyle Street site with particular reference to the success of the Normandie Tower block. DP describes how he adapted Wimpey's window designs. DP refers to his dealings with the Bison concrete company (e.g. Bison Wall-Frame system) and Taylor Woodrow Anglian (Anglian Building Products). DP talks about his experiences of working with different types of building materials and contractors e.g. Wimpey, Carters. DP elaborates on standards of traditional craftsmanship in Norwich and decline in other parts of the country. They talk about the type of bricks used in various Norwich projects e.g. at the Harford Livestock Market, City Hall and City College. MH asks about DP's experiences of foreign travel and the latter explains how he was influenced in his architectural career by trips in Europe e.g. France, Vienna, Soviet Union.

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