Highfield Court is a medium-size block of modernist flats in Golders Green, north London completed in 1935 by Amnon Vivien Pilichowski (later Vivien Pilley). Pilichowski (1907-1982) was the French-born son of Jewish painter and community leader Leopold Pilichowski of Lodz, Poland. He studied architecture at the Architectural Association school in London, and was a member of Lubetkin’s practice Tecton, with whom he helped design the houses at Genesta Road, London.
The flats at Highfied Court feature in F.R.S. Yorke and Gibberd’s 1937 survey ‘The Modern Flat’, surprising then that they are not better known. Yorke and Gibberd described them simply as ‘four-room flats with entrance lounges, for professional and business classes’, but the accompanying photos and diagrams clearly demonstrate Pilichowski’s use of several novel features. Of these the most distinctive is his use of vertical shuttering to imprint board marks on the exterior concrete. Theses marks were achieved by using 4″ boards propped vertically, and were intended to help channel rain water off and avoid weather streaking (a common problem on modernist buildings in Britain). It was also hoped they would help to minimise superficial cracking.
Designed as two blocks connected by a neat glass-enclosed stairway, the flats sit at relative ease amongst the surrounding suburban housing. The original colour scheme was a buff exterior paint, no doubt intended to lessen the contrast with the brick and render semi-detached neighbours. Wall construction was of the standard method of 4″ reinforced concrete and 1″ cork lining for insulation. The flats seemed in a reasonable state of repair when we visited but the windows appear to be modern replacements, the originals were dark brown or maroon.
Internal space within individual units was maximised by the use of what was then a new type of room plan. There are two main unit types; Type A being the smaller of the two and has a combined living room/dining area, and Type B which has a large living room (note the grand piano shown on the plan) and a separate dining area which could be partitioned using sliding panels.
Both Type A and Type B plans are arranged around a ‘lounge hall’, a square-shaped room large enough to allow for circulation and a small grouping of furniture, and acting as a drawing room. Structural columns are left visible in the living rooms of Type B. A third layout was employed in the penthouse units which are visible from the street and identified by their circular windows. Sun terraces were originally available for tenants to use on the roof.
It is tempting to speculate whether the Bauhaus master László Moholy-Nagy visited Highfield Court, or indeed knew Pilichowski professionally, since Moholy-Nagy lived nearby in Golders Green during 1936/37.