Keeling House, Bethnal Green E2
Grade II listed apartment block
Architect: Denys Lasdun
Year built: 1954-1957
I’ve always liked the idea of living in Keeling House: it is, in my opinion, one of the best looking modernist tower blocks in London and handily, its Bethnal Green location would be within walking distance of the office. As a result, I jumped at the chance at viewing one of the flats when it came onto the market earlier this year as part of my ill-fated property search.
Whilst first impressions of the area immediately surrounding Keeling House weren’t overwhelmingly positive, the exterior of building did not disappoint. Originally built between 1954 and 1957, Denys Lasdun’s design for Keeling House shunned the traditional slab block in favour of an unusual winged plan (four blocks arranged around a central service tower), giving the building the appearance of a futuristic concrete windmill. The winged plan also means that there are only four flats per communal stairwell, originally designed to encourage the occupants of the flats to interact with each other.
The communal areas were renovated in 2001 when the building was converted from social housing into a block of luxury flats. I think the architects, Munkenbeck + Marshall, may have gone a bit overboard with this task when it came to the downstairs lobby: the bridge, trickling water features and stone sculptures simultaneously evoke a Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond film and a corporate waiting room. I thought it was all a bit unnecessary and definitely not in keeping with the period of the original architecture.
The flat that I was viewing was a split-level 2-bed occupying the second and third floors of the building. Apart from the ground floor flats and the penthouse that Munkenbeck + Marshall tacked onto the top of the building, I understand that all of the flats have the same layout. The lower floor of the flat consisted of an open plan living area and kitchen with a balcony and the upper floor contained the bedrooms and (very small) bathroom.
I must say I was slightly underwhelmed by the flat, which felt a little cramped and tired. The bathroom suite and admittedly well designed and attractive kitchen units (built into recesses in the walls to save space) clearly hadn’t been updated since 2001 and there was a distinct lack of storage, particularly when it came to the bedrooms. The outlook wasn’t fantastic either (other estates or the tops of other estates) though a flat on one of the higher floors would probably have been much better in this regard.
At the original £600k asking price, I wouldn’t have had any funds left to restore it to its former glory though I understand the seller may have since accepted an offer at around £580k.