Architect Eric Lyons (1912-1980) co-founded the development company Span in 1948, along with Geoffrey Townsend and Leslie Bilsby. He had previously worked for Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry. Lyons’ Span houses are all about space and light, and blurring the edges between outside and indoor space. He paid great attention to the surrounding landscape, designing and building properties around existing splendid mature trees and creating communal areas that encourage residents to mix. An early Span publication summarises the origin of the name:
“It spans the gap between the suburban monotony of the typical ‘spec building’ and the architecturally designed individually built residence.”
He made his name building small developments in Richmond and Blackheath during the 1950s. Outside of his Span work, Lyons carried out a number of other schemes, including public housing for World’s End in Chelsea. He was appointed President of the RIBA in the 1970s.
Park Gate was built in 1958. It marked Span’s first development outside of London and is the only Span development in Brighton. Park Gate is comprised of 48 flats arranged across four three-storey blocks built around a communal courtyard and gardens. The buildings have a strong horizontal emphasis and feature hung tile and decorative hollow blockwork and coloured glazing on the stairwells.
60 years on, Park Gate remains a little known architectural gem. A rare and excellent example of Modernist architecture, featuring innovative design in terms of both detailing and social organisation. Today, as was originally intended, it is home to a diverse community – all united by a common appreciation of Spans’ founding principles that make Park Gate such a special place to live.
You can compare the modern day images featured this site with a gallery of original Park Gate photographs on the RIBA website
For further information about Park Gate please visit the official Park Gate website. To explore a wide range of other Eric Lyons and Span developments, please visit the estate agency specialising in Modernist buildings The Modern House.