Paul Zara From Conran & Partners

Swinging Sixties

With property prices on the rise again how can you find somewhere with space and light that won’t cost the earth?  My advice is go for the 1960s – property from that period is often lower in value than you might expect. There are always periods of architecture that are out of fashion.

Victorian architecture was hated in the mid-20th Century. The 1930s modernist style wasn’t popular for a long time, but now is very desirable. Currently it’s the architecture of the 60s and 70s that is unloved – Hove Town Hall, Sussex University and most of our tower blocks…

But look again, it’s not all bad.  I rather like Hove Town Hall to be honest – it’s been messed around with, but the original idea was very strong, with its covered public square at its south end.  And the original buildings at Sussex University are now Grade 1 listed – the same level of importance as Buckingham Palace!

So maybe it’s time to look at the housing from that period afresh. A good example is Park Gate in Somerhill Road, Hove. It’s a hidden treasure. Forty-eight bright, airy well-planned flats around award winning communal gardens.  Park Gate was completed in the early 1960s.

It is a rare example of high quality design from this period and Park Gate even featured in the Royal Institute of British Architects SPAN exhibition. Span Developments was a property company formed in the late 1950’s by architect Eric Lyons and developer Geoffrey Townsend.

They teamed up with landscape designer Ivor Cunningham and, during its most successful period in the sixties, Span built over 2,000 homes, mainly in London and Kent, usually two and three bedroom single-family homes and apartment buildings. In London, SPAN developments are so popular that there is a waiting list to buy them!

The developments combine modern design with attention to detail and harmony with the local environment. Span houses typically have modernist features such as flat roofs, open-plan interiors and large windows.

However, this is combined with traditional features including tile-hanging and brick work. The Span ethos was to build ‘homes within a garden’ so most developments include large landscape communal gardens to the front of the properties.

Many of the apartments at Park Gate retain their original details and features. The buildings are being gently restored and there is a real community feel to Park Gate, which was part of Eric Lyons’ original vision. So don’t dismiss the 60s when you are house-hunting.  You might be missing a bargain – prices are bound to rise when more people begin to appreciate the secrets of the swinging sixties!

Paul Zara is a director of architects Conran and Partners. Email: