‘I grew up on a council estate’, Modernist Estates author Stefi Orazi says, ‘so I was used to purpose-built apartment blocks. But it was living in the Barbican that really got me hooked on Modernist architecture.’

Back in 1997 when the graphic designer-turned-blogger first rented a room on the Barbican Estate, it wasn’t the trendy postcode it is now. ‘Most people thought it was kind of ugly,’ Orazi says, but the estate, designed by Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, set a standard of living that Orazi was determined to find in her own home.

And find it she did – albeit in a diminutive form – on the nearby Golden Lane Estate. ‘It was a lovely flat, but it was really small. As I started looking for something bigger, I began to discover various post-war estates,’ Orazi says. ‘That’s how my blog really began – Modernist Estates was a way to document the places I’d seen and how expensive they were at the time’.

Inside Eleanor Fawcett and Nina Jones’ Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate flat. Photography: Stefi Orazi

Rather than focusing solely on their price points, Orazi began unpicking the social value of the buildings she encountered and the history and politics behind why they were built. ‘I decided that if I was going to write about these places, I should find out what they were like to live in.’

With her book about to hit shelves in the UK, Orazi has also embarked upon another new project, this time closer to home…

After interviewing dozens of people and viewing scores more in her hunt for a new home, Orazi finally came across her own perfect property – a 1970s Benson & Forsyth-designed split-level apartment in Camden. ‘I contacted Benson & Forsyth, who are still practising and they sent me the original plans and told me about the building.’

I think I've gone one step too far with pattern ?

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Turning one of her own interview questions back on her, what is the best thing about living in it? ‘It’s quite a small estate – one building that contains 64 flats – and it’s a really great group of people. It wasn’t the reason I moved there, but it’s the best thing about living there.’

‘The architects were interested in dramatic changes in space: they played with scale, and rather than all of the rooms being mediocre in size, they’ve been clever with the economy of space, so corridors are narrow but the living room and kitchen are really big.’

Modernist Estates’ is out now via Frances Lincoln



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