Welcome to Corringham

 

The layout

Each of the 48 apartments at Corringham is laid out over four floor levels. Half of the flats are "up-going", half of them "down-going"; there are 18 one- and 30 two-bedroom flats in the building. This makes for a very complicated design, and it is not easy to explain how the four types of apartments interlock.

The architect Kenneth Frampton attempted to clarify the scissor design in the book "British Buildings 1960 - 1964" which he co-authored in 1965 with Douglas Stephen and Michael Carapetian:

Scissor design diagram (Frampton 1965)

Scissor design diagram (Druce 1972)

"In the 'scissor' section each maisonette interlocks with its neighbour in three dimensions, approximately at the point of the 'pin joint' connecting the two halves of a 'pair of scissors'. In this analogy the living rooms may be considered as the handles of the scissor and the bedrooms as the blades. This is of course an over-simplified picture, as each maisonette comprises four separate levels. All the levels are connected to each other in continuous series of half-storey height staircases. Hence the maisonettes are either continuously up-going or down-going according to their position in the building.

In a typical up-going maisonette, for instance, one enters into a small hall and then one climbs half a storey to a main living / dining / kitchen level arranged 'en suite' on the west side of the building. From this living level one climbs a further half-storey height to the bathroom and WC, and then a final half-storey height to the bedroom floor on the east side. By the use of this section all the units are through-units with dual aspect, east and west.

Not only does this section provide a desirable orientation to both living rooms and bedrooms but it also affords some acoustical isolation within the block, as all the living rooms are situated over each other flanking the street side of the building and all the bedrooms are conversely arranged facing on to the garden."

Kenneth Frampton provided a diagram to show how the scissor design works - which, peculiarly, is incorrect. It shows a down-going apartment with the stairs of an up-going flat. Consecutive estate agents involved in marketing the apartments used Kenneth Frampton's erroneous diagram, until Druce & Company presented a new plan of the scissor design in 1972. Unfortunately, Druce's diagram was not correct either, showing an up-going flat with the stairs of a down-going flat.

Notice the chairs drawn in the living room area of Kenneth Frampton's diagram. They are Marcel Breuer's Cesca dining table chairs, and Le Corbusier's Grand Comfort armchairs.

The following plans and cross-sections may shed some light on the layout of the apartments at Corringham.

An up-going one-bedroom flat

A down-going one-bedroom flat

An up-going two-bedroom flat

A down-going two-bedroom flat

 

The layout of the living area and kitchen is identical for all apartments. All kitchens are located near the middle of the block. The large west-facing windows provide plenty of daylight. Cooking smells within the kitchen are removed via ventilation shafts than run up through the building, with fans at roof-level.

All apartments have similar master bedrooms too. The two-bedroom flats have a floor-to-ceiling window panel with a door to reach the adjoining east-facing balcony, whereas the one-bedroom apartments have half-height bedroom windows similar to those in the living room.

'Overhang' at the back of Corringham

The balconies of the one-bedroom flats are in the same position as the second bedrooms of the two-bedroom apartments, but these bedrooms are larger than the one-bedroom balconies. The "overhang" at the back of the building provides the extra space needed for the second bedrooms and for the master bedroom balconies of the two-bedroom flats.

The final element of each apartment is its internal stair well with adjoining bathroom and WC. As the plans and cross-sections show, the only difference between the up-going and down-going flats is the layout of these stairs.

If one tries to project the floor plan of a Corringham apartment onto a rectangle, for a down-going apartment only the front door and entrance area "sticks out"; for an up-going flat, it is the bathroom and WC that do not fit within the rectangle. The architect Kenneth Frampton must have spent many sleepless nights trying to fit these not-quite-rectangular three-dimensional shapes together in the building now called Corringham - and it often takes new residents a long time to discover who their neighbours are, and where to find their front doors.