Ernő Goldfinger, Brownfield Estate, London, England, 1965-1970, with Balfron Tower, right. © riba Photographic Collection.
Conservation by consensus

heritage management in large housing estates


  • John Allan




Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing, Post-war housing, Welfare architecture, Mass housing, Heritage management guidelines, Architecture conservation strategies, London modern architecture, Barbican Estate, Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Golden Lane Estate, Brownfield Estate, Ernő Goldfinger, Avanti Architects


This study considers the role of management guidelines in regulating the pressures for change in large housing estates where heritage constraints are involved but where the use of formal enforcement procedures would be unrealistic and uneconomical. The author’s experience in creating such documents indicates the importance of cultivating a sustainable consensus among stakeholders that balances respect for and understanding of architectural and historic significance with a realistic acceptance of the need for change. The author suggests that the success of such instruments depends upon three crucial attributes – fairness, usability and resilience. The examples, all in London, include the Barbican, Golden Lane and Brownfield.

How to Cite

Allan, J. (2021). Conservation by consensus: heritage management in large housing estates. Docomomo Journal, (65), 42–49.




Author Biography

John Allan

(UK, 1945). Former director of Avanti Architects and led their Modern Movement conservation program including buildings by Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990), Ernő Goldfinger, Wells Coates (1895-1958), Maxwell Fry (1899-1987) and Patrick Gwynne (1913-2003). Founding chairman of doco- momo UK and served on several advisory committees of English Heritage. Biographer of Berthold Lubetkin and chairman of the Isokon Gallery Trust.


ALLAN, John, “Barbican: The Unique Urban Vision”, in The Barbican Estate, London, Batsford, 2018.

AVANTI ARCHITECTS, “Work”, “Conservation & Regeneration” and “Heritage Assessments” [online]. Available at: www.avantiarchitects.

Barbican Estate Listed Building Management Guidelines, London, City of London Corporation, 2005 [online]. Available at: www.cityoflondon.

Brownfield Estate Listed Building Management Guidelines, abridged version only as appendix in Conservation Area Appraisal, English Heritage, 2011 [online]. Available at:

DUNNETT, James, STAMP, Gavin, PERRIAND, Charlotte, Ernő Goldfinger: Works 1, London, Architectural Association, 1983.

Golden Lane Estate Listed Building Management Guidelines, London, City of London Corporation, 2013 [online]. Available at: www.cityoflondon.

HARWOOD, Elain, Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, London, RIBA Publishing, 2011.

POWERS, Alan, HARWOOD, Elain, Ernő Goldfinger, London, RIBA Publishing, forthcoming.

Streamlining listed building consent: Lessons from the use of management agreements, English Heritage, 2006.

The National Heritage List for England, [online]. Available at: www.historicen-