Sunny Blunts Housing Estate

Peterlee Development Corporation with Victor Pasmore

By 1954, almost two thousand new houses had been completed in Peterlee and whilst the new housing was a marked improvement on the old colliery houses, the whole development was unadventurous. Artist Victor Pasmore was offered a commission; to consider both housing and landscape as a total concept, to contribute to the aesthetics of the Town and help the architects ‘lift their eyes to a new horizon’. By his own admission, Pasmore had no technical knowledge or previous architectural experience and the collaboration between artists and architects in this way was a new idea. He was told “do what you like, but don’t do what we have done before”.

Pasmore formed a design team with two young architects and set about developing a new plan for the South West area of the town, Sunny Blunts. The winding roads used previously bore no relevance, as he saw to the ‘poetic, yet severe’ landscape. Instead, an open grid was set out across the site.

The housing was arranged by laying out scaled wooden blocks on the workshop floor. Restricted in height to two storeys, the houses were clustered to achieve a compact, urban density in contrast with the stark, open landscape and back gardens were completely omitted allowing the landscape to permeate between the houses. On the edge of the estate, Pasmore would construct an abstract sculpture of interlocking concrete forms inspired and named after the Apollo space missions, the Apollo Pavilion.

All image courtesy of Durham County Council and the Apollo Pavillion Team