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When visitors arrive at my unconventional street, their first comment is usually: “This isn’t at all like London”. Nestled among trees on a hillside, the 13 half-timbered boxes are routinely mistaken for prefabs, an artists’ colony, Swiss chalets, eco-houses, a kibbutz, Scandinavian holiday cabins, Jamaican beach houses – or even a Japanese temple.
In fact, they are the product of an unusual 1980s self-build housing project designed by the pioneering architect Walter Segal, and run by the London Borough of Lewisham in south London.
The cul-de-sac is the result of a collaboration between enlightened councillors keen to shorten the housing waiting list, a group of determined locals and a visionary Berlin-born modernist architect. Walter Segal may not be a household name, but he was the only living architect to have two London streets named after him: Walters Way and Segal Close – names chosen by the residents.
Segal died 30 years ago, in October 1985, before Walters Way was finished. The street has welcomed visitors as part of London Open House weekend since 1989, but this year’s event, from 19–20 September, will be extra special, with a day of talks followed by three Segal/self-build streets being opened to the public on the Sunday: Walters Way, Segal Close and Greenstreet Hill. The Architecture Foundation has also made a new short film about our housing estate. […]