Bonnin, Phillips and Basevi
Green dimensions 110 ft x 360 ft
Green 1: 3.3
Av. height: 54
Width enclosure: 1:4
Length enclosure: 1: 8
Egerton Crescent arose during the mid 1840’s under the skillful hand of James Bonnin, Sr who had begun the slightly larger Pelham Crescent a decade earlier. The original mansion was demolished by the trustees of the Smith Charity Estate, and Bonnin was granted in the year 1843 an 85 year sublease on what was then known as Brompton Grange from his financier and speculator Stephen Phillips who had also been involved in the Pehlam Crescent development. It is almost certain that Basevi provided design direction as at Pelham. The development was renamed at the latter part of the 19th century for Francis Egerton, one of the Charity’s trustees. With a favorable economy and excellence of conception as well as execution, the venture was rapidly occupied.
The stuccoed crescent form is continuous, unlike Pelham Crescent, and has no break at its
midpoint. Fifteen percent smaller than Pelham, the assemblage is more sophisticated – one of my favorite compositions in the district. Connectivity to Walton Street further east is sacrificed to gain three additional townhomes.
There are many reasons this crescent is noteworthy. For one, it is extremely efficient from the point of view of maximizing frontages on the green while not only minimizing the area of the green, but also the loss of developable lots. Further, the sense of enclosure formed by the embrace of the crescent form and the quality of architecture is top rate.
The architect provides both differentation and slight variations in square footage and height to create an overall rhythm that could be outlined as the following:
D AAAA B AAAA B CC B AAAA B AAAA D.
Additionally, the balconies run continuously for two to four units and then break at the units of emphasis.
Story height also varies, from the two one story end masses to the four story primary points of emphasis at the center. Windows distinctly change from level to level vertically and from unit type horizontally. This is done with great skill. The most elaborate windows are reserved for the four story quoined townhomes (the B units in the rhythm series). Vertically, the fenestration decreases in scale and pane size at each progressively higher level. Surface differentiation occurs as well, with the entry level fully channeled – whereas the upper levels are smooth surfaced.
Unity and continuity are achieved by a simple white palette thoughout, a continuous cornice line at the third story and the repetition of consistent townhome types. Additionally, all entries repeat delicately scaled ionic capitals atop fully dimensioned square pilasters flanking the entryways. An elegant and discreet awning system has been added for additional doorway protection which adds a pleasant randomness since some are extended and some are not.
The entry level for each unit is similar to the rest, being approximately 750 square feet in area and differentiated primarily by door placement and window type. Each unit is approximately 22 feet wide, though all follow a radial pattern. Ceiling heights are greatest on the second floor, which partially accounts for the particularly fine proportion on each individual facade.