Span houses helped regenerate the south east after the war. To celebrate Span and the architect behind them a new book has been released. Kerry Ann Eustice takes a look.

The 60s-looking, building-block-style homes of Span developments have the sort of cool vintage quality coveted by collectors of retro clothing and records, explaining the reason their facades and funkily-arranged interiors so regularly grace fashionable lifestyle photoshoots.

Perfectly-preened lawns, use of vibrant contrasting colours and materials alongside functional use of open-plan space make these houses one of the most photogenic icons - not counting Twiggy - to come out of the 60s.

It is the glossy-friendly face of Span architecture which is examined in a new book called Eric Lyons and Span. Span enthusiast and photographer Tim Crocker captures the beauty of these buildings and historians, experts and Span residents - Span homes are a firm favourite with architects and designers - explain why the style is so successful.

The book follows the career of former Royal Institute British Architects (RIBA) president and a prolific housebuilder Eric Lyons from his training in the 1930s and emergence as a qualified architect at the tail end of the Second World War - when there was an urgent need to rehouse much of the population - to his public backlash against local authority planning departments and his time as head of RIBA.

Each chapter comes from a different contributor, including Madeleine Adams, a lecturer and architect living in a T15 Span in Blackheath, architectural and design historian Neil Bingham, who owns an A3M-type Span also in Blackheath, and Patrick Ellard, lecturer, author and owner of a KIA bungalow in New Ash Green.

The range of contributors ensures Span is looked at from many angles but this leads to some material being repeated.

But the multiple perspectives stop Lyons from hogging the limelight and some coverage is given to how it was his partner Geoffery Townsend who was interested in making the designs contemporary and aesthetically pleasing and who knew middle-range buyers, who Span was aimed at, would want modern build quality.

He was also largely responsible for the emphasis on building communities.

Another revelation is how despite the need for housing, Span developments were often met with resistance, especially in Blackheath.

Although severely war damaged, 50s Blackheath was mainly 18th and 19th-century terraces and villas and the councils wanted the area to stay this way, despite a desperate need for regeneration, and contested the builds.

But building did go ahead, with backing from the Ministry of Housing, and these sites include The Priory, The Plantation and Corner Green.

To satirise the struggle the practice endured, Lyons commissioned local sculptor and Span collaborator Keith Godwin to depict a man struggling under the weight of concrete he supports, a piece called The Architect in Society.

Of the sculpture, displayed at the entrance of The Halls development in Blackheath, Lyons said: "It depicts with rare and wry humour the architect's real position today, under the pressure on one side by the needs of a society, on the other by the restrictions of planning authorities. If it is not a good likeness, it is roughly the way I feel at times."

By 1964 there were 600 Span units in and around Blackheath and it was during this time Lyons won 20 housing medals for these sites. This recognition bemused him.

He said: "It is a little piquant to get a housing medal for building a design which had been declared detrimental to amenities' by your council."

This book shows how Lyons wanted Span to be relevant in the future, proving - organisations such as Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment are keen to highlight, using New Ash Green as an example of ideal practice - good design can and will endure.