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There was a time when the [London] borough or shire would employ their own architects, quantity surveyors, civil engineers, clerk of works and direct labour force and just get on with it.  In London of course it would have been the LCC and later [from 1965] the GLC. Those days may have gone in most cases but we need them back.

Heygate – in response to Dave Hill

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Nicky Gavron on mixed estates

August 31st, 2011

The mayor wants private, market housing to be built in areas with lots of social housing. But his plan does not seek new social housing in areas with lots of private homes.”

An article from the Guardian today highlights yet again where the Tory London administration is failing when it comes to housing policy.  Nicky Gavron has been spot on with her analysis of where the problem lies and has been saying this for some time but nobody seems to be listening.

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Thought for the day – Regeneration is social cleansing

In my continuing quest for béton brut (raw concrete) I wandered along to what’s left of the Heygate to snatch a few shots.

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“High living in a council owned tower block is stigmatised, living in a privately rented or owned tower block is the ultimate in urban chic” – The Gentrification Reader

I lived at 93 Aragon Tower on the Pepys Estate Deptford between October 1978 and September 1980, in a scissor maisonette. It was the highlight of my life so far at that point because I had spent the previous few years living in a succession of seedy bedsits, shared houses and other people’s flats. One bright and sunny weekday morning I parked my employer’s pink and purple Austin J4 on the bridge that runs over the (former) Surrey Canal in Oxestalls Road and went into the housing office at the foot of Eddystone Tower for the keys to a hard to let flat in Aragon Tower.


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London Modernist Estates

August 7th, 2011

These are just a few well known but random examples. There are many more scattered across the UK so if you’re planning a tour by all means include these but please don’t think that this list is exhaustive, far from it, these are but a few and Heygate, Ferrier and Aylesbury are fast disappearing from view thanks to regeneration.

Alton West Roehampton

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Reading today’s email from the AJ, Owen Hatherly struck a chord when he commented on the difference in quality between todays lousy flats (of which I have much to say elsewhere) and the golden age of post war building, in an interview with James Pallister.  The article begins as a review of Hatherly’s book A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain.

JP Was there a golden age?

OH No. It’s a terrible cliché but in any given period most architecture is not very good. There are periods when we hit upon a decent standard and I think one was in the late 19th century, as well as the 1950s and 60s.

To a large degree, in terms of hygiene, services, the amount of light and air coming into the flat, the amount of green spaces, the length of tenure, the best public housing built in this country occurred between 1945 and 1970 [despite the fact that] there were some very well-publicised disasters and some very poor planning. A lot of it was mediocre, though it was good mediocrity. But compared to contemporary standards, which is below Parker Morris standards, it was vastly superior. I sincerely believe that.

Of all people it’s Boris Johnson who’s doing his level best in conjunction with Alex Ely of MAE llp to bring back some standards into housing, after 30 years of much poorer quality housing in cities.

BBC Open Book 21/8/11 included a section about Pevsner, available here:-  Open Book – Pevsner

Pevsner section starts at 1m 15s in, don’t be put off by the unedited section that precedes it.

More on the life of Pevsner here:-

In addition to the meeting itself there was a bonus in the foyer of the theatre in the form of a full sized ground floor plan of a 2 bed 4 person house complete with sufficient furniture to make it realistic.  This means nothing without photographs and so with the kind assistance of the staff at CABE I am able to show you the following which measures 8m x 4m:-

Click image above for larger version

Space to live
This floor plan is a full-size 1:1 scale image of the ground floor of a typical new-build two bedroom family house. Imagine two adults, a child and a baby living here. Is there space to play, or store the toys? Is there room to share a meal with your in-laws? Where do you store an ironing board, a vacuum cleaner, a mop and bucket? Where do you hang your coats? What about the dog basket? Visit space-standards-floor-plan for the article.

In terms of the layout in the theatre, the main entrance would be above the photo and the auditorium, below.  The remaining photos show the scene as laid out for an exhibition elsewhere.

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Boris at Barking 21-09-2010

September 22nd, 2010

Last night I attended an event at the Broadway Theatre Barking [Delivering more quality affordable housing – have your say] which was a meet the people event to discuss affordable housing in Greater London.  It was well attended.

The panel from left to right (from the audience) were as follows:-

  • David Montague – Group Chief Executive L & Q Group
  • Rachael Orr – Shelter London Campaigns Manager
  • Boris Johnson – Mayor of London
  • Baroness Neuberger DBE – Chair
  • Richard Blakeway – Mayor’s Advisor for Housing
  • Cllr Phil Waker – Cabinet Member for Housing, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham

The evening began with a short speech from each of the panellists, excluding the chair, each explaining their role in the process of planning housing in London although as he himself admitted, Richard Blakeway’s contribution was fairly brief being much the same as that of Boris Johnson’s who preceded him.

When Phil Waker spoke I was taken straight back to the London Festival of Architecture meeting because just like Dick Mortimer of Family Mosaic then, I felt Phil Waker was speaking from the heart and from direct experience rather than a wish list and by the end of the evening, he had, for me, come over as by far the most powerful voice on the panel.

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Mayor of London Boris Johnson will be at the Broadway Theatre in Barking on Tuesday, September 21 at 7pm, with a panel of experts, to take your questions. The public debate will be chaired by Baroness Neuberger DBE, chairman of the One Housing Group. Panel members are Richard Blakeway, the mayor’s Housing adviser; Rachael Orr, Shelter London campaigns manager; Cllr Phil Waker, cabinet member for housing on Barking and Dagenham Council and David Montague, group chief executive of L and Q Group.

Call 0208 507 5607 for a free ticket.

“It is easier for outsiders to gain access to and linger in the interior areas of a building shared by 24 to 100 families than it is in a building shared by 6 to 12 families.” – Oscar Newman

Section 3 kicks off with a welcome objection to blocks with single aspect “hotel” flats.

“. . . apartment buildings with long, double-loaded corridors.  These are more suited to a short-stay hotel and do little to foster a permanent sense of home.”

3.1 Entrance and Approach

Their comments here are apparently drawn from two sources being the writings of Alice Coleman; and the Lifetime Homes criteria.  They relate both to common sense surrounding accessible and overlooked entrances and space for people in wheelchairs.

“The design of the threshold between the public realm of the street and the private realm of the home affects people’s sense of security in, and ownership of, their homes.”

Donnybrook has none – I think that’s worth considering when a new development dumps the owners directly on to the street.

3.2 Shared Circulation Within Buildings

Alice Coleman and Oscar Newman can be “heard” in the background here, their shared research and wisdom cascading down the years but with less direct influence than I would have liked.  The following bodes well:-

“Housing based on double-loaded corridors has particular limitations both in the single-aspect dwellings they demand and in the circulation spaces, which are often poorly lit and ventilated.”

and continues in much the same vein . . .

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