Monday, 14 January 2008

Dear Rachel,

I really like your idea of walking out to blackbird leys.
There is something perverse about walking places that are not designed
to be accessed that way, which is also quite revealing about theorientation
and planning of a development. It is interesting to compare the organic
development of east oxford with more 'designed' estates.

I'm now reading 'Estates' by Lynsey Hanley. She has also given me alot to think about. Having grown up herself on an estate outside Birmingham, she is highly
of it seems, of almost all social housing in Britain (though very
supportive of the principles behind it). It comes across that the most
damaging aspect in her view is theghettoization or concentration of the
poorest people in society into areas where they don't encounter other
types of people, who might have a different outlook and aspirations. To
me accessibility and transport seem to be huge issues here, but she
uses the failures of huge out of town estates to argue against them for
other reasons.

She is particularly against modernism aurhh! and thinks everyone should live in low rise housing - presumably like the Barratts estates spreading everywhere like jam. She has a big go at Goldfinger who designed Balfron Tower and Trelic
Tower. This is how she describes his own house 2 Willow rd 'The house
is elegant, but more because of the exquisitely tasteful
furnishings.... Such was the influence of pure modernism.'She thinks
tower blocks are inhuman and ugly, but does not separate badly built
ones withmaintaence problems from the form itself. She does not explain why the barbican and trelick tower are now really desirable homes. I think the location is key.

For alot of people in the uk her view is the mainstream one, and they are not willing to give modernism and the visions of the 60's another chance. This book is really good though for tracing the history of slum clearances, and the different political influences which have led us to this point. Just after the war Bevan and Beveridge were intensley preoccupied with quality 'nothing was too good' but then the successive tory government just wanted to put up lots of housing quickly as there were lots of people homeless and they wanted to win the next election..but a unique opportunity was wasted.


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