From Ferrier Estate to Kidbrooke Village: Decoding a ‘Place in the Making’

Kidbrooke Village is a one billion pound, one hundred and nine hectare residential development, under construction in London’s Royal Borough of Greenwich, by the developer Berkeley Homes. Described as ‘the largest residential development in the UK outside the Olympic games area’[1], when Kidbrooke Village is completed in 2030 it will comprise 4,763 homes set within four new neighbourhoods, a ‘village square’ with shops, restaurants, a supermarket, community health centre and ‘village hall’, a train station and a primary school, all linked by a new park that will connect to the existing Blackheath and Sutcliffe parks.[2]

Kidbrooke Village is presented by Berkeley Homes, the Greater London Authority and the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council as a regeneration project, which followed the Council’s decision in 2001 to demolish and redevelop the site of the Ferrier estate.[3]

The Ferrier, completed in 1972, was typical of other post modern social housing designed by the London County Council (LCC) architects’ department at this time, which used industrialised methods of construction to provide much needed social housing.[4] The Ferrier’s process of decline and subsequent demolition between 2005-2012, is also typical of these other estates as the ideologies that these buildings once embodied, have been subsumed into new ideas around living and new criteria for the qualification of a ‘successful’ community.[5]

One of the key ideas underpinning the regeneration of these places, is the trend towards ‘placemaking’ – a term used widely by developers, urban designs and local government to describe an approach to delivering new urban spaces. Placemaking embodies the influential ideas of urban theorists, including Jane Jacobs[6], William H. Whyte[7] and Oscar Newman[8], that advocate the human scale design of everyday places, which they claim gives communities an increased sense of agency over the public realm.

The key stakeholders at Kidbrooke Village, cite placemaking, which they define as the creation of ‘places’ that are characterised by the ‘quality of their design, public realm, transport and access to jobs and amenities’, as an overarching concept for the regeneration project.[9] Here, the verbal processes that describe the complexity of building and sustaining a successful new community, are abstracted and reduced to a word – ‘placemaking’. The rhetorical use of this term is an example of Phil Cohen’s concept of Regenspiel, which ‘consists of a lexicon of portmanteau words – words that can be made to mean almost anything to anyone – which are endlessly reiterated in various permutations and sometimes collocated into catchphrases’.[10] Indeed, Kidbrooke Village’s marketing strapline, Kidbrooke Village: A place in the making, is a direct example of this effect in its most reductive form.[11]

This article looks at Kidbrooke Village in order to unpack the language of regeneration and explore the implications of placemaking for the built environment. Through interrogating the qualifying factors for a ‘successful’ place as set out in two short promotional films, produced by Berkeley Homes, I want to decode the language and aesthetics employed in these audio-visual representations, and their marketing to the public, to understand how these kinds of large-scale regeneration projects are legitimated within a wider socio-economic context.[12]

My study of the promotional films will be supported by an analysis of material collected from my own visit to the site and marketing suite, under the pretense of being a potential homebuyer looking to purchase one of the two bedroom apartments being sold off-plan. Furthermore, my study is underpinned by a reading of local and national political rhetoric and its marketing to the general public, oral history recordings featuring the views of residents from the former Ferrier Estate, and an analysis of contemporary academic critique relating to the ongoing debate around regeneration.[13]

This investigation exposes placemaking in Kidbrooke village as a process that is more bound up with the representation of the built environment through mediated signs and language, than with the physical production and practical function of buildings. Contrary to its rhetorical use, I argue that placemaking here is in fact an indicator for the further commodification and financial exploitation of social life, encompassing a recognition of authentic ‘local identity’ as a malleable tool of development in the city’s now primary characteristic as a vessel for capital investment.

Development Context

The Ferrier Estate was designed by the LCC’s architecture department and constructed between 1968-1972, on the site of the former RAF base. It provided 1906 single tenure homes for social rent, along with schools, numerous communal spaces and a ‘vast’ boiler room, which was enthusiastically set to provide ‘heat and hot water for all’.[14] The accommodation was arranged in 74 blocks, including low rise houses and eleven thirteen-storey towers, all of which were set within landscaped grounds. Car parking was provided at ground level and pedestrian circulation above, with flats and some communal spaces accessed via ‘pedways’.[15]

The Ferrier is an example of system-built architecture, typical of other post-war estates designed by the LCC, which used a system of concrete panels that were manufactured on site to enable the buildings to be assembled at speed.[16] Ben Campkin notes how these revolutionary construction techniques were a cause of great celebration in this era of state welfare provision; and there was a real belief that the economical and time-efficient provision of much needed accommodation would have a positive social impact.[17] The generously proportioned accommodation at the Ferrier was hailed as ‘testament to the new Parker Morris standards on space’ and enthusiastically received by its early residents, one of whom recalls ‘I thought I’d won the lottery . . . the whole design was revolutionary, a brilliant place’.[18]

The estate echoed the architectural style typical of post-war council estates and with its ‘rough blocky appearance’ and Brutalist ‘striking, repetitive, angular geometries’ and at the time of its construction it was applauded as a ‘classic piece of modernist architecture’.[19] This contrasts with the more recent media and political rhetoric that depicts this modernist style of building as synonymous with poor standards of living and ill-conceived design.[20] Like many of the other estates built by the LCC that have subsequently been demolished, a number of contributing national and local factors lead to the Ferrier’s notorious reputation for high crime and unemployment in the late 1980s and early 1990s.[21]

The decades following the construction of the Ferrier saw a significant change in attitude towards housing welfare in the UK. Successive Government’s explicit support for private homebuyers lead to the normalisation of home ownership as the dominant tenure, increasing from fifty percent of UK homes in 1970 – the time of the Ferrier’s construction – to seventy per cent in 2005 when its residents first began to be ‘decanted’ prior to its demolition.[22]

Policies in favour of home ownership were introduced, such as the Right to Buy in 1980, which increased social inequality through disproportionately helping those who are more financially able to invest in property and subsequently benefit from increasing property prices. In an audio recording about the Kidbrooke Village regeneration project, members of the Ferrier Residents Action Group (FRAG) claim that such neoliberal policies, including those relating to social care in the 1980s, resulted in the most vulnerable members of society been allocated housing on the estate without adequate support.[23] Former residents argue that this altered the demographic of the estate from being a successful and diverse multicultural community of predominantly working families, to one of increased marginalization, unemployment and poverty in the late 1980s.[24]

The wider negative attitudes towards modernist social housing, that were influenced by political rhetoric, were compounded in the 1990s and 2000s through the media’s dramatised representation of these estates as places of urban decay and danger in what Ben Campkin describes as a form of ‘sink estate spectacle’.[25] The Ferrier was a direct victim of this in 1997, following the release of Gary Oldman’s film, Nil by Mouth[26], which was set and filmed on the estate and told a story of domestic violence, drug addiction and crime. One former resident remembers how for the making of the film, graffiti was added to the concrete walls of the buildings to give a greater sense of squalor because in actual fact, the appearance and reality of living on the estate ‘wasn’t that bad’.[27] Former residents argue that the film’s exaggerated portrayal of the estate’s iconic buildings as squalid and hopeless places to live, lead to the build-up of a ‘mythology’,[28] whereby the press and public perceived the level of crime on the Ferrier to be greater than the reality, thus contributing to its reputation in the media as ‘Britain’s Hardest Estate’.[29]

Placemaking as a Process of Regeneration

The film Kidbrooke Village: A place in the making, further enforces the media’s stigmatisation of post-war social housing through reflecting on a particular history of the Ferrier, that employs a ‘sink estate’ aesthetic to present its ideology as flawed.[30] In the opening scene, a black and white photograph of an architectural model of the estate is followed by the text; ‘it was seen as a bright future for social housing’, with the words ‘It was seen’ emphasised by their larger and bolder type.[31] The subject of this image – a concept model, taken from an above isonometric viewpoint and showing the development without its surrounding site context, frames the project’s radical ambition as unrealistic and totalitarian. This supports the idea made popular by Oscar Newman’s publically and politically influential criticism of this form of development as the product of a top down approach to design, driven by the egocentricity of architects[32] – ideas that have more recently been discredited by academics.[33]

Screen Shot Ferrier Model

Kidbrooke Village: A place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013)

The film continues with a slideshow of photographs of children playing together in the Ferrier’s communal spaces, which are interjected by scenes of elderly, female ex-residents, who recall over drinking cups of tea, the ‘old fashioned community’ spirit of the estate in the decade following its completion, when children would play outside together while mums observed from the windows.[34] This is followed by a greyscale photograph of a young man posed in front of a Ferrier tower building, shown alongside a film of him describing his experience of moving onto the estate ‘as a new kid on the block’, from another part of London in 2004, as ‘a bit terrifying – a bit scary’.[35]

The almost subliminal fade from black and white to colour imagery denotes the passing of time and adds to the stories sense of authenticity by suggesting that its narrative is based on a chronological history of events. However, a closer reading reveals inconsistencies between the absence of colour in the film and the technologies available when the imagery was recorded. While it is possible that the earlier photographs of the estate were taken on black and white film; the desaturation of colour is an aesthetic treatment applied to the recently filmed footage of the elderly residents and the photograph of the young man, which we are told was taken some time after 2004.[36]

These stylistic techniques are used in conjunction with historic images of the Ferrier to conjure up a sense of nostalgia, thus asserting the positive aspects of the estate as a bygone past, and its original ‘vision’ as historic and outdated. Age, gender and race also play a role in producing this narrative. And while scenes of relaxed older women reminiscing openly to the camera, suggest a process of sensitive ‘consultation’ has taken place to understand the attitudes of residents; this is contrasted with the image of a young black ‘inner-city’ male, stuck in a cycle of poverty, as a likely victim of gang related violence. The selection of these ‘characters’ reflects the stereotypes common of tabloid media, which heavily generalise the lifestyles of those who live in similar types of housing estates, and reinforces the ideological motives behind the policies that drive their regeneration.

The following thirty-second sequence builds on this, with a close-up view of a rough concrete elevation before cutting to text telling us that ‘after just 10 years the estate started to decline’ – the word ‘decline’ is emboldened for dramatic effect.[37] This is followed by a series of evocative visuals of the semi-derelict buildings of the estate, all filmed on a drizzly, grey day, that include; an aerial view of a housing block showing litter and abandoned furniture accumulated on balconies; a pipe dripping water down a stained concrete façade; broken windows; a rusting satellite dish; a broken security light and a crumbling concrete column.[38] The presentation of these images, which are flashed onto the screen in quick succession to a soundtrack with a low heavy beat, resembles the way that crime scene photographs are often shown in thrillers.

Screen Shot Estate Plan.jpg

Kidbrooke Village: A place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013)

Here the combined imagery, text and music and their location within the supposed chronology of the film, shows the buildings of the Ferrier as unsafe, crumbling, filthy places to live, and constructs a dramatic image of a destitute community, to justify the estate’s demolition. However, if one looks carefully at the final scene, the camera pans out to reveal construction hoardings, which have been erected at the ground level, thus suggesting this footage was taken following the eviction of the Ferrier’s residents, and after the estates preparation for demolition.[39] If, as Berkeley Homes’ timeline suggests, residents began being ‘decanted’ in 2005 at a rate of around five houses per week, with demolition beginning in 2007, the building shown in this film could have reasonably been left empty for over a year.[40]

Screen Shot Estate demolition 2.jpg

Kidbrooke Village: A place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013)

Screen Shot Estate.jpg

Kidbrooke Village: A place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013)

This piece of information, which is deliberately withheld from the story told in the film, is crucial to our understanding of the imagery presented. The decaying furniture items shown collecting on balconies could have been left by those moving out who, knowing that the building was going to be demolished, decided to save themselves a trip to the tip; while the problem of vandalism is likely to have been exasperated by the fact that the buildings were unoccupied for some time before their demolition. Additionally, we have already seen how, in Gary Oldman’s 1997 gritty representation, the vandalism of the Ferrier was exaggerated by set designers.[41] With this in mind, a similar tactic could have been employed in the making of the Kidbrooke Village promotional films – a process that would have been enabled by the estate’s inevitable demolition, as the usual permissions and costs of returning the building to its inhabited state would not apply. Through these speculative observations, we can start to unpack the representation of the Ferrier, in its semi-derelict and deserted state in the film, as an exaggerated and dishonest portrayal of the experience of the residents who previously lived there.

Screen Shot Estate demolition.jpg

Living at Kidbrooke Village: A social sustainability report (Berkeley Group Holdings PLC, 2014)

The films focus on the Ferrier’s decaying materiality firmly asserts the estate’s iconic ‘concrete’, ‘brutal’, and ‘High-rise’ architecture as a symbolic failure, and to blame for social problems experienced by those who lived there, thus negating the effects of other contributing socio-political and economical factors.[42] The film’s accompanying brochure also employs this extremely superficial narrative, whereby the history of the Ferrier estate is abstracted and reduced to the following list of capitalised, emotive words, alongside photographs of the estate buildings in their semi-demolished state and surrounded by rubble:[43]

906 DWELLINGS
UNEMPLOYMENT MORE THAN DOUBLE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE
DECAYING INFRASTRUCTURE
MONOTENURE
INWARD FACING
BRUTALIST DESIGN
LACK OF INVESTMENT

These reductive representations of the Ferrier build on a widely publicised rhetoric that suggests that social problems related to poverty, integration, unemployment and crime are caused by particular forms of architecture, and therefore can be solved through changes to the built environment.[44] This idea was most recently reverberated in 2016, when Prime Minister David Cameron asserted his ambition to demolish and redesign aspects of ‘so called sink estates’ in a ‘Blitz’ on poverty and crime, which he attributed to the ‘concrete slabs dropped from on high, brutal high-rise towers’ [45]. The marketing material for Kidbrooke Village relies on its audience’s pre-exposure to these kinds of superficial understandings and generalised representations of post-modern council estates, which leads to the negative connotations of ‘high rise’, ‘brutalist’ architecture.

Cohen argues that the abstraction employed in regeneration rhetoric de-personalises processes and actions, thus leading to the ‘deletion of concrete human agency’ and accountability; the effect of which is that ‘nobody ever seemingly does anything to anyone, stuff just happens’.[46] Therefore, blaming the buildings’ design and materiality for the wider social problems, gives the impression that social decline was an inevitability and conveniently takes away responsibility from those in power; while also justifying demolition and replacement as a seemingly tangible means of addressing these issues.[47]

These ideas are reflected in the film by former Greenwich Labour Council Leader Chris Roberts, who blames the negative ideas that have come to be associated with the Ferrier’s iconic image as contributing to the unemployment of its residents in his anecdotal assertion that ‘people [who lived on the Ferrier Estate] have been stigmatised in terms of applying for employment, if you applied for a job with a Ferrier postcode you would probably have your CV thrown in the bin’.[48] This sets up the main point of the film, which continues along the lines of promoting the significant number of new jobs, improved facilities and the ‘sense of place’ that is claimed to have been created through the regeneration project.[49]

Contrary to the film’s earlier representation of the Ferrier’s literal materiality as crumbling and inhospitable, this statement acknowledges the buildings’ embodiment of the image of poverty and crime, and the socio-economic effect of its reputation, as the key factor in the Council’s decision to demolish the estate. Further evidence that the estate’s reputation was a driving factor of its demolition can be seen in Greenwich Council’s 2001 statement which recommended that the complete demolition of the Ferrier was required ‘to remove the stigma of the current estate and its effects on land values’.[50]

The Ferrier Residents Action Group claim that the materiality of the Ferrier estate declined more rapidly in the years leading up to the public release of this statement by Greenwich Council, who reduced financial investment in its maintenance because they had in mind its future potential for redevelopment.[51] This exposes the strange chronological bias at play in placemaking, whereby its rhetorical ideology, driven by the opportunity for real estate capital growth, is bound up with a systematic degradation of the physical architecture of less profitable and less socially desirable forms of development, as a means of justifying its demolition. The effects of this process are brazenly acknowledged by an architect of the Kidbrooke Village masterplan, Alex Lifschutz, who explains that the ‘blight of deciding whether [the Ferrier] should or shouldn’t go’ created a ‘self fulfilling prophesy’, and lead to its inevitable demolition.[52]

The irony here is that the marginalisation and social inequality, which is claimed to be solved through the improved architecture of new developments like Kidbrooke Village, is also more widely exasperated by this process of regeneration, through its nationally marketed rhetoric that reinforces the negative ideas which, in recent decades, have come to be embodied in the decaying concrete of these neglected buildings.

In this context we can understand placemaking in opposition to the agency suggested by either of the words that compose the portmanteau, and instead as a process that relies on and reinforces the systematic destruction of the Ferrier as a viable ‘place’, through a binary of rhetoric and physical decline, in order to legitimate placemaking as a necessary action.

Placemaking as a Commodification of Social life

The qualification of Kidbrooke Village through the telling of a ‘story’, which begins with the historic degradation of the Ferrier Estate, is a trope which runs through all of Berkeley Homes’ marketing of the scheme as a regeneration project to local councillors and residents.[53] In contrast with this, the promotional sales film, Welcome to Kidbrooke Village, makes absolutely no mention of the Ferrier estate, or the scheme as a regeneration project, and instead focuses on Kidbrooke Village’s relationship to other further-reaching places.[54] The development’s global context is highlighted through an emphasis on its connectivity to the City of London, via ‘convenient’ public transport links, and through a series of images of London’s skyline.[55] These are centred on iconic buildings including, St Paul’s Cathedral, the ‘Shard’ and the ‘Gherkin’. A scene featuring the view of Canary Warf, from the Royal Greenwich observatory, further contextualises the development from a global commercial point of view, by directly linking a key tourist attraction of the borough, with the place in the city where global business transactions take place and capital is generated.[56]

Screen Shot City.jpg

Welcome to Kidbrooke Village (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013)

The emphasis on internationally recognisable imagery, such as the red routemaster bus and renowned buildings, suggests that these documents are geared towards a global audience, who, though less familiar with the site specific features of Kidbrooke, are able to identify London through these cultural ‘signs’. This firmly establishes the new development as belonging to the internationally buoyant London property market. These representations are as much about using Kidbrooke Village’s proximity and connectivity to the ‘thriving’ city of London, in order to promote it as viable place for capital investment, as they are about marketing Kidbrooke Village as a conveniently located a place to live.

The emphasis on Kidbrooke Village’s connectivity is in stark contrast to the way this site was described by Berkeley Homes in relation to the Ferrier estate. While the Ferrier was deemed ‘inaccessible and isolated from the surrounding areas’[57] and lacking in green amenity space; as Kidbrooke Village the site is rebranded as ‘only 15 minutes to London bridge,’ thanks to what one new resident describes as ‘fantastic’ transport links, while another highlights the convenience of having Sutcliffe park ‘just in front’ of his new apartment, and Blackheath ‘literally one station away’.[58]

Capitalising on the development’s proximity to other places is a theme that has been carried through into the naming of Kidbrooke’s Quarters, ‘Blackheath Quarter’, ‘Meridian Gate’, ‘City Point’ and ‘Kidbrooke Village Centre’, after local reference points. While the Chairman of Berkeley Homes, John Anderson, claims this was purely driven by the opportunity to sell properties from four marketing suites; the proximity of Kidbrooke Village to the established neighbourhood of Blackheath appears to be of significant importance to the sale of properties. [59] This was evident on my visit to the marketing suite, posed as a potential buyer, where I was encouraged by a Berkeley Homes sales representative to take a self-guided walking tour of Sutcliffe park and look around the restaurants and shops of Blackheath.[60]

In the promotional film, Blackheath is represented through a sequence that begins with an elderly woman buying flowers from the outdoor display of an independent florist, followed by artisan bread served in a paper bag from a market stall, before cutting to a view of the heath on a summer’s day where groups of families and friends are socialising in the foreground of a Georgian terrace houses and an historic church building.[61] The images presented here are about creating a sense of authenticity, which as Sharon Zukin argues, ‘refers to the look and feel of a place as well as the social connections that place inspires’. [62] Here, notions of heritage, security and belonging tie into the idea of a well established, aspirational community, compliant with hetero-normative forms of modern family life.

Screen Shot Blackheath.jpg

Welcome to Kidbrooke Village (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013)

The imagery of independent shops and markets selling non-essential items suggest a community with agency over the public realm, which is emotionally and financially invested in ensuring the continued success of the area, thus increasing surrounding property values and the opportunity for upward social mobility for those who literally buy into this lifestyle. Here, a transaction of artisan bread is not only emblematic of individuality, choice and complacency for the aspirational middle class, it also speaks a language of capital investment.

We can further unpack the relationship between Kidbrooke Village and neighbouring Blackheath as mutually financially beneficial through Greenwich Council’s justification of the Ferrier’s demolition based on its negative effect on the surrounding land values.[63] The pertinence of these relational economies is evidenced through Kidbrooke Village’s logo, which includes the borough’s SE3 postcode, thus capitalising on its association with the wider area and distancing itself from the apparent stigma associated with the site-specific Ferrier estate postcode.[64] In the placemaking of Kidbrooke Village, a commodification of the heritage assets and the social life of existing local areas are used to sell a lifestyle associated with more profitable forms of community, which in turn promises increased capital for the borough, developer and homeowner.

The film continues with words such as ‘convenience’, ‘Health’, ‘business’, ‘local schools’, ‘Bars and Restaurants’, appearing across scenes of heathy-looking people enjoying on-site leisure facilities, of which the new park is particularly laboured.[65] In contrast with the representation of the Ferrier estate, where the architecture’s materiality was emphasised, here the architecture only serves as a backdrop to social life, to the extent that in some scenes the buildings’ materiality is barely present and they appear in their ‘un-rendered’, ‘computer generated image’ form, as ghost-like white masses.

Architects Impression.jpg

Kidbrooke Village, Merlin Court: 1 2 and 3 bedroom apartments (Berkeley Group Holdings PLC, 2015)

Diana Young’s notion that ‘buildings, although static in terms of site, possess a mobility that becomes evident in the circulation of their image’ is particularly pertinent here and reinforced by my viewings of the white minimally-furnished show apartments.[66] This supports Young’s idea that buildings made to look immaterial at their point of sale increases their market fluidity,[67] as almost all of the apartments are expected to be sold ‘off-plan’ in a process termed ‘de-risking’, whereby the buyer’s potential financial loss is lowered because they are sold at a twenty per cent lower price.[68]

This trend can be understood in relation to the Mayor of London’s guidance, which encourages architects to move away from the production of ‘iconic’ buildings and towards the design of ‘background’ architecture that forms part of a carefully considered wider public realm.[69] Historic England attribute this recommendation to the recent trend for the ‘New London Vernacular’ of brick-clad, high-rise apartment buildings, which make up the predominant typology at Kidbrooke Village.[70] While the Mayor’s encouragement of these forms of practice is in part a reaction to the iconic architecture attributed to the stigmatisation of buildings like the Ferrier, ironically, this ‘New London Vernacular’ takes its inspiration from New-York loft style apartments, which have their origins in the illegal squatting of artists in the inner cities of America.[71] These ‘apartments’ move away from traditional ideas about the domesticity of home life and instead towards the home as a place for work and leisure.[72] Patrick Wright notes how a legal and ‘altogether more urbane’ version of this style of dwelling was co-opted by the middle classes in the UK in the mid 1980s.[73]

Drawing on Zukin, we can see how this form of dwelling is bound up with our anxieties around place and belonging, which result in a ‘yearning for authenticity’ that ‘reflects the separation between our experience of space and our sense of self that is so much part of modern mentalities.’[74] Kidbrooke Village’s connectivity means it is ideally located for the sort of transient community that is most influenced by this condition. Here, the polished version of loft-style apartment living claims to support this metropolitan lifestyle, in which convenience is key. At the same time, this operates in the background of an image of ‘authentic’ social life immediately available on its doorstep. The architecture of Kidbrooke Village, therefore, and the way it is employed in this imagery, addresses the anxieties caused by the temporality of modern life, through suggesting that here is the place to ‘put down roots’.[75]

While these representation of a vibrant public realm appear born of the kinds of organic, ‘local’ interventions advocated by the likes of Jacobs, the very circulation of its imagery in these films shows how these spaces have been subsumed by private multinational corporations that capitalise on the asset value attached to their particular qualities and which appear to support ‘desirable’ lifestyles. [76] Ironically, the understanding of this capital logic, operated through placemaking, directly contradicts the authentic ‘public-ness’ of these spaces, to the extent it is influential in the trend towards the privatisation of the public realm in London.

Conclusion

In contrast with the ideas embodied in the etymology of its linguistic make-up, placemaking is a process that is less bound up with the literal, concrete reality of creating successful built environments, and focuses on the circulation of a language of signs and images that represent places as desirable, internationally exchangeable, commodities.

Placemaking rhetoric, as it is employed in the representation of Kidbrooke Village, differs dramatically according to its different audiences and motives. An emphasis on the ‘regeneration’, through the literal demolition and redevelopment of the Ferrier Estate, is used to legitimate Kidbrooke Village for the existing community, who are emotionally and historically invested in the material fabric of the immediate area. While these former residents may benefit from improvements to facilities brought about by Kidbrooke Village, an analysis of placemaking rhetoric has shown how an essentialist narrative is used to exaggerate the material decline of these unprofitable forms of development, thus reinforcing the stigma faced by these neighbourhoods and legitimating their demolition and replacement based on an economic logic of increasing land values.

In contrast with this, images that speak of the new development’s relationship to the social lives of other local and global places are used literally to sell the scheme to a more transient and international audience. In this context, the immateriality of the buildings of Kidbrooke Village is key to their representation as temporal assets that form a backdrop to desirable forms of public life, and their readiness to be bought or sold – a quality that is essential to the mobility of these images as marketing propaganda.

Placemaking is born of an understanding that particular marketable forms of pubic social life can be exploited through the circulation of imagery to generate real estate capital growth. With this in mind, placemaking, contrary to its rhetorical and political use, embodies ideologies around community and public space that radically differ from the social ambitions envisaged in the design and construction of the post-modern housing estates – the very forms of housing that this process effectively demolishes.

Joanne Preston

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Endnotes

1. Martin Spring and Chloë Stothart (17 December 2008) ‘Berkeley submits plans for £1bn revamp of Greenwich council estate’ Building Design Online,  http://www.bdonline.co.uk/berkeley-submits-plans-for-%C2%A31bn-revamp-of-greenwich-council-estate/3130118.article#.

2. ‘Kidbrooke Village SE3’, see http://www.kidbrookeregeneration.info.

3. Ibid.

4. Mark Swenarton, Homes Fit for Heroes (London: Heinemann Educational Books Limited, 1981).

5. For a list of other post-war council estates designed by the LCC, see ‘Utopia London’, http://www.utopialondon.com/.

6. Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1992).

7. William H. Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (New York: Project for Public WHY Spaces, 1980).

8. Oscar Newman, Defensible Space: People and Design in the Violent City, (London: Architectural Press, 1973).

9. ‘Kidbrooke Village SE3’, op. cit.

10. Phil Cohen, ‘Regenspiel’, Phil Cohen and Michael J. Rustin (eds.) London’s Turning: the making of the Thames Gateway (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2008)

11. ‘Kidbrooke Village SE3’, op. cit.

12. The following films, published online, were chosen for this study: Kidbrooke Village: a place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013); and Welcome to Kidbrooke Village (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

13. These recordings are from the following podcast featuring members of the Ferrier Residents Action Group (FRAG) about the demolition of the Ferrier Estate and the planned regeneration of the area, which also includes an interview with the Chairman of Berkeley Homes John Anderson: In the Meantime: Ferrier to Kidbrooke podcast (Nick Ross and Adam Bienkov, 2011). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFLoMcE6c8E.

14. In the Meantime: Ferrier to Kidbrooke podcast (Nick Ross and Adam Bienkov, 2011). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFLoMcE6c8E.

15.Ibid. Pedways are Elevated semi-enclosed or external walkways.

16. The London County Council (later called the Greater London Council) designed many other estates built in this style, during this period including, the Aylesbury Estate, the Heygate Estate and Thamesmead.

17. Ben Campkin, ‘Sink Estate Spectacle’, Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture (London: IB Tauris, 2013), pp 80-81

18. ‘In the Meantime: Ferrier to Kidbrooke podcast’ op. cit.

19. Ibid.

20. An idea explored in Ben Campkin,‘Sink Estate Spectacle’ op. cit.

21. ‘In the Meantime: Ferrier to Kidbrooke podcast’ op. cit. For a list of other post-war council estates designed by the LCC see: ‘Utopia London’, http://www.utopialondon.com/ (accessed 6 April 2016).

22. Richard Ronald and Marja Elsinga (eds), Beyond Home Ownership: housing welfare and society (New York: Routledge: 2012) p. 3.

23. In the Meantime: Ferrier to Kidbrooke podcast’ op. cit.

24. Ibid.

25. Ben Campkin, ‘Sink Estate Spectacle’ op. cit.

26. Gary Oldman, Nil by Mouth (Twentieth Century Fox, 1997).

27. In the Meantime: Ferrier to Kidbrooke podcast’ op. cit.

28. Ibid.

29. Hardeep Sandher (18 July 2008) ‘Britain hardest estate set for £1bn makeover’ Property Week, http://www.propertyweek.com/resi/britain-hardest-estate-set-for-%C2%A31bn-makeover/3118458.article.

30. Kidbrooke Village: a place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

31. Ibid.

32. Newman, op. cit.

33. including; Katherine Bristol, ‘The Pruitt Igoe Myth’, Journal of Architectural Education, v. 44 n. 3 (May 1991) pp 163-171. and Campkin op.cit.

34. Ironically, this is something which Oscar Newman argued could never happen in these forms of building in Horizon: The Writing on the Wall (BBC video, dir. John M Mansfield, 1974).

35. Kidbrooke Village: a place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

36. This treatment is carried through into the images of the Ferrier on Berkely Homes’ regeneration website, where even photographs with cars with registration plates of the year 2000 appear black and white.

37. Kidbrooke Village: a place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Berkeley Group Holdings PLC, Living at Kidbrooke Village: 5 Years of Placemaking (2014) p. 6

41. Oldman, Op cit.

42. Kidbrooke Village: a place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

43. Berkeley Group Holdings PLC, Kidbrooke Village Phases 3, 5 and 6: A Place in the Making (2015). p 4.

44. A criticism which Bristol op. cit. suggests was accepted and compounded by architects who, ‘took the blame’ for the social problems facing these places because they saw the opportunity to create more work for themselves by claiming that architecture could also be a solution.

45. Caroline Davies (10 January 2016) ‘David Cameron vows to ‘blitz’ poverty by demolishing UK’s worst sink estates’ Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/09/david-cameron-vows-to-blitz-poverty-by-demolishing-uks-worst-sink-estates (accessed 16th March 2016).

46. Cohen, Op. cit.

47. By referring to, ‘so called sink estates’, Cameron distanced himself from from this derogatory terminology, while knowing that its public circulation firmly reinforces the negative reputation of these buildings.

48. Kidbrooke Village: a place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

49. Ibid.

50. Zoe Dare Hall (24 May 2013) ‘Rundown estate transformed in Greenwich makeover’ The Financial Times, https://next.ft.com/content/24f219b4-bd79-11e2-a735-00144feab7de.

51. In the Meantime: Ferrier to Kidbrooke podcast’ op. cit.

52. Kidbrooke Village: a place in the making (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

53. This includes planning documents such as Design and Access Statements that communicate the opportunities and constraints of the design proposals, and the schemes regeneration website and newsletters, which are aimed at keeping residents up to date on the construction progress.

54. Welcome to Kidbrooke Village (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

55. Ibid.

56. Ibid.

57. Berkeley Group Holdings PLC, Living at Kidbrooke Village: A social Sustainability Report (2014) p. 3.

58. Welcome to Kidbrooke Village (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

59. This was based on Anderson’s unqualified assertion that ‘you never sell more than fifty properties from one marketing suite.’ In the Meantime: Ferrier to Kidbrooke podcast, Op. cit.

60. Meeting between the author and Jacob Bramley, Sales consultant at Kidbrooke Village marketing suite (London, 29 March 2016)

61. Welcome to Kidbrooke Village (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

62. Sharon Zukin, Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Spaces (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) p 220.

63. Zoe Dare Hall (24 May 2013) ‘Rundown estate transformed in Greenwich makeover’ Financial Times, https://next.ft.com/content/24f219b4-bd79-11e2-a735-00144feab7de.

64. This is present on almost all instances on the logo and featured as the key image on the front cover of the sales brochure, Berkeley Group Holdings PLC, Kidbrooke Village Merlin Court: 1 2 and 3 bedroom apartments (2015).

65. Welcome to Kidbrooke Village (Berkeley Group Plc, 2013).

66. Dianna Young, ‘The material Value of Color: The Estate Agent’s Tale’, Home Cultures, v. 1 n. 1 (March 2004) p 6.

67. Dianna Young, ‘The material Value of Color: The Estate Agent’s Tale’, Home Cultures, v. 1 n. 1 (March 2004) pp 5-22

68. Meeting between the author and Jacob Bramley, Sales consultant at Kidbrooke Village marketing suite (London, 29 March 2016)

69. London Development Agency, London Housing Design Guide: Interim Edition (2010) p 6.

70. Historic England, Conservation Bulletin: London and the London Plan: Issue 75 (Spring 2016) p. 18-19. This style has become so popular in the UK in recent years that it has resulted in a national shortage of bricks. Ibid.

71. An origin that has been explored from Marxist point of view by Zukin. Op. cit.

72. Note the naming of ‘apartments’ rather than ‘flats’, which usually refer to ex-local authority dwellings in the UK, is symptomatic of American origins of this idea and its prominence in middle class British culture.

73. Patrick Wright, ‘The Bow Quarter: Six Hundred and Seventy Luxury Flats in an old Victorian Hell-House’, A Journey Through Ruins: The last days of London (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.) p 243.

74. Zukin Op. cit., p 220.

75. This is a common theme that runs through the marketing of the new development as an essential to its sense of ‘place.’

76. Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1992).

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3 thoughts on “From Ferrier Estate to Kidbrooke Village: Decoding a ‘Place in the Making’

  1. Until 1965 it was London County Council’s Architect’s Department and after 1965 it was Greater London Council’s Department of Architecture; Ferrier Estate is therefore definitely a GLC job. Otherwise powerful and well-argued essay.

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