ASH Retrospective

From the 14-20 August ASH had a residency in the Upper Galleries of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. During the week we hosted several talks on aspects of London’s housing ‘crisis’, including a presentation by Co-ops for London, a workshop by Achilles Fanzine, and an ASH meeting on the terms of reference in the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire. During our residency we created a wall-size map identifying the site of every London estate regeneration, and on the weekend we exhibited both this and the design alternatives to demolition ASH has produced in the two-and-a-half years between March 2015 and August 2017. And since the estates the ASH designs are made to save from demolition are occupied by the people that are always absent from architect’s masterplans, we also invited individuals and groups with whom we have collaborated to exhibit photographs and films documenting some of the estates threatened by the London programme of estate regeneration and the campaigns by residents and other groups to resist the demolition of their homes. This is a record of the exhibition at the ICA.

Exhibition Contents

Knight’s Walk

Completed in 1972 as part of Cotton Gardens estate, with 33 bungalows for the elderly and residents with disabilities and flats in low-rise blocks, Knight’s Walk was facing full demolition by Lambeth Labour council in 2015. ASH’s proposal of up to 80 new flats through infill and roof extensions forced the council to reconsider alternative options and helped save half the homes on the estate from demolition.

West Kensington & Gibbs Green Estates

A combined 760 homes on estates built, respectively, in 1961 and 1974, and currently under threat of full demolition by Hammersmith & Fulham Labour council, which has chosen to honour the agreement between the previous Conservative administration and property developers Capco, ASH’s design alternatives propose up to 250 new flats through infill and roof extensions without demolishing a single existing home.

Central Hill Estate

A 1975 estate in Crystal Palace currently condemned to full demolition and redevelopment by Lambeth Labour council. ASH’s design alternative proposes over 200 new flats, the partial sale of which would generate the funds to refurbish the 456 existing homes, none of which would have to be demolished, thereby keeping the existing community intact while increasing the housing capacity of the estate by 45 per cent.

Open Garden Estates

An annual event organised by ASH over the past three years and hosted by estates across London that are threatened with regeneration, Open Garden Estates aims to dispel the myths about council housing propagated by the press, councils and government, encourage the public to visit estates threatened with ‘regeneration’, and help make links between the campaigns to save them from demolition.

Patmore Estate

860 homes built in the 1950s and managed by a housing co-operative since 1994, Patmore estate is threatened by the Vauxhall, Nine Elms & Battersea ‘Opportunity Area’ being implemented by Wandsworth Conservative council with the support of the London Labour Mayor. ASH is currently proposing new uses for disused aspects of the existing housing blocks as part of the co-op’s vision for the future of the estate community.

Northwold Estate

A council estate of 580 homes built in the 1930s and extended in the 1950s and recently stock transferred to the Guinness Partnership housing association, Northwold estate is now under threat of partial demolition and redevelopment. ASH’s alternative designs for infill and roof extensions for 245 flats match the total increase in the number of properties planned by Guinness, but unlike their proposals without demolishing a single existing home or evicting the current residents.

Architectural Workers

An independent and anonymous network of people who work in architecture and the built environment, Architectural Workers draws attention to and criticises both their own working conditions in architectural practices employed in estate ‘regeneration’ and the collusion of the profession in the social cleansing it produces.

Brutal London

A long-term project by Alessia Gammarota, these photographs take a broad view of London’s housing ‘crisis’ from the inter-related perspectives of squatting, council housing, regeneration, estate demolition and homelessness.

The Working Class Fights Back

Photo-collages by L.G. documenting campaigns against estate demolition, council-led gentrification and the social cleansing of working-class communities from London, this work was first shown last year as part of the Resist Festival at the London School of Economics.

JustMap

An ongoing collaborative map of London community resources, campaign and projects based on public workshops organised at community events and festivals, its goal is to highlight available community resources and current projects and connect campaigners fighting for a fairer London.

Photographs of London’s Council Estates

Photos by Alessia Gammarota and ASH of estates across London undergoing regeneration (from left to right, top to bottom): West Hendon (Barnet), Alma (Enfield), Mardyke (Havering), Silchester (Kensington & Chelsea), Broadwater Farm (Haringey), Gascoigne (Barking & Dagenham), Patmore (Wandsworth), Aylesbury (Southwark), Carpenters (Newham), Alton (Wandsworth), Central Hill (Lambeth), and Thamesmead estates (Greenwich and Bexley).

Class War

Posters and banners by anarchists who campaign and protest under the name of Class War to draw attention to and oppose the class dimension of estate demolition, while also identifying and holding to account the individuals responsible for the social cleansing it produces – whether architects, property developers, builders, estate agents, housing association CEOs, councillors, regeneration officers, council leaders, mayors, ministers or party political leaders.

Woolfe Vision

Woolfe Vision is a film collective working for social change. These films by Nikita Woolfe record and document some of the events organised by ASH over the past year-and-a-half, including:

  1. ASH presentation to residents of Central Hill estate (20 February, 2016)
  2. Lambeth Cabinet meeting: Decision to demolish Cressingham Gardens estate (21 March, 2016)
  3. Campaigning with Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn (26 March, 2016)
  4. Protest at headquarters of Savills real estate firm (16 April, 2016)
  5. Open Garden Estates: Macintosh Court (19 June, 2016)
  6. The Truth about Grenfell Tower: ASH meeting (22 June, 2017)

Map of London’s Estate Regeneration Programme

This is an ongoing project to locate and document every London estate under threat of, currently undergoing, or which has recently undergone ‘regeneration’: whether privatisation (typically in a stock transfer to a housing association); refurbishment (usually with the prior decanting of the residents who, as with Balfron Tower, do not return); or demolition (either partial or full), with the resulting loss of homes for social rent and the social cleansing of the existing estate community. Red pins indicate estates in the 21 Labour-run boroughs, of which by the time of the exhibition we had located 196; blue pins in the 10 Conservative-run boroughs, which have 37 estates; and yellow pins in the single Liberal Democrat-run borough of Sutton, which has currently submitted 5 estates for viability assessments with public money from the Estate Regeneration National Strategy: a total of 238 London estates. ASH will be turning this map into an online, interactive version which we will publish together with the data we are collecting on each estate, including the number of homes demolished, the number of homes for social rent lost as a result of ‘regeneration’, and the number of properties and the tenure split (private, shared ownership, affordable rent or social rent) on the new development.

Acknowledgements

For help with the exhibition we would like to thank Rosalie Doubal, who invited ASH to exhibit at the ICA and who responded to our numerous requests during the week of our residency with charm and patience. We’d also like to thank Fran Cancino and the Architectural Workers for their work over the week on the designs for, respectively, the Patmore estate and the Northwold estate; Alessia Gammarota for visiting and photographing some of the estates at our request, even while she herself was facing homelessness; L.G., whose knowledge of London’s estates is unmatched, for help with compiling the list of estates threatened by London’s estate regeneration programme; Harry Tuke for help with identifying some of the estates threatened by Conservative councils; and Nicolas Fonty for help with printing the ASH map of these estates, with collating the data on them, and – together with L.G. – with the task of putting the hundreds of pins identifying them into the wall map.

Architects for Social Housing

*     *     *     *     *

Dear ASH

I’m writing to you today after visiting your residency at the ICA and immersing myself in what was one of the most shocking yet liberating experiences of my recent life. These two juxtaposed emotions were delivered in equal parts by the realisation that the unrelenting destruction of the vital social fabric of our city is being consistently chosen over what appears to me an unquestionably better alternative, namely the rejuvenation and not the ‘redevelopment’ of our London estates.

For the last four years I have progressively become more interested in the history, landscape and, more recently, the defence of social housing in the UK. Whilst during this time I have consistently sided with the main conviction of your organisation – that rejuvenation and adding housing stock is always better than ‘redevelopment’ – I find myself harbouring this position more strongly than ever before. I have been working for a homeless charity for the last year and have come face-to-face on a daily basis with the brutal implications of our societal failing to provide enough affordable housing for working people in this city. It has sharpened my anger at council ‘initiatives’ that will ultimately lead to a net loss of social stock (most recently the horrendous £2 billion gamble unfolding in Haringey) and the advancement of so-called ‘affordable’ housing over genuinely affordable housing tied to local wage rates.

I think this is why your exhibition today struck such a strong chord with me. Whilst I have studied various community produced plans in response to council-sanctioned estate regeneration (including Cressingham Gardens’ People’s Plan in Brixton, StART’s Community Land Trust plan in Tottenham, and plans of various spaces threatened by Camden’s Community Investment Plan), the plans presented in the ‘Design Alternatives to Estate Demolition’ section of the exhibition spoke to me like nothing else has as of yet. Your plans for Knight’s Walk, West Kensington & Gibbs Green, Central Hill, Patmore and Northwold estates all seemed inherently sensible ways for providing critically needed affordable stock whilst keeping and improving the already existing housing and facilities on these estates. It struck me time and again that the plans you put forward are without doubt favourable to any plans the councils that these estates sit within seem to be set on. I left filled with a sense of bemusement and resentment that councils seem to be consistently ignoring such accessible and sensible plans that have genuine resident input in favour of technocratic formulations that more often than not run against both the desire of residents and the pressing housing needs that all (particularly London) boroughs face.

Now to the purpose of my email. I left the ICA today with sense of purpose I have not felt before. While estate regeneration has been a topic close to my heart and I have been yearning to get involved and combat this oppressive and short sited policy, I have felt at a slight loss in how to channel this desire. I’m not a resident of a council estate or housing association property and, in some ways, I have felt disingenuous in getting directly involved with a resident-led campaign such as Save Cressingham Gardens. After witnessing the exhibition today, reading the literature produced by ASH (particularly your outstanding report on the reasons for the Grenfell Tower fire), and researching your extensive contribution since 2015 to defending social housing in the UK, I feel that I have found the organisation I would like to channel my energy through.

 

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