On the last Sunday in January, led by the artist Evy Jokovich, a group of Walkativists went on a perambulation through some of the key sites of 20th century modernist council housing in North and East London between Manor House and Homerton. Set against the present government’s commitment to economic austerity, her on-going project about this, Home Sweet Home, resonates strongly with current debates around the issues of gentrification and exclusion, preservation and demolition. As we reached the end point of our walk it seemed appropriate therefore to read from Owen Hatherley’s new provocation The Ministry of Nostalgia, and particularly his skewering of commercially-driven ‘austerity nostalgia’ of gift shop products like the Trellick Tower range of plates and mugs, and so typified by the ubiquity of the found wartime slogan ‘KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON’ …
‘Some of the buildings immortalised in these plates have been the subject of direct transfers of assets from the public sector into the private. The reclamation of post-war modernist architecture by the intelligentsia has been a contributory factor in the privatisation of social housing. An early instance was the selling-off of Keeling House, Denys Lasdun’s East London ‘Cluster Block’ to a private developer, who promptly marketed the flats to ‘creatives’. A series of gentrifications of modernist social housing followed, from the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury (turned from a rotting brutalist megastructure into the home of London’s largest branch of Waitrose), to Park Hill, an architecturally extraordinary council estate in Sheffield, given away for free to the Mancunian developer Urban Splash, whose own favouring of ‘compact’ flats has long been an example of austerity sold as luxury – although after the boom, their privatisation scheme had to be bailed out by millions of pounds of public money.
Hatherley, Owen. The Ministry of Nostalgia, Verso: London (2016) p. 30
‘KEEP CALM AND PLAY ON’ image here