Emerging from the artificial gloom of the underground.
Think parallels, think pockets of unseen things – suspected but not confirmed. We convene outside Holborn tube station, a larger group than expected which is slightly terrifying, and agree to make our way to somewhere quieter to commence the walk. This coincidentally happens to be outside the doors of the first art school in London, which seems vaguely poetic. We outline the walk at least as much as possible. The walk at it’s beginning, is simply a map of places I find interesting but don’t know why, and possibly other places that we may encounter as we progress.
“Nightwalkers experience urban life as a form of phantasmagoria, one that they are at the same time utterly immersed in and oddly detached from. The nightwalker thus dramatizes the dialectic of alienation and disalianation, oppression and emancipation, the prosaic and the poetic, at the core of metropolitan modernity.”
Matthew Beaumont, Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London Chaucer to Dickens (London: Verso, 2016) p.11
In search of long-lost Sayer Street and its recuperation by property developer Lend Lease in 2016, our coordinates will include the Elephant & Castle’s doomed shopping centre and the emerging retail park to navigate a spatial and temporal course in and around this prime ‘regeneration opportunity area’. In the course of our walking we will draw upon historical and contemporary fragments as well as discussion to construct a history that takes as its starting point a parallel and coincidence separated by 75 years. Continue reading →
Walkative were delighted to have urban wanderer, and wonderer, Rosanna Vitiello from No Fixed Abode join us for us our latest peregrination around Balfron Tower earlier this month. She has produced an article about the day’s activities over on her blog. Read it, along with more of her own exciting ventures, here:
Outside the Balfron Tower we pause to talk about the grade 2-listed tower block’s significance. Amongst other points of interest, we are drawn to the story of Goldfinger’s brief sojourn on the 25th floor and that JG Ballard had him in mind in the character of the architect-resident Anthony Royal in the novel High-Rise. Ahead of the opening of the film adaptation, Simon King reads from Ned Bauman’s introduction from the 2014 edition of the novel:
A walk and talk led by Nuno Coelho and Paula Smolarska from Bow Road to Robin Hood Gardens via Balfron Tower. The legacy of Ernő Goldfinger, J.G. Ballard, James Bond, Le Corbusier, (Post)modernism, and privatization were all covered in Walkative’s latest excursion.
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