Tower Block UK is a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, bringing together public engagement and an openly-licensed image archive in an attempt to emphasise the social and architectural importance of tower blocks, and to frame multi-storey social housing as a coherent and accessible nationwide heritage.
And it may surprise you to learn – given the obloquy that subsequently descended on these planners’ fancies – that they [aerial walkways] worked. One resident recalls a trip to the local shops – along those walkways – taking hours to complete as she stopped to talk to everyone she met, and she knew nearly everyone. The corridors were also a place to meet and socialise; doors left unlocked with children playing in one flat but regularly checked on by neighbours.
This was true, apparently, even of the now reviled tower blocks. People met in lifts and on landings. Fiona, my guide to the estate, living then in Aragon Tower, remembers a close and friendly community – ‘you could knock on any door’ – and recalls too how scrupulously tenants maintained the common areas according to a rota issued by the estate caretaker.
If you know the Pepys Estate or its sometime reputation, you’ll know there’s one other thing I haven’t mentioned – race. The Estate was in its early years and for some time an almost exclusively white estate, this the result of a more or less formal policy operated by the GLC. As one former council housing officer describes”
“It wasn’t as simple as ‘We don’t want black people living there’. It was more like an assumption that black and white would rather live separately from one another. So, as you go down the Old Kent Road you can see some estates are white and others are black or mixed. It didn’t happen by accident. Housing officers just didn’t allocate black people to [the Pepys Estate].”
Il s’agissait d’une loi permettant de poursuivre, voire d’emprisonner, ceux qui hébergent et aident des étrangers en situation jugée illégale. Ce « délit d’hospitalité » (je me demande encore qui a pu oser associer ces mots) est passible d’emprisonnement. Que devient un pays, on se le demande, que devient une culture, que devient une langue quand on peut y parler de « délit d’hospitalité », quand l’hospitalité peut devenir, aux yeux de la loi et de ses représentants, un crime ?
(…) Les frontières ne sont plus des lieux de passage, ce sont des lieux d’interdiction, des seuils qu’on regrette d’avoir ouverts, des limites vers lesquelles on se presse de reconduire, des figures menaçantes de l’ostracisme, de l’expulsion, du bannissement, de la persécution.
But caution about the potential of our cities and suburbs as wildlife habitat is probably still a good idea. One danger is that these landscapes may become “ecological sinks” — that is, places where excess individuals from undisturbed habitat can survive, but not ultimately increase. Having straw-headed bulbuls in central Singapore does not, for instance, ensure survival of the species. Success with some more visible species may also blind us to broader but less obvious declines in other species. European rewilding, for instance, has not been rewilding for its insect population.