Posts Tagged ‘affordable housing’

Architecture is always political

Friday, October 15th, 2021

Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) holds up a poster with the quote ‘Architecture Is Always Political’ from Richard Rogers, Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects at a protest on the pavement outside the RIBA on Portland Place on Thursday 15th Oct 2015.

The protest was against the nomination of NEO Bankside, a luxury development beside Tate Modern in London which breaks all planning requirements for social housing and sets a dangerous precedent for social cleansing for the prestigious Stirling Prize. Rogers was responsible for the design by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners of “the 217 apartments and penthouses in four Pavilions … with unparalleled views towards The City and St Paul’s Cathedral”. Or, as some might see it, degrading many views from the CIty and St Pauls. Some residents in the new development have taken and lost a case seeking to have the Tate Modern extension’s viewing platform closed as it overlooks their flats – and have now appealed to the Supreme Court, where a hearing is expected in December 2021. I hope it rejects their case. The flat dwellers could readily install blinds or curtains to protect their privacy.

The protesters stated on the reverse of the flyer that “this development is a class war against the poor and on the reverse explained why. NEO Bankside contains 217 homes with a market price ranging from £1.25 million to £19.75 million when 345,000 Londoners, 4% of the city’s population, are on council waiting lists for homes.”

NEO Bankside reduced the percentage of its affordable housing required uder Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act from 40% to a paltry 27.5%, by getting the property developers Native Land to undervalue the estimate of sales to just over half of the actual sale value.They then paid Southwark Council £11 million to build its reduced affordable housing quota off-site on land sold to them by the council for a pittance, demolishing a council-run children’s home and day-care nursery in the process.

ASH pointed out that rather than 217 luxury flats mainly for non-resident tax exiles and foreign investors, the cost of NEO Bankside could have built 2,260 Peabody flats at the cost per flat of another of the Stirling nominations. At a time when 42,000 families were evicted from rented accomodation last year and 88,000 London children will be homeless this winter, such buildings are clearly socially unacceptable.

Having made the flyer, at the protest they folded them into paper aeroplanes and made them fly, although the police threatened them with fines for littering (but they picked them all up after flying them) and then attempted to call paper aeroplanes offensive weapons and that flying them could constitute and assault – which was laughed out of court on the pavement as it would surely have also been had any case been taken.

The protest then carried out its own award ceremony, ‘The O J Simpson 2015 Prize for getting away with murder’, The winner was NEO Bankside, but no one from the architects came to claim it. Although most of those going into RIBA for the official ceremony (tickets at over £200 a head including VAT and booking fee) walked past trying to ignore the protest, there were some architects who stopped to share their reservations about NEO Bankside with the protesters, and it seems that RIBA had clearly been embarrassed by the revelations about NEO Bankside and were misled over some aspects of the scheme. The prize instead went to Burntwood School, an impressive revitalisation of a 1950s LCC comprehensive girls’ school in Wandsworth by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM).

More pictures at NEO Bankside Stirling Prize nomination.


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More from May Days: 2015

Monday, May 11th, 2020

My May Day started as usual with the march from Clerkenwell Green, dominated visually by members of the Turkish and Kurdish communities and with the usual mix of trade unionists and left-wing groups, perhaps even more international in nature than in previous years.

The march to Trafalgar Square was made a little livelier than usual by the presence of Class War and other anarchist and anti-capitalist protesters, some of whom took over the whole of the road rather than keep to one carriageway. Police tried hard to control them and made at least one arrest, which led to some scuffles.

One issue that dominated the rally in Trafalgar Square was the strike against privatisation at the National Gallery which overlooks the square, and in particular the victimisation by the management of Candy Udwin, the PCS rep there.

Later in the afternoon anti-capitalist protesters met up at Tower Hill, and led by lass War and their Lucy Parsons banner went on to block Tower Bridge this afternoon and blocked traffic, calling for social housing rather than social cleansing for Londoners and an end to cuts in foundation courses and other aspects of education. It was a lively event, and I left them when they marched off along Tooley St past London Bridge to protest in Westminster.

I walked back across Tower Bridge and on to Aldgate where Class War were organising their ‘Reclaim the Beats’ “epic street party” outside the tower block where they had held around 30 weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protests against the separate entrance down a side alley for the social housing tenants in the block.

A huge cheer went up as they unfurled a new banner showing leading politicians with the message “All Fucking Wankers”, a replacement for that seized by police at an earlier protest. Although it had later been judged to be an acceptable political comment, the police contrived to lose it rather than face the indignity of returning it to Class War.

A few minutes later a mobile sound system in the form of a small house on wheels with ‘Affordable Housing’ across its roof and the party really kicked off. After a few minutes people moved out to block the main road and then to march off to protest at Tower Bridge and in Bermondsey. I was too tired to go with them and instead went down the stairs into Aldgate East tube.

‘Reclaim the Beats’ at ‘Poor Doors’
Anti-Capitalists block Tower Bridge
May Day Rally supports National Gallery
May Day march against austerity and racism


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