Posts Tagged ‘luxury flats’

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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Chelsea – Social Cleansing

Sunday, August 22nd, 2021

The Gateways, Sprimont Place, College Place,  Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-43-positive_2400
The Gateways, Sprimont Place, College Place, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-43

The Gateways is a block of houses with a difference and though it may look ancient, was built in 1934 in a Tudor Revival style to designs by Herbert Winkler Wills (1864-1937) and William Kaula. Certainly unusual but not greatly to my liking the whole block was Grade II listed in 1993, some under the address Whitehead’s Grove.

Chelsea Green, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-45-positive_2400
Chelsea Green, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-45

All that remains of the old Chelsea Common is a small triangle at this road junction with two small fenced plots of grass, each with a small tree, separated by a footpath through its centre, room on both sides for a couple of park benches and a rubbish bin or two.

Chelsea Green, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-46-positive_2400
Chelsea Green, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-46

Stepping a few feet gave a clearer view of the pub, still now open but called The Wild Tavern, and the buildings down Elystan Place which are a part of The Gateways, with some good brickwork.

Bray Place, Draycott Ave, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-51-positive_2400
Bray Place, Draycott Ave, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988

The ornate ironwork around and in the door of 5 Bray Place finds an echo in the window opposite. This doorway has now been converted into a rather plain window and there are other changes to the exterior of the building. It remains a restaurant but with a different name under different management.

Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-52-positive_2400
Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-52

This building is on Blacklands Terrace, but confusingly has the address 18 Culford Gardens, which it and the building to its right stand on the corner of. I don’t know when it was built – or perhaps when this frontage was added, but it was very different from the properties around. The ground floor has since been altered and is now less starkly geometrical.

Avenue Court, Draycott Avenue, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-61-positive_2400
Avenue Court, Draycott Avenue, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-61

Draycott Avenue is lined with large and rather boring appartment blocks, mainly in red brick, which are slightly enlivened by some impressive doorways – and I think this is the most impressive. Most of these large blocks of flats were built in the 1930s, replacing streets of smaller houses. In Pevsner’s The Buildings of England London NW it describes them as “enormous and forbidding blocks of flats, either cautiously Art Deco or approximately neoGeorgian in style.”

Avenue Court, Draycott Avenue, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-01-positive_2400
Avenue Court, Draycott Avenue, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-01
Sloane Avenue Mansions, Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-62-positive_2400
Sloane Avenue Mansions, Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5a-62

Sloane Avenue Mansions also dates from the 1930s, redeveloping an area of smaller houses but was designed by G. Kay Green in a more modern style with touches of Art Deco. Built in 1931-3, it towers 11 stories above the street, though appears slightly less massive as the top two are set back slightly. Around 20,000 working class people had lived in homes around here that were cleared after the company decided to redevelop the area in 1908, though much of the area remained empty or full of part-demolished slums until the 1930s. The large blocks of flats were usually provided with underground garages for the wealthy flat-dweller.

Click on any of the images to go to a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos, where you can browse through the rest of the images in the album.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Greenwich Riverside Walk

Monday, October 19th, 2020

One of my favourite London walks has for many years been beside the River Thames on the path downstream from Greenwich. I first walked it in the 1970s and went back occasionally over the years, both on foot and later taking my Brompton bicycle to it on the train. When I was on foot I often went as far as Woolwich, not a great distance but I was always a photographer rather than a walker. Other riverside walks began from Woowlich or railway stations further east including Erith, Dartford and Gravesend.

On October 18th 2018 my walk was rather shorter as I was with three other photographers, and we began at North Greenwich. Parts of the riverside walk had recently reopened after closure for the continuing process of ruining the Thames by lining it with tall blocks of expensive flats and I was keen to walk it again after some years away.

There were other reasons for the walk too. One was a visit to the Pelton Arms, arguably Greenwich’s finest pub. Its in a homely area, developed like the pub around 1844, though the Grade II listed street of granite setts from around 1870 stops a few yards short. It’s just a short walk from Granite Wharf, which got its name as it was here than Mowlem landed its granite from Guernsey that once paved much of the streets of London. But the real attraction is its fine range of real ales and comfortable atmosphere – and, although quiet when we visited is one of South London’s leading music venues.

We were also on our way to an evening event across the river in North Greenwich, and after a meal in the centre of the town hopped on the DLR at Cutty Sark for the single stop to Island Gardens and a short walk to where another of our photographer friends, Mike Seaborne was having the launch of his book on the Isle of Dogs. It was getting a little late when we had finished our meal otherwise I would have suggested going across the river on foot, not walking on the water but under it in the Greenwich foot tunnel.

There are many more pictures from the walk on My London Diary. Most but not all are ultra-wide views with a horizontal angle of view of over 140 degrees. Often I crop these to a more panoramic format, but here I decided to leave them covering the full frame to fit better with the few less wide-angle images. All except one in this post are ultra-wide and they are presented in the order of the walk.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.