Between Monday 14th and Sunday 20th Architects for Social Housing (ASH) took over the upper gallery of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London and transformed it into a collaborative workspace animated by talks and activities.
The different boards and activities highlighted the crude reality of the disappearance of social housing in London, the accelerated gentrification, all under the banner of ‘regeneration’. It is a painful but liberating experience to discover the work exhibited.
The work of ASH is politically engaged and highlights how both mainstream political parties – Labour and Conservatives – have abandoned the protection of social housing and let down social tenants. Over the past two years ASH has designed alternatives to demolition for the Knight’s Walk, West Kensington and Gibbs Green, Central Hill and Northwoldestates, and is currently working with the Patmore estate Co-operative.
The work of ASH is also a rich source of proposals. ASH has produced numerous plans to retrofit, densify and infill various council estates under threat of demolition, highlighting that creative solutions can increase density while retaining the existing. In that sense, ASH works in finding viable alternatives to estate demolition.
This approach minimises community displacement, safeguards social housing while producing new homes. ASH’s plans always seem so sensible, ethical and realistic that one cannot help but wonder: ‘why isn’t this the approach taken by councils across London?’.
Nicolas Fonty from JustMap (http://justplace-london.blogspot.co.uk/) was also around, to deliver an excellent mapping exercise, inviting participants to find council estates that are under threat of demolition, pinning them directly on the map. According to the political party in charge, pins would be either red for Labour or blue for Conservatives. The map then showed the puzzling consistency of the demolition trend throughout London, regardless of the council political colour.
The unfortunate and chilling conclusion is that in the context of austerity little political bodies actually have the means to defend social housing as a pillar to a fairer society. ‘Regenerating’ estates currently goes hand in hand with demolishing social housing and the ideals of post-war social justice.
The work exhibited at the residency also humanises social housing, presents a portrait of the affected communities and helps sharing alternative beautiful stories about places that are presented negatively to justify demolition.
Written by: Julie