Owen Hatherley on the Aylesbury estate, protest and Modernism
Opinion: the fight for London’s Aylesbury estate – a negative symbol of the Modernist-inspired drive to standardise housing design – is about saving the ideas not the architecture, explains Owen Hatherley.
At the Commonwealth Games last year in Glasgow, a spectacle was promised of the celebratory demolition of the city’s Red Road flats. This would symbolise a ‘new Glasgow’ (one of several there’s been over the last few decades) emerging out of the apparently dogged public perception of the former Second City of the British Empire as a place of gigantic tower blocks and razor gangs.
Aside from the fact this stereotype is now so hoary and silly that it can’t be held by anyone outside of a few enclaves in Surrey and Edinburgh, it missed the fact that in Glasgow – historically, always a left-wing city – the demolition of public housing is not considered a cause for celebration, even housing as awesomely forbidding as this.
Still, there wasn’t a preservation campaign for this super-high-density cluster of wide slabs and skyscraping towers, there were no protests from conservationists of modern architecture – just a feeling that what happened here shouldn’t be insulted. The demolition was postponed, removed from the opening ceremony of the games, but the destruction of Glasgow’s extensive collection of imposing system-built towers still continues.
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