| Architecture | Goodbye Heygate

The demolition of the Heygate Estate entered the final stages last month. It was taken down, bit by bit, memory by memory, home by home, to make way for a billion pound regeneration of the area.

I wanted to share some photos taken on our last trip to the Heygate Estate. Though it was already empty and very heavily guarded, it cast a powerful impression on me. Perhaps it is its sheer monolithic scale that made me feel so small. Maybe it is the repetitive uniformity that makes the estate feel quite daunting. Brutalist architecture will never make and outside onlooker feel cosy. 

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This is real London, real people, real struggles, real London, not that dream that the guidebooks feed you. We don't all flounce around Harrods and live in beautiful detached houses with lush gardens and roses blooming at will.

I was watching a programme on the BBC a few nights ago that mentioned the estate and it really upset me for many reasons. The Heygate was regarded as a low quality housing estate on prime land (unlike the Barbican) so when the rich developers come calling, the Council gets demolishing with great big greedy eyes and itchy hands.

It is appalling how the media focussed mainly on the negative aspects of the Heygate to paint a bleak picture of life here. Yes, there were high-crime rates and a heap of other issues but it was HOME to many people and a place where bonds were made. And I am sure that the musical infectious sound of laughter  often filled the corridors on the Heygate. 

The regeneration will see the construction of a new development. Shiny, spangly fancy buildings that no Londoner (on an average salary) can realistically afford. The area's council say that there will be a number of affordable homes but let's face it there won't be nearly enough. Instead, with Londoners sidelined by housing costs, foreign buyers will snap up an apartment (a little bit of London prestige) that they may only stop in once a year (think Canary Wharf). Meanwhile, more and more Londoners need homes, affordable homes. I smell bullshit London!

UPDATE July 2014:

We walked past what remains of the Heygate Estate recently. Not much to see anymore.


  1. I think I smell bullshit too...it's not right. They need to be making more homes for the people - the real people that live there! Not taking them away. Prices are so ridiculous...and there are too many who come and have money to flaunt around and get special treatment and everything they want, it's wrong. It's crap that money has such a hold over so many. x

    1. I think greed in London's biggest vice. There was a man that lived here, he bought his 3 bedroomed home for £50,000 but had to sell it to the Council under their compulsory purchase law. They gave him £130,000 for it (or something close). People thought that he would be delighted with the profit he made. The stark reality is, you cannot buy a home for that in London these days let alone in the area close to this estate. Its is now prime location and everyone wants in! So he's bought a 1 bedroom place in Walthamstow.....How is this fair?

  2. There's a court case on about this isn't there? The council are being very secretive/shady about the deal done. It is depressing. You need the rough with the smooth in life and in London.

    1. There seems to be more rough than smooth these days my dear Wonderlusting.

  3. The same bullshit is happening here in the USA, in California. Ridiculous prices for ridiculous (and I must tell bad!) houses which are so overpriced that it makes me sick, sick, sick. An average person in San Francisco and Silicon Valley can't live there anymore. Greed, greed, greed. No affordable housing for middle class. Greed is destroying this society.

    1. Shit has a way of spreading doesn't it? I am sad to hear that your are is facing similar troubles. Where do people move to?

    2. I'm a fellow Californian, and I live in the Silicon Valley! Can confirm, housing prices skyrocket all around us. In my case, I'm eeking out a space for myself by renting with friends, but it definitely isn't easy and my income can hardly keep up. Plenty of people have to live outside of where they work to be able to afford it, and I think many are moving to different locales that are rapidly expanding (such as Austin, Texas, heralded as the new Silicon Valley, the Silicon Hills). Mark my words, those places will fall to the same fate.

      I suppose if I put on a brave face, I could just leave the area, free myself from these money problems, and pursue other passions (I'm fortunate enough to have this kind of mobility and not be tied down), but alas, I am still figuring out what I want to do with my life!

  4. it's really sad when you think of it in this perspective and i can hear the emotion in your voice regarding the subject.

    Buckets & Spades


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