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.
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.