New Gallery: The Heygate Estate, London.

October 01, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Photographs of the Heygate Estate, Elephant & Castle, Walworth, Southwark, South London. Soon to be demolished (it is now mostly boarded up), it is a stark, yet strangely beautiful view of urban decay. It was built in the 1970's and is a good example of post-war, 'neo-brutalist' architecture. Designed by Tim Tinker, it had an optimistic beginning, but soon had a reputation for crime and violence.

It has featured in several feature films including "Attack The Block", "Harry Brown" (with Michael Caine), "Shank" and scenes in "Hereafter" by Clint Eastwood. It was also a regular location for TV dramas "The Bill" and "Spooks".
 
I could see comparisons with other 1970's architecture in London, like the Barbican Centre, so it was a little sad that the place had dilapidated and had also failed it's residents. Yet, a strange beauty lies in its decay.

It is a fascinating place to take photographs. It has been empty for some time, and although due to be knocked down, it will not be completely demolished until 2014. This is because of the asbestos present on the site.

Although it is mostly deserted now, there are still a handful of residents present. What fascinated me was the boarded windows and walkways in the blocks that created stark geometric shapes from what was once a busy community living space. I can see that the original concept of the place was a good one, walkways crossing the roads so that pedestrians would not have to tackle the traffic, but this inadvertently created an environment that, combined with the bleak social situation of many inhabitants, was helpful for muggings and other crimes.

Graffiti, broken and boarded windows combine with the growth of weeds and plants, no longer being cut back or removed to create a very strange atmosphere. One I found both bleak and beautiful in equal measure.


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