When I was younger, a trip to London brought me face to face with social housing and tower block living. My aunty lived 15 floors up. It was a spacious place with big windows that let in the sun. I remember being surprised that she was allowed to have four dogs and pondered their toilet habits (let’s just say if wasn’t always good), but she lived there until her block was deemed unsafe and she was once again at the mercy of the private landlord.
Coming from New Zealand with my memories of backyard cricket, I was secretly horrified that she could live without a garden and surrounded by so many people. However she loved it, social housing was after all “social”, her friends were nearby and she had support and company. Those days are gone, and when I came across this book Style Council: Inspirational interiors of ex-council homes I was interested to see what gentrification of these once important estates would actually signify. I imaged pared back neutral interiors, a few choice pieces scattered artfully with owners declaring the building had ‘good bones’.
I was pleased to find that this book although containing a bit of fancy interior talk, it is by and large a celebration how social housing bettered people’s lives and how a dedicated bunch of admittedly often arty types are bringing these buildings back to life, some of whom work in association with Poplar Harca (Housing and Regeneration Community Association) a housing association in the East End of London which is revitalising estates and working on community regeneration. The author – mindful of the fact that many would find this book idea to be gentrification gone mad – states she may have created “a publishing first – a politically sensitive interiors book”
The buildings vary as much as the people who live in them. I particularly enjoyed the large brutalist Tower blocks, (which I’m sure must have ‘good bones’), and perhaps this gave me a fondness for the old Government Life building in Cathedral Square. I always liked to think it would have made great apartments.
This is a lovely book to pick up and read a chapter, look at the interesting photography and enjoy a glimpse into both the past and the present of these iconic buildings.