Thursday, 10 February 2011
I didn’t buy this because of the cover -- I ordered it blind from Amazon -- but it’s lovely, isn’t it. Is that Gill Sans?
It’s good. The first chapter’s about her own and her family’s experience of public housing (for North American bloggees, the ‘estates’ of the title are ‘council estates’ which means public housing developments/projects built and run by local authorities, the councils). The second is the best history I've seen of public housing in Britain -- a sad story. Wonderful development to start with -- Boundary Row in Bethnal Green which I've often walked through and admired -- by the LCC at the end of the 19th century. ‘Homes fit for heroes’ after the first war, built to the highest standards (‘Tudor Walters’), as were those provided by Bevan (Minister of Health and Housing) after the second -- but in both cases the gain in space and fresh air (the developments were on the edges of cities) were at the price of remoteness from family and work. In both cases, too, the standards of building were relaxed after a few years out of a need for economy, more rapid provision and higher density, so that whereas at first the council houses looked and were as good as those the spec builders were selling to private buyers, before long they were standing out a mile and attracting the social stigma that they’ve never since thrown off.
Then came ‘systems building’ (prefabricated units) and tower blocks and the familiar scene around us today in the inner as well as the outer city.