Friday, April 06, 2007

London letters 2: Dead shops, Elephant

For the second in my new self-indulgent visual series - yes, you're right, I should be on to the third, but I forgot - we go from Edwardian to a 60s/70s "eclectic" style that includes fake Edwardian; an altogether sadder class of period detail.

This aggressively cheery lettering appears on the corner of a first-floor parade of shops in the Heygate Estate, off Brandon Street, Elephant and Castle. The Heygate was completed in 1974 and, if all goes to plan, will be demolished by 2009. The Evening Standard listed it last year as one of London's ten worst architectural horrors, describing it as the "prime example of a failed Seventies estate".

I imagine there's still a terrifying launderette in there somewhere, but I don't know if there was ever a butcher - the signage looks as if it could have come straight from a 1960s artist's impression. It certainly no longer reflects what's on the parade: a school of martial arts, a couple of council or council-and-police-and-probation-service offices, and one of those idealistic probably-doomed community cafes that parades like this tend to attract.

Could be worse, then. Probably has been. But still, depending on your temperament, either heart-breaking or blood-boiling.

Update: I cycled past here again the other day, and I had remembered the shops a bit wrong. It goes: martial arts school, storefront church, "Elephant Enterprises" (not sure what that is, but it doesn't appear to be the kind of shop that opens on Saturdays), Youth Inclusion Project, Heygate Cafe. There is more non-council life there than I allowed. But there are still none of the neighbourhood shops that the architects appear to have envisaged for their street in the sky.

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