The Everyday and 'Other' Spaces: Low-Rise High-Density Housing in Camden
In: EAAE Conference: The Rise of Heterotopia - On Public Space and the Architecture of the Everyday in Post-Civil Society, 26-28 May 2005, Lueven, Belgium.
This paper is on public spaces in post-war housing estates in England. Changes in the way estates were conceived reflected changes in the concept of the city as a public arena. The alienation associated with the abstract spatial strategies of CIAM was replaced by new strategies that emphasised new visions of domestic urban street-life. In London, the last phase of this process saw the re-introduction of the street and terrace. Experiments with low-rise high-density housing proposed a humane public realm that can be seen as a culmination of an interest in public street-life that began with the Parallel of Art and Life exhibition. This project seeks to look at their perceived failure, interrogating both the intentions of the architects and planners and the resulting of their completion. Two key estates are used as case studies, each with differing configurations and consequent results.
The paper shows that while attempts were made to normalise the spaces of housing estates, in other ways they reinforced their status as ‘other territories’. These places remain ‘other’ defined by their condition as estates and as surviving fragments of old ideologies. An historical review will be combined with observations of how the public spaces are used today. This will achieve two aims: one, to re-read the projects in terms of Michel de Certeau’s optimistic notion of the everyday (appropriation as resistive practice); two, to reveal the contradictions of both the estates and the notion of heterotopia. It is believed that this analysis will show that these estates both link up with and cut themselves off from the city. Additionally, by looking at the heterotopic conditions of these estates, the problematic aspects of difference will be highlighted (when should difference be celebrated and when should sameness be sought?)
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