Open Garden Estates was initiated in June 2015 by Architects for Social Housing to coincide with the Open Garden Squares event of the same weekend.
The success of Open Garden Estates in 2015 should be measured not only by the number of people who visited the individual estates, but also by how the individual estate communities made the event their own and used it to galvanise residents in the struggle to save their homes. The form taken by each event was unique to the estate that hosted it, reflecting the character of the community that lives there and their campaign to save their homes:
‘New architecture, whether it was from the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Centuries, or indeed the 1960s, has always suffered from a fifty-year itch, a fall from grace and pressure to be demolished. It is extremely fortunate that societies of believers build up around these important embodiments of our culture and politics, and do lead – always – to a change in our perception of their worth. It’s great that ASH is focussing our attention on these fantastic public spaces and the communities they sustain in this Open Garden Estates scheme.’
– Sam Causer, Architect and Senior Lecturer at the Leicester School of Architecture
‘I’m really impressed with ASH, particularly that you are offering alternative design solutions to the estates earmarked for “regeneration”.’
– Will Farmer, Research Coordinator for Article 25
‘Open Garden Estates gave an invaluable insight into how thriving the communities were, most likely representative of thousands across London. It was encouraging, in the sense that a realistic model for development can be achieved that is based on community, collaboration and participation.
‘The situation the estates face is representative of how local authorities are selling public assets to the private sector. Part of a larger remit to drive working class communities out of London for private gain, this is simply unacceptable. Architects have a key role in our society’s responsibility to initiate change, and the evolving discourse of ASH and its members are an essential and much needed reflection of this.’
– Tomasz Romaniewicz, Architect, Coffey Architects
‘ASH needs to get into every architecture school and every local authority and housing association, to install some of these decent social values.’
– Judith Martin, Heritage Consultant
‘I salute the endeavours of ASH: Architects for Social Housing. They are acting in the spirit of Nancy Pelosi when she said, “Organise, don’t agonise.”’
– Kate Macintosh, Architect
‘Open Garden Estates gave me an opportunity to enjoy the communal green, open space within the estate – an invaluable asset for the well-being of all living in the surrounding community – and to show the support and solidarity the residents of the estate have from the wider Crystal Palace community.
‘The event gave the residents the chance to counter the misplaced view of estates being ugly, concrete jungles by sharing the space with the wider community and showing the beautiful open spaces, gardens and homes that are within the estate. It was also an opportunity for them to come and work together making banners, to support future actions against eviction, or potting plants, to improve some of the badly maintained areas of the estate.
‘ASH, in facilitating this event, is supporting the community on this estate to stand up against the threat of eviction from their homes and potential forced transfer from their hometown. Using experience and knowledge from the growing network of housing activists supporting social housing residents across London, ASH is exposing Lambeth’s sham “consultations” and holding Lambeth to account on their commitment of maintaining the social housing stock – a commitment broken on other “regeneration” schemes in London. Beyond this, ASH is critically questioning architects in their role on such schemes. This will hopefully lead to a much needed discussion within the industry surrounding the social and moral issues that arise when we help to facilitate the implementation of these policies.’
– John (surname withheld on request), a local Crystal Palace resident and architectural technologist with a South London architect’s practice.