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The theme of the 2020 London Festival of Architecture (LFA) is power and its press release asserts: “[LFS] exists to democratise the discussion about architecture and our city.”
A timely sentiment as for years all we had is solitary “voices in the wilderness,” expressing major concerns about the status quo, and the deaf ears of officialdom.
The dramatic shift of power in London in favour of developers accelerated after the first mayorship of Ken Livingstone. It eroded democratic processes by excluding the city’s ordinary inhabitants from any decision-making, particularly about housing.
The thinly disguised “social cleansing” masquerading as “regeneration” of council estates is symptomatic of disempowering communities by ignoring their voices.
Here Cressingham Gardens is a case in point. Described as “one of the finest council estates in the country,” defended tooth-and-nail by the tenants, and yet facing demolition as part of a “regeneration” by the Lambeth Council and a bunch of developers.
A classic power struggle between the elite Establishment and the people.
As part of its digital presentations, ahead of a proper launch in the autumn, LFA has asked “30 leading architects, designers, curators, writers, journalists and leading thinkers” to nominate one object that they feel represents power and architecture.
Those invited record a brief video explaining the reasons for their nomination. These are being “added” each day at londonfestivalofarchitecture.org/event/30-objects-in-30-days.
The road to hell will be paved with good intentions, though. So far it looks unlikely the LFA list will include among the “leading thinkers” ordinary Londoners: a bus driver, a nurse(!), a Cressingham Gardens Estate tenant, a homeless person, a construction crane operator or a school teacher – the people best placed to know best “who deserves to hold power, and the importance of feeling empowered.”
LFA’s choice appears exclusionary and the contributions offered by the selected “experts,” however well-meaning, will be of little significance to the “woman/man in the street” beyond the curio of an anecdote. Hardly empowering.
And while at it, we’d like to offer our two-pennies’ worth by nominating as our object of choice Peter Barber’s Hundred Mile City – https://vimeo.com/299393431.
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