Just a quick report of last week’s protest demonstration at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) annual Stirling Prize Awards ceremony and posh party.
Included in the shortlist for this ‘prestigious‘ award were DRMM Architects who were the designers for Lend Lease’s Phase One of the Heygate Estate site redevelopment named Trafalgar Place. Those like us with long and determined memories know that the site of the these new expensive homes was once the 104 council homes of Wingrave House. What has replaced these affordable homes for local people has been 235 new homes – only 8 social rented homes, the rest being a mix of mostly private sale homes, shared ownership homes and ‘affordable rent‘ homes (these rents being anything up to 80% of local private rents).
“In our view it is essential that we are clear about the objective of estate regeneration: is it to improve the lives of those who live on and around existing estates, or is it to make more effective use of public land to help solve the housing crisis by creating additional homes and widening access to home ownership?” – wisdom of Ben Derbyshire
Interestingly enough the current President of RIBA is Ben Derbyshire, Chair of HTA Design who are the architects responsible for the next decades of social cleansing on the Aylesbury Estate. Pissed off locals had already visited HTA in 2015 to spell out their opposition to involvement on Aylesbury:
Well, before you could even say ‘red rag to a bull‘, there was always going to be a protest at this horrible connivance of the British architectural establishment. First called by ASH (Architects for Social Housing) who wrote a great account of why we might view architecture as political and not just as pretty buildings (and also hilariously here), various unhappy local Southwark tenants and campaigns turned up on the night to join the other protestors.
Guests paid (or had paid for them) £235 a ticket to attend the awards and party reception inside, and believe you me, this was really the Establishment at play with architecture being one of the most socially exclusive professions in the UK.
With a jumpy set of Met Police on the door and security behind them checking the party-goers on the way in, this was how things are for the architectural classes and their hangers on. Cosy and warm inside and nothing bothering them. Well, credit where credit’s due we hope they were bothered by the excellent speeches via megaphone outside from 6 til 9pm and the uninvited guests who managed to make their way into the building to make it clear that anyone implicated in social cleansing like DRMM or HTA Architects will not be allowed to rest easy behind police and security protection. Why? Because these are our homes and our communities they are playing with!
We heard the first intrusion during the Awards ceremony was a valiant effort. Over the fire exit at the back and into the main building itself. Pretty soon the security cottoned on and aggressively manhandled the protestors out through the front door with headlocks and shoving here and there.Things livened up at this point out front and Heygate confetti was added to the party.
(‘Brick by brick, wall by wall, Jo and Ben have got to fall’)
Undeterred, a second attempt was made later when the party was in full swing and this managed to go face to face with those partying inside. With megaphone chants interrupting the disco inside – ‘Heygate Estate – social cleansing‘, ‘Aylesbury Estate – human rights violations’ and banners pressed to the glass, the message was clear: This is how grateful we are for great and the good of British Architecture! This is how we greet their polite chit-chat that masks their total violence. We don’t believe fighting social cleansing is ever about asking for favours from those inside or for making sweet talk dialogue whilst our homes are knocked down in favour of expensive or luxury flats. We know that regeneration is violence!
Needless to say, working class blokes employed to secure these types of posh shindigs rushed out to meat out some pushing and shoving to working class protestors whose homes are being demolished. The guy in the last picture apparently took it upon himself to make it his life’s mission to clear people off the terrace. After saying ‘I’m asking you nicely to leave‘, he set about pushing and pulling and making a dangerous attempt to throw people down the fire escape stairs whilst threatening someone who was filming on her phone that he would ‘kick the phone out of her hand if you carry on, yeah I will‘. ‘Touch me again and you will find out‘ and ‘if you don’t want to hurt yourself, start walking‘ were choice quotes from the guy. In the end, another security bod had to come and calm him down.
How do we know all this? Well we heard a recording made of this part of the protest and jotted down the guy’s helpful guidance. Any road up, points were made all night at the front and at the back. That’s how it is and that’s how it’s gonna be. Aylesbury won’t be another Heygate!!
Giving us his usual ironic wave is Southwark Council Leader Peter John OBE (no less) on his way into the party to celebrate his vast past in the social cleansing of the Borough. Wondering who paid for his ticket – himself, the Council (i.e your taxes) or a property developer? Maybe we will find out eventually here!
UPDATE: Oct 17th 2016: NO SURPRISE that Lend Lease stumped up the £235 quid for Peter John to attend: