Clapton Square Housing

The housing on this estate consisted of several blocks set in isolated grass areas which were used mainly as a dog toilet. The flats had no private space, and it was not clear who could use the grass areas. People would come up to the windows at night and frighten inhabitants. The image top left shows an image before, and to the right it shows the area turned into private gardens for the ground floor tenants.

There was a heated debate about whether “public space should be privatised” by giving it to the downstairs tenants. I had done this successfully in London Docklands and was determined to do it here too. The advantages are tremendous. It gives the downstairs tenants some privacy, and some outdoor space which they can use. It removes the acres of pointless grass areas which no one uses and no one cares about, except local dogs.

I designed the walls to give some views both in and out, so that it would increase the “passive policing” of the area. It was possible for people to grow climbers or hedge if they wished to close the boundaries completely, but it meant that future tenants could open them up again if they so wished. I used London yellow stocks with trims to try and bring warm colours into the building fabric. Too many estates are built with blue and grey materials which are depressing in the winter months in Britain.

The garden layouts used are all different. i visited each tenant personally with three basic designs; one where the garden was all paved, suitable for those who did not want a garden, one which was all grass, for those who wanted a children’s play area or a run for their pets, and a hybrid with a laid out garden with perennials and shrubs. These were simply three extremes, and each tenant would tell me what sort of combination they would like and each garden was drawn up individually.

The kerbs in the street were removed, much to the opposition of the Highway Engineers, and the carriageway paved with textured paving. Smart new street furniture was brought in, again despite opposition from the highway Engineers. they were concerned about their maintenance budget.

The tenants generally welcomed the scheme and when the police told me that street crime had dropped a lot, it was music to my ears. It was because people started to sit in their gardens, to look out at the new spaces, and thus casual crime disappeared.

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