Wednesday, January 25, 2006

David's day off

At the moment I have a Wednesday oasis between the rest of the week, whenI have a complete day free, to do whatever I like. Watching my local videos from a few years ago last week I realised that whether I was busy in or out of the house, since my friend left the country 4 years ago nearly all my activities were on my own, (admittedly most of the rest of the country was working at the time) meaning I had no one to talk to or share the memories. I just went from amusing myself indoors to outdoors.

So, I managed a flying visit to Golders Green to take more photos, and took most from in or next to the car as it's so difficult to park there now. I was even back in time to watch Neighbours. My aim is to work my way through all the kitchen articles that have to be washed and either put in the new cupboards or given away. I've so far done one load in the sink and emptied a couple of bisuit tins with historical remnants in them. Manchester Utd are on TV again tonight, this time in the League Cup, so my evening's mapped out at least.

Anyway, today's observation is based on my photos and comparing them with others on Flickr nearby, and have realised how much difference simple variations in our environment make. Two elements, space and design. The best example of space is when I went back to see the London University gardens in Hampstead (Queen Mary and Westfield College) and found one of the two to be replaced by a development the size of a village. London as with all cities is losing more and more green space, mainly due to the exponential growth in world population and the attraction of cities from rural communities home and abroad. The combination of these elements is building whatever you build, but leaving larger spaces between the buildings. Some chance.
The second element, raised in my 'Harlesden' post, is design. Modern or classical, the intervention of an architect or designer means a dull design, destined to last hundreds of years, can be altered using the same materials and space to something artistic. Therefore such modern slums such as Inglian's view of Central Wembley

Housewive's Choice
Originally uploaded by inglian.
Another borrowing,

is a perfect example of how easy it is for public and private builders (apparently the local council in this example) to put up prefabricated buildings cramming in hundreds of families no differently from housing lab rats, when using the identical space designers have made isolated examples of estates which are made with thought and care. The only extra cost is in the labour of designing the buildings in advance. The building costs should be the same as you're only arranging similar materials in a different shape. But most hideous buildings are put up by large companies who have a simple design for a basic house or block, and is then repeated ad nauseam throughout the large or small plot they have bought, often knocking down decent family houses with space and greenery between them, to put them up.

Living in a slowly degenerating London is like watching cancer spread. Sometimes slowly, when a few little houses are replaced with a block of flats, sometimes quickly as in my Hampstead example. Very rarely an operation is carried out where someone (by the law of 1000 monkeys) gets it right, and in the case of my local Chalkhill estate in Wembley Park, demolish the existing monstrosity and replace it with a designed environment with space. This is the exception to the rule and at least shows it can be done.

If only Britain's builders looked at these images and points. It would be so bloody easy for every developer in the country to follow Brent's example and though it may spread buildings over a larger area, it has to be better to have a rural/urban mix than cram buildings into every corner in towns and cities with vast empty spaces in between where building isn't allowed.

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