While the reputation of 20th century film director Stanley Kubrick was cemented with a retrospective exhibition at the Design Museum in London in 2019, the concrete housing blocks of Binsey Walk on the Thamesmead estate no longer stand. Although significant parts of the work of Greater London Council architects of the 1960s such as this, described by social researcher Dr Valerie Wigfall as ‘innovative in many respects’, (2009: 86) lie in ruin, the importance for Kubrick of its depiction in A Clockwork Orange, (1971) was revealed by Stephen Babish, adjunct Lecturer, DePaul University, to have belied its only appearing twice in the film. The author cited a hand-written list of scenes blocked out by length found inside the back cover of the director’s working copy of the screenplay. This included ‘Thamesmead Fight’, singularly identified by both action and location. (2018: 210)
The action continues in Thamesmead to this day, under the partial demolition order of its latest owner the Peabody Group. Who also manage Parnell House, built in 1849, listed by Historic England as ‘the earliest surviving example of flats to provide accommodation for the “deserving poor” in regular employment’ (2006) and ironically still standing today in Streatham Street, Camden, London. At a time when architecture, more especially public housing, is coming under ever more scrutiny, from specialists and non-specialist alike. Take for example a recent walking tour of South Thamesmead led by modernist architecture enthusiast Thaddeus Zupancic, in association with the Twentieth Century Society, during Open House London. For which the Lakeside Centre at Thamesmead also opened its doors to the public, newly restored as artists’ studios. (2019) What might the legacy of artists who moved to Thamesmead in 2018 be? This exhibition does not seek to tell the story of Binsey Walk, or of Thamesmead. Instead it invites more voices to join a conversation initiated by Liam and Vanessa Scully (under the proposition Thamesmead Texas) to which Stephane Chadwick and James Lander respond with U-Build and Yellow House 55.
Until 30 November 2019.
Stephane Chadwick – Director Studio Bark, London. BArch(Hons) DipArch
Steph previously worked in London for an award winning practice gaining experience on a number of projects ranging from large mixed use developments to small, bespoke refurbishments. He also gained experience working on a number of small scale construction projects, and still enjoys getting his hands dirty during the Bark Live Build projects. In the Studio he is interested in finding new solutions to everyday problems, creating unique designs with a strong environmental focus. Steph has a passion for the craft and detail in architecture and is a strong advocate of designing through making. Steph studied at the Mackintosh School of Architecture and London Metropolitan University.
James Lander – artist, researcher, teacher, London
James Lander was awarded a PhD by-practice from the University of the Arts London, and Associate Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy in 2019. In recognition of his thesis titled ‘Ernö Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower: archival investigations from a contested site’, and associated university teaching. His unofficial archive for Balfron Tower is seeking a permanent home.
Thamesmead Texas is a nomadic artist run initiative based in Thamesmead, South-East London. Originally operating from a living room in one of 40 disused flats rented by artists from Peabody via the Bow Arts Trust, we set up to bring together the new community of Bow Arts Trust artists, who moved to Thamesmead in 2018. Anchored by an art bar, we are led by the necessity to be social and organise public exhibitions and events. Open every Saturday, 12-6pm. Or by appointment (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Babish, S. (2018), ‘A place in London’s future: A Clockwork Orange, Thamesmead and the urban dystopia of the modernist large scale plan’, Screen. vol. 59. iss 2. 197-212.
Historic England, (2019), Thamesmead – City of London, Historic England [website], 23 November 2006. (Accessed 1 September).
Wigfall, V. (2008), Thamesmead: a social history. London: Greenwich Community College Press.