Estate of mind
This area of North Kensington was once designated a "slum" and 28 acres were earmarked for demolition. This was very disruptive for the 3000 plus residents who lived in the catchment area and many of whom moved into Lancaster West estate when it was built with its modern amenities. A planned shopping centre and office complex at the heart of the estate was never built. For many years there were few community facilities and even today there is a shortage of shops in the immediate area. The estate has had a complex and often troubled history, especially just after 1975 when residents first moved in.
The area is once again undergoing significant change.
I was recently an embedded artist at More West. This is a Peabody mixed housing development across the road from Lancaster West that will be completed in late 2015. I worked with Silchester estate residents and the wider community in producing art in response to this new housing that was building on part of the 1970s estate.
The Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West estate is currently being upgraded. The tower block is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) on behalf of the Council and contains 120 homes. There is an upgrade to the exterior cladding, replacement of windows and new heating system. Several new affordable housing flats are also being created from unused spaces. In addition, there will be new facilities for the nursery and the famed Dale Boxing Club.
A new academy and leisure centre have just opened up and they are both building onto an area around the Lancaster West estate. Local residents are understandably concerned and effected by all these changes to their immediate environment. There is also the wider issue of a housing crisis and the impact of gentrification.
Above: Upper deck level plan for Lancaster Road West Area redevelopment. 1964 drawing by Peter Deakins (below).
©RBKC Local studies and archive.
I recently arranged to meet up with the architect Peter Deakins. He had worked on Golden Lane Estate and the Barbican before coming to the architectural practice of Clifford Wearden, Architect. Together they worked out the first designs for the Lancaster West estate. Peter left the practice before the modified designs and building programme commenced.
"I intended the Grenfell tower to be the other side of the station with bridges across and to provide new facilities for the station and make it much easier for people to get there. Clifford and I went down to St James, Transport for London, met them all once and they were asking how much they could charge for the flying rights for it all. Rather than thinking great we can build a new station. I think things would be different now actually. I don't know about Transport for London, but certainly Network Rail would be very ambitious. It would have been really bold. I still think it is a shame. But dealing with different departments and dealing with different groups, public bodies, is hard work really. "
"The whole idea of comprehensive redevelopment, was the phrase, wasn't it and that became a bit of a no-no anyway. So philosophy has changed. I think the scheme was quite ambitious anyway. Although it seemed very sensible at the time. The scheme was never implemented and was all broken up."
" I think life is like one of those pin table machines and the ball goes up bouncing and you never know where it's going. Ironically enough, to me coming up again and looking at it, the whole area has been built upon now hasn't it.”
On a walk around the estate, Peter was delighted to discover that one wing of underground housing had been converted into a business unit and felt the brick work details of the low rise (finger block) housing and the garden court spaces were successful examples of design.
I definitely have found the garden courtyards a great space to make art. Last summer I filmed sequences here for Vision of Paradise.
The late Geraldine Lord, once remarked: "There is a greater degree of detail here than in many other high rise estates built in the post-war era. And much less reliance on concrete. My flat is spacious and well proportioned. Its beauty is the way in which the outside is so much on the inside. The rolling grassland has a softening effect on the eye. The overall effect, is one of an English meadow, one you would expect to find in Suffolk. Indeed somewhere like a proper dale." (Quoted from 1976-2006 - A changing neighbourhood in Notting Hill).
The estate is situated in the heart of Notting Dale which is the the ward name. I look forward to making contact with old and new residents at the estate.