To support the striking photographers, the City hired some of them to document the parks’ people and places
Razing the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori at 310 West Broadway, now the Soho Grand Hotel, Harry Pincus 1981
This amazing photo, part of a series of the razing of the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori taken by artist Harry Pincus in 1981, tells many stories. It tells us that there used to be a church where the SoHo Grand Hotel is today. It reminds us that the twin towers once stood downtown until they didn’t. It is proof that West Broadway was once home to a community of German Catholics and then at some point became a victim of urban decay and that it is now an affluent street with a high-end hotel.
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Activists in New York City’s storied South Bronx are turning their attention to critical issues facing their neighborhood: environmental justice and gentrification. Last November, responding to a real estate developer’s attempt to rebrand Mott Haven “the Piano District,” South Bronx Unite members joined fellow Bronx residents for a rally at Borough President Ruben Diaz’s hearing on housing. They blasted Diaz for attending the real estate developer’s “Bronx is Burning” party, as well as for his backing of the FreshDirect relocation.
South Bronx Unite’s involvement in battles over environmental justice as well as over housing and gentrification points back to the deeper question of who controls public land, and to what end. To this twofold problem, the group has presented a novel solution: a community land trust. In 2015, the group joined with fellow community groups such as Friends of Brook Park to form the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Trust, as well as to release a statement of principles for private developers looking to build in the neighborhood. Johnson explains that the campaign against FreshDirect and the community land trust are “related because we’ve seen what’s going on with public land and it’s not really benefiting the public. . . . The leasing of that land [twenty-five] years ago to a private entity for ninety-nine years, the mass purchasing of land in our community by private developers to build with our public moneys and without zoning changes. That’s all related to the needs of our community and our efforts to control our own public land.”
A thoughtful and inspiring look at modernism in London, circa 1965-1980, a classic era of social housing design.
Mark Swenarton, Cook’s Camden: the Making of Modern Housing (Lund Humphries, 2017)
To Mark Swenarton, the work of Sydney Cook (Camden Borough Architect from 1965 to 1973) and his talented team represents ‘an architectural resolution unsurpassed not just in social housing in the UK but in urban housing anywhere in the world’. Usually that kind of comment might be dismissed as hype but here I think huge numbers would agree. This fine book makes the case comprehensively and convincingly.
Cook’s big idea, shared and executed brilliantly by the architects he recruited to Camden, was for housing which was low-rise and high-density. It directly challenged the architectural fashions of the day – the tower blocks which (in perceptual terms at least) dominated new council housing from the mid-1960s and the mixed development ideas which licensed them. Equally, he rejected ‘off-the-peg’ system-building.
The new direction pioneered in Camden offered, in the words…
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The most important buildings in London – those with the greatest social significance for the mass of its people and those which have made the greatest visual impact on the capital – are council houses. In 1981, at peak, there were 769,996 council homes in the capital and they housed near 31 percent of its population.
It’s partly this ubiquity and familiarity that means most council estates don’t make it into Open House London, the capital’s annual celebration of its built heritage taking place this year on the weekend of the 16-17 September. And, then – let’s be fair here – there’s the fact that not all municipal schemes have represented the very best of architecture and design.
Housing crisis and protest
But there’s another process in play – the marginalisation of social housing and its contribution to the lives of so many. We are asked to forget all that social…
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Martin Crookston, Garden Suburbs of Tomorrow? A New Future for the Cottage Estates (Routledge, 2016)
I’ve used Martin Crookston’s book in the library so I’m delighted there’s now a cheaper paperback edition to make it available to a wider readership. I’m even more pleased, truth be told, to have a free review copy but I can say honestly that hasn’t affected my judgment of what I think is a very good, useful and important book on the future of council housing.
Crookston’s endeavour is to make sure it has a future and he focuses especially on the cottage estates or ‘Corporation suburbia’. These are a neglected, frequently disdained, component of a proud council housing record – lacking the glamour and ‘iconicity’ of some architect-designed estates and blocks perhaps but representing in his opening words ‘a mammoth achievement’.
‘Mammoth’ is uncontroversial. By Crookston’s reckoning they account for around one sixth of England’s homes and around…
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The repair, renewal amd refurbishment of social housing estates has repeatedly been demonstrated to cost significantly less than their demolition and replacement, with none of the damage to the environment.
This text was commissioned from ASH by the Guardian’s Housing Network, which subsequently refused to publish it. This is the second time an ASH piece has been commissioned and refused by the Guardian, which since Katharine Viner took over as editor in March 2015 has moved further and further to the political right, and whose articles on housing have increasingly resembled press releases for the councils, mayors, housing associations, property developers, builders, real estate firms and architectural practices feeding at the housing table – so we weren’t surprised. The last two years has shown ASH that there is nothing the mainstream press would publish that we would consider writing, and nothing we would write that they would consider publishing. Here is the text as rejected.
- There is no housing crisis, if by crisis we mean something out of control. The shortage of housing and the corresponding boom in UK house prices…
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From community land trusts and community gardens to low-income housing co-ops and credit unions — shared equity strengthens and expands community-led democratically-controlled initiatives working to build an urban economy based on values of social and racial justice, ecological sustainability, cooperation, mutualism, and democracy.
Sounds good, right?
To hear more, join CEANYC (the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City) on April 22 between 1-3pm at Artists Space (55 Walker Street — Manhattan) for a panel discussion on community resistance and creativity. Learn about the long history of solidarity economy efforts in New York City and ideas for continuing to fight and build.
The New York Public Library has a layered material history in the city. It arose on the site of the old Croton Reservoir, a critical infrastructure for the city… When the library was established, it was built on a reservoir model. It was meant to serve as a comprehensive repository of knowledge. But there is a conceptual shift happening today moving away from libraries as catch-all repositories toward libraries as nodes in a larger network. Each institution has to figure out the unique role it can play in strengthening that network: through technical and financial contributions, community participation, and their particular collecting, preservation, and outreach strategies — the unique work they do as libraries.
(By David W. Dunlap – urban treasure at the NY Times)
With the recent death of John Belle, New York City has lost an architect who conveyed a genial joy in resuscitating the masterworks of his predecessors. That made him an appealingly modest figure in a room full of big architectural egos, since he was at his best when his own interventions were least obvious.
New York has also lost a link to the intellectual crucible of the 1960s, when Jane Jacobs and others demanded that architects stop obliterating the past and, instead, take time to understand the many ways in which people were well served by older buildings and neighborhoods.