Thursday, March 17, 2016

lucid disguise

Of all the possible juxtapositions in this part of #eastend this has always intrigued me the greatest: 

In the foreground is Carter House of Holland Estate by East End Homes in #spitalfields, a typical 1930s social housing estate, home to a large Bangladeshi community who has made large parts of#bricklane what it is today (on that note: brick lane has been a street of constant transformation over the past century and a half, something that's got frequently missed out on the anarchists vs. cereal-maker gentrifiers debate last year). In the background is the Nido Building functioning primarily as a private student accommodation unit. In any other context, a building whose architectural style I find more appealing than other people may, its cladding and dominant blue hue convey to me a false interpretation openness and transparency.

Both estates/buildings are located within the borough of Tower Hamlets, where its edge with the City of London is defined by Middlesex Street, right beside, to the west of Nido Building. The borough council's revenues from Nido's development may even have helped preserve and maintain Holland Estate to date, although we know there is an imminent threat of destruction to pave way for a new development. 

This is a site that sits right in between recently developed, tourist-attracting Spitalfields, developing and startup/incubation promoting, Norton Folgate, rapidly changing, looks-more-like-Manhattan neighbourhood of Aldgate and of course, the behemoth that is the City of London. All of these areas historically, as well as economically established and diverse, naturally prone to phases of structural transformation. #cutlerstreet #clothierstreet existing and transformed (Discount Suit Company) textile and fashion stores are all reminiscent of the huge legacy of this particular site of East End. No wonder why, of course, the pedestrian footfall on #brunestreet where this photo is taken is almost zero while city workers, students, walking tours, lunch breakers flock to arteries and avenues nearby.

Yet in the middle of this mish-mash, what stands out for me is how Nido Building's almost curtain/wall-like shape cuts Holland Estate from the rest of its surroundings in a way no other block of buildings are so visually overshadowed by other City towers that are architecturally so much more forthcoming and eye-catching, such as the Gherkin or Heron Tower just further south. You could argue that this wall protects Holland Estate in a symbolism representative of urban walls we know of our recent past, be it the Berlin Wall, Iron Curtain or the Western Wall. And for that reason, like all other walls before and after it, to me it represents a threat and a cursing in not so much disguise...