Modernist Ideals: The Utopian Designs of William Morris, Peter Behrens and the Social Housing Schemes of Mid-Twentieth-Century Sheffield
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Music treads malevolently, cautions, holds us back, but the camera turns a corner, just a little too quickly, into the light. A discarded, overloaded shopping trolley snarls at us as we emerge from the unlit walkway. We see a geometric, concrete wasteland, strewn with rubbish and chairs. Washing lines flap fitfully in the breeze like grim bunting. Birds have begun to take possession. This short film was a Channel 4 feature, shown in-between programmes. The unattractive vision is of the Aylesbury Estate (1963–1977), Southwark, an archetypal British housing estate now subject to a major regeneration scheme. As Ben Campkin emphasises, the washing lines—a frequent trope of economic and social deprivation—which festoon the scene were added later to depict the estate as ‘a desolate concrete dystopia’, a ‘“ghost town” estate’.1 Campkin stresses that this kind of media attention, in which estates are presented as manifesting the failings of society, misrepresents estates, ‘taking them into a representational realm of abstract generalisation’ (Campkin, Remaking London, p. 100).