October's issue explores London from the tourist-trap centre to the edgelands where the city crumbles away
London vs Londoners: That is the tension that appears through much of Icon 196. Whether exploring the parts of the city that 'real' Londoners rarely visit, or investigating the estate clearances and regeneration of Elephant and Castle, our correspondents question how well the city works for its inhabitants. We also investigate housing in the city and the schemes that could transform the way we live, speak to architect Amin Taha in our latest episode of Icon Minds, and meet some of the talents ensuring the city remains on the creative map, including Yinka Ilori.
A word from Priya Khanchandani, editor of Icon:
Outside my front door in Stratford, people have pitched up tents under a small flyover. Beside them is a shimmering wall of titanium scales: a public sculpture by Studio Egret West completed in 2012, the year of the Olympics, that was commissioned to disguise the 1970s shopping mall. Today the Stratford Centre, which sits adjacent to a shiny new Westfield, embodies the Stratford that the Olympics left behind. At night, once the shops have shut and the market is dismantled for the day, its wide corridors make way for mattresses, blankets and homes that are carried around in bags.
Since 2012, cases of sleeping rough in Newham have more than doubled. More than 25,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing and a further 5,000 live in temporary accommodation. All of this is unfolding while thousands of properties are left empty to store up wealth. A study from Admiral published earlier this year showed that 22,481 homes in London have been empty for at least six months. From my 22nd floor window, the skyline is dotted with cranes that promise new homes to resolve the housing crisis, yet they out-price so many people who really need them.
In this issue, we consider the dislocation between London and Londoners. Referring to Covent Garden, Owen Hatherley writes, ‘there is probably no part of central London, outside of the immediate vicinity of Buckingham Palace, that Londoners more commonly avoid.’ We explore London’s ‘edgelands’, areas on the outskirts of the city that are causing its edges to crumble. From Stonebridge Park to Thurrock, they are shifting the gravitational pull of London outwards, turning places populated by the marginalised into new centres.
In the case of Elephant and Castle, we see how the wrecking ball can clear away the old, as the shopping centre is replaced with 1,000 homes, shops and a new university campus, leaving local businesses in the lurch, and begging the question put forward by local campaign group Latin Elephant: ‘but who is it for?’
Rising stars like Yinka Ilori, the co-designer, with Pricegore, of this year’s Dulwich Pavilion and this month’s Icon cover artist, and Gurmeet Sian, an architect designing thriving community spaces, are fighting for the future of London. We see sparks of hope in designer-driven afterschool clubs and summer schools that are helping to put creativity first. The city might be broken, but sheer brilliance shines through.
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