Missenden69 – The brutal story of Aylesbury Estate

The first time you come here the impact can be harsh. The zone is so close to the city center but so different, so degraded. The big grey buildings resemble ships in an exhausting repetition of blocks which don’t really remind you of the green Buckinghamshire where the buildings names come from. Garages are on the ground floor, to access the flats you must walk to the third floor over ramps or through hidden stairs. Years ago all the buildings of the Aylesbury Estate were connected with walkways on the third floor. Actually this was one of architect Hans Peter Trenton’s proud points. Not really a good idea. In the 80s and the 90s, smugglers, pickpockets and gangs from everywhere in South-London became the owners of the walkways. Even Tony Blair chose to make his first speech as Prime Minister here. For the Daily Mail it was the “Hell’s waiting room”, the South London Press described “Drab impregnable concrete blocks accessed via dank passageways and tight stairwells that provide refuge for addicts and muggers [and]filthy curtains behind rotten window frames, showing little sign of life.”
The socialistic dream of Mr Trenton was not so social anymore. However if you live here for most of your life, the questionable aesthetic of the Estate is loaded with feelings and emotions. Even if ugly, it’s the place where you live, your warm and lovely home. The gray buildings disappear into small details that you can see behind other flat’s windows, a coloured flower, the smile of a child, a collection of puppets. The way the estate appears in everyday news is just not part of who you are. You are tired and frustrated to be framed in a category, which doesn’t belong to you. Used and abused by media and politicians.
Some in London call it the ghetto, for other people it’s just a zone that should be knocked down completely, for others it’s home, a place to care for. Surely the kind of architecture (and the policy behind it as well) don’t help the area either to become safer or more social. If you come late at night or just pass by these blocks in the afternoon the feeling is certainly not welcoming. There is no invitation to stay a bit longer to find someone to speak to or simple to relax in the playgrounds. Now the big blocks of grey concrete are inhabited by more than 8000 people. A zone hit by violence, degradation with an uncertain future. The government is planning a regeneration program (a programme that has already existing for years on paper), but the future of the people inhabiting this area is still unknown. The phantom of the failed regeneration program at the nearby Heygate Estate is knocking on the doors of Aylesbury.

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