The crumbling estate of Haviland Court sits at the northern end of Edgware Road, a straight Roman road linking Marble Arch with the town of Edgware. The Romans had a knack for building straight roads, it was in their nature to carve through obstacles rather than work around them. The obvious reason for this was the ability to move troops quickly around the rapidly expanding empire.
It is with speed that the residents of Haviland Court find themselves homeless and hoping that they can afford to remain in the area. The majority of the estate has been demolished and new, partly affordable (whatever that means) housing is rapidly rising in it's place. Some residents still remain but will be forced to move like the rest when the final buildings are torn down in November. I have a feeling that they may not be able to find a home in the new builds that loom noisely outside their windows.
Haviland is definitely rough around the edges and feels as though it has been through some tough times but it does not feel hopeless. Given some smart investment in the original structures they could once again be pleasant homes for those that live there. Surely a new lick of paint is cheaper than a wrecking ball?
There are situations when demolition is the only option for an area. The infamous Red Road Flats of Glasgow serving as a perfect example of this. The brutalist edifices now stand as a ghostly reminder of social housing gone terribly wrong and will not be missed by many once demolished. However, this is often not the case and the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle is an example of why. The estate, built in 1974 as social housing to reduce overcrowding after postwar slum clearances, is also due for demolition and will be replaced by an expensive regeneration project that includes only 25% affordable housing (the original plans included 35% affordable housing but this has recently been reduced in order to compensate for running over budget). Architectural consulting firm Gensler found that the Heygate could have been renovated for as little as £14,000 per unit, which is approximately £17m less than the £44m Southwark Council has spent on just emptying the dwellings.
The situation at Haviland is identical to that at Heygate, it just hasn't received the same exposure due to it's size, location and lack of infamy as another social housing project gone wrong. It is yet another fading memorial to the rapid, unrelenting, waggle dance of gentrification sweeping across the London landscape. A silent shuffle that has been picking-up pace for some time. The troops of middle-classes are growing and, like the Romans before them, they are making a brutal beeline along Edgware Road towards mythological progress.