…when it’s part of an art project on a 1930s housing estate undertaking a long slow regeneration. The portraits of residents – the buildings look like they might be abandoned but are not – seek to provoke thought about how we use urban space, what we see; and how to involve the artists and tenants inside these blocks in the process of regeneration.
This is Samuel House in Haggerston, where the artists who live here decided to make use of the bright orange metal panels that the council used to cover the windows of empty units. Several blocks sport these shiny window covers in what can only be some kind of corporate statement. What the message is, and who the recipients are, is unsure. But the effect is striking.
On Samuel House though, the bold orange protective cladding is replaced by the faces of residents facing down the curious stares of passers-by; in what seems to be a challenge to preconceptions and prejudices we might have about estates and regeneration – and change itself.
Simultaneously these older faces oversee the youngsters playing in the schoolyard of the Bridge Academy. This month, Pembury Estate residents in Hackney Central won their fight to keep their similar-era blocks as they are, knocking back a proposal for modern energy-saving cladding on this Peabody Trust estate.
Like their Pembury peers, the residents of Samuel House are proud of their pre-war homes. “You can have your space ship school,” they seem to be saying to the children across the Regent’s Canal. “But we’re going nowhere.”