Looking at these 5 photographs that we took you wouldn’t necessarily be able to identify that they were take from the exact same location and as a panoramic view (unless you were familiar with the University of East London). We wanted to take and include these photographs as they demonstrate some of the changes that East London has undergone In one, singular setting.
The first image highlights the presence of tower block buildings behind city airport, circulating connotations of ghettoization and the collectiveness of the working/ lower class.
The second image is of the sugar refinery, a modernist building that represents fordism and mass production.
The third image is a more postmodern image, in the sense of architecture. You have the big fancy glass Barclays building (Harvey describes the sky scraper as a symbol of corporate power) linked to capitalist culture and the unique O2 building.
The fourth image demonstrates that, similarly to the first image, a lot of East London still hasn’t been gentrified and indicates ideologies of poverty and wasteland, linked to the areas historical discourse.
The last Image is of the University of East London’s library building, a postmodern building however, linked to more modernist metanarratives of education.
It is interesting to see so many competing representations and signifiers juxtapositioned next to each other. these images represent the complexity of trying to define East London in its entirety.
The image above seems to perfectly illustrate the contrast in modern versus post-modern architecture in East London. The post-modern buildings that comprise Canary Wharf loom in the background, while what appears to be residential, working-class, terraced housing sits in the foreground. This image seems to add weight to the theory that gentrification significantly alters both the cultural and physical landscapes of urban spaces. (The Economist, 2014)
David Harvey (1990), expresses criticism for postmodern spatial planning in urban areas due to its perceived inability to convey authenticity in terms of urban identity. Harvey asserts that postmodern urban spaces are all too often gentrified, repetitive and largely influenced by commercial endeavours.
The tour guide in the below video seems to share Harvey’s opinion with reference to the gentrification of East London and suggests that East London is one of the last areas in London to fall prey to gentrification and commercialisation, which may be characterised by the construction of high-rise apartment buildings which are expensive to rent or purchase as well as the inundation of the high street with well known ‘high street’ brands that continue to open up retail spaces in ‘up and coming’ areas, which ultimately pushes out smaller independent businesses that have likely operated in and helped to define the local area. The tour guide opines that gentrification of East London is making the area indistinguishable to other areas that have already undergone a process of gentrification. (Harvey, 1990 and Dykman, 2014)
Vice (2015), interviewed a group of East London council tower block residents who are opposed to plans to develop one of the two towers so that it may be sold off as private housing to fund redevelopment of both of the tower blocks. The blocks have housed working class residents since the 1960s and the proposed development will result in the loss of 74 council houses to a borough with a waiting list for housing as high as 20,000. This particular scenario is not unique and will undoubtedly leave a lasting effect on past, present and future residents of the area. This situation serves as a reminder of the following quote from Marshall Berman:
“The industrialization of production, which transforms scientific knowledge into technology, creates new human environments and destroys old speeds up the whole tempo of life, generates new forms of corporate power and class immense demographic upheavals, severing millions of people from their ancestral habitats…”(Berman, 1982)
Posted by: Dianne Bonney
Berman, M. (1982). All that is solid melts into air. New York: Simon and Schuster.