A huge part of what makes us human is our ability to consciously alter our environment. We can shape our world in previously unthinkable ways and use technology to create structures which impact positively with their surroundings and on the people within them. Architecture can inspire and depress us.
Growing up in the seaside resort of Southport, a short distance north of Liverpool, I saw my fair share of dereliction during my teenage years. Southport struggled to find an identity in days when the Victorian holiday destinations of days gone by had long succumbed to the package holiday and the lure of good weather. Old, tired relics of a glorious past littered the town, steeped in architectural detail, jumbled up with modern shopfronts and the tackiness of arcades, amusements and funfairs.
Liverpool too provided a constant reminder of the past, with journeys down in the car passing by the old docks, littered with abandoned, decaying buildings. There was a closed pub on nearly every corner, providing a glimpse of a time when the area was more prosperous and thriving. A shipping city, again struggling to find a new identity. Just a short journey further into the city, with its mixture of the grand buildings of the shipping age and the concrete jungle of the 60’s and 70’s, was a beacon of hope in a city of despair, with the Albert Dock development, broadcast live to the whole country every weekday morning, with ITV hosting Good Morning from studios in the dock. Otherwise, it was all pretty depressing and bleak.
Even my school was grey. A brutalist-inspired box on stilts, designed to stop explosive methane build up, but better utilised to keep the children out of the building at breaks, huddling behind walls to escape the driving wind and rain. The cold dark corridors and extensive use of faded green paint served to make the educational experience as uninspiring as possible.
Now, in post-recession London, years of neglect and decline are being tackled with the help of property developers and planning regulations in a huge program of demolition, construction and regeneration across the capital. This ongoing social experiment promises to solve the problems of post-war social housing and a housing crisis, with high-rise towers and mixed developments. In a climate of booming construction, the pace of change can feel overwhelming and contrasts starkly with the stagnation of my youth. Suddenly buildings vanish, seemingly overnight, noticed by passers-by only when a shiny new construction is unveiled. Gleaming towers, strange shapes and bold colours compete to be noticed, contrasting with the traditional and historical.
As a photographer, I feel an urge to document these changes. Capturing the remnants of decline, the construction and the redevelopment as the built environment is altered, often around the people who call it home. How will these new developments alter the environment and the people within? Will they complement or dominate? How do they alter the feel and look of the area in which they stand? What do they make you feel?