Social Housing At Odds With Architect Pride: Recipe For Community Failure?

Southgate Estate in 1989. The project is now demolished.
Southgate Estate, Runcorn, August 1989, 2 photo by Ruthdonnamills is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Southgate Estate, 1989. Now Demolished.

A daring architectural experiment in Greater Manchester in the 1970’s is a cautionary tale for those looking towards a new era of social housing. At a time when shoddy construction shortened the lifespan of too much UK social housing, the Southgate Estate in Cheshire had a truly rapid downfall, accelerated by other reasons.

Conservative attitudes towards the shape and function of a desirable home know no class barriers. Indeed, even in exclusive enclaves of luxury housing, a mix of classical housing styles generally far outnumber the occasional architectural . . . monstrosity? Or perhaps that startling apparition is no beast, but a truly a breathtaking stroke of avant garde beauty . . .

Where the Southgate Estate was concerned, was there much thought about the importance of community identity and pride in their individual homes when designing this daring architectural experiment? The evidence suggests that any potential individual discomfort was swept away in the interests of art.

Even today, those more interested in the glory of architectural form lament the early destruction of this unusual estate, blaming its failure on the shoddy, underfunded construction that defined an era.

Some blame, however must surely fall on the hubris of architectural adventurism that set sail to conquer all before it, only to run aground on a stolid human sense of what constitutes a comfortable, safe, home, in a community of shared pride.

Read more in the Manchester Evening News: Washing Machine Flats And Legoland Houses – The Rise And Fall Of The Region’s Weirdest Council Estate