It is more than 20 years since BBC2’s The Late Show devoted an entire programme to an examination of the merits, or otherwise, of Croydon’s architecture.
“Croydon: The Future” was a competition staged by The Architecture Foundation which, they say, was “one of the most successful architecture shows ever held in Britain, which showcased the work of 15 then-emerging designers that generated creative yet realistic solutions for Croydon’s problem areas”.
The competition was so “successful” that the marquee in which the exhibition was staged blew down, and none of the “creative solutions” were ever implemented. Although some may have formed the basis for a comedy sketch in the intervening quarter-century or so.
One of what the AF describes as the “then-emerging designers” was none other than Sir Richard Rogers, 20 years on from overseeing the Pompidou Centre in Paris and Lloyd’s in The City. A real up-and-comer. His entry to the competition: what appears to be a giant mobile phone mast, plonked in the middle of Wellesley Road.
What strikes many Croydon residents when they see the programme again today is how familiar so many of the architects’ “solutions” appear to be, as many have been re-cycled and re-presented at least twice since. Yet none of them have been implemented.
Perhaps that’s why there’s growing doubts about the Hammersfield “regeneration” proposals: the absence of vision and dearth of real imagination. And yet the fundamental “problem areas” identified in the programme from 1993 remain with us in 2015.
Because of the historical perspective it offers, the insights and hindsights, the BBC documentary ought to be required viewing for every councillor, planning officer, developer or architect with designs on our town. And here, you can view the programme in its entirety (in four, YouTube byte-sized chunks):
Coming to Croydon
- Stop the Incinerator Public Meeting, Green Dragon, Jan 10
- Bromley charity 10km road race, Jan 11
- David Lean Cinema, Leviathan, Jan 13
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Jan 14
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, The 78 Project Movie, Jan 15
- Child Aid Lanka foreign aid debate, Thornton Heath, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, Hannah Arendt, Jan 20
- David Lean Cinema, The Imitation Game, Jan 22
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- David Lean Cinema, Night Will Fall, Jan 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- David Lean Cinema, Kon-Tiki, Jan 29
- Soul Symphony Community Choir taster session, Feb 3
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 4
- Tales of Love, Lost and Found, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 7
- Uninvited Guests, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 11-13
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Rosie Wilby, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 27
- Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson, Stanley Halls, Feb 28
- Holmes Alone, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 6
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 11
- Iain Lee, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 14
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 8
- Anatomy of the Piano, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 15
- Patrick Monahan, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 16-17
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
- South Norwood Community Festival, July 5
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