Brick by Brick gets V&A Museum to artwash housing schemes

Brick by Brick has won more vacuous awards in its three-year existence than it has built houses (current total: 0). Now, it is turning Croydon into a museum artefact, for tourists to gawp at, as BARRATT HOLMES reports

Brick by Brick, Croydon Council’s “award-winning” (© Croydon Council) housing developer which after three years has yet to deliver a single home, is now turning parts of the borough into a museum piece.

How architects’ design blocks have managed to make Croydon a museum piece, gawped at in Kensington

Architectural models from one of the Brick by Brick schemes have turned up at the Victoria & Albert Museum in Kensington.

It is the same museum which earlier this year was accused of “artwashing” the gentrification of a council housing estate in Poplar, east London, by shipping an eight-ton chunk of Robin Hood Gardens out to the Venice Architecture Biennale, a festival beloved of the uber-wealthy and international fashionistas.

The V&A’s “The Future Starts Here” exhibit which has put Croydon on display is altogether more modest.

But in typical style, for a house-builder which has staged more self-aggrandising exhibitions than it has managed to house homeless people, the wooden blocks on display are representative of a Brick by Brick scheme where work has not yet even started.

Undeterred by such mere detail, the V&A’s blurb at the exhibit states:

“Affordable Homes By The Public Sector: Station Road, South Norwood; Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, 2018.

“After decades of under-investment in affordable and social housing, the UK’s public sector is building once more.

“This architectural model illustrates a scheme for 14 new affordable homes currently under construction in south London. Led by Brick by Brick, a property development company established by Croydon Council, it shows how local governments [sic] are becoming more entrepreneurial in efforts to address the housing crisis.”

So many factual errors and half-truths in so few words.

Of the first 1,000 homes submitted for planning permission, none of Brick by Brick’s properties will provide social housing for rent. Indeed, it is struggling to meet its own targets for providing unaffordable “affordable” housing. And this scheme at Norwood Junction is not “currently under construction” at all. Work has not begun.

Inside Croydon’s loyal reader who happened across the display was not so easily taken in by the V&A’s blandishments.

“Horrified to see Brick by Brick exhibiting in the prestigious V&A ‘The future starts here’. They must know people in high places or they were really stuck for things of relevance and quality. And truthfulness,” said the resident.

I am shocked and disgusted at how this makes them look good and ignores the truth.

“Addressing the housing crisis my arse.

“Who out of the homeless and on low wages can afford these homes?

A slab of Robin Hood Gardens has been turned into an exhibit in Venice by the V&A

The director of the V&A is Tristram Hunt, the former Blairite MP who, when challenged about his museum’s decision to spend public money on shipping a recently demolished section from Robin Hood Gardens to Venice, responded by labelling his critics as “keyboard warriors” and “artwash agitators”.

In Poplar, the council estate which was completed in 1972 is being replaced in a £300million development in which more than half of the homes will be for the private market.

Dr Stephen Pritchard, who has spent years studying the role artwashing plays in sidelining the interests of communities and furthering the cause of developers, called Hunt’s comments “a now clichéd response by institutions faced with critique. This is another element of how artwashing works. It belittles valid democratic opposition”.

Dr Pritchard has in the past identified artwashing being conducted in Croydon town centre by the Labour-run council, describing one piece of street art installed on Surrey Street last year as, “excessive, nasty commercialism”.

He added: “Mocking, sneering and deeply offensive, it has no place in Croydon, or anywhere else for that matter.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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