The Language of Space and Practice in Camden Housing Estates, 1964-1984
Dr J Lowe
Working with language as a common denominator this research will clarify the relationship between forms and spatial practices. This will be done within the context of a set of late modern housing projects built in London between 1964 and 1984. Specifically, the research will re-evaluate several key housing estates in Camden against the backdrop of the existing published literature. This literature provides the origin of the theoretical approach used in the analysis. That is, the literature is polarised between those who take formal concerns as primary and those who take social concerns as primary. This sets up an opposition which denies the interaction between the two spheres. The theory of the everyday is used as a model for bridging these two spheres. However, it is not sufficient to claim a link. It will be necessary to analyse the precise relationships between the specific forms of these housing estates and the practices that occur in them in order to go beyond the generalisations within which this theory is currently confined. So the aims are two fold, one, as a set of findings concerning the estates, and two, as a development of the current application of the everyday.
The research will therefore provide and analysis of the existing literature on the estates and the theoretical premises which underpin the various points of view. It will also carefully review the concept of the everyday as formulated by Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau. Added to this is a consideration of the various applications and uses of the theory over the last 20 years in spatial discourses. This will indicate the current limitations of the theory thereby identifying where work needs to be done.
The everyday is read in a couple of different ways. Via Lefebvre asa concept primarily concerned with practices and via de Certeau asa mediating concept between practices and forms. The everyday can therefore provide a method for reading the way in which people inhabit the spaces of the estates. It does not, however, provide a model for reading the forms themselves. For this a structuralist approach will be used. This will link up with the everyday via deCerteau’s suggestion of reading practices through language metaphors. Language is used as a conceptual common ground.
Practically this will be carried through a combination of recorded site observations and formal analysis of the estates. The process and result will combine both textual and graphic methods of representation.