Sinclair's new London anti-classic again

Nice to see Iain Sinclair’s Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire being bigged-up in the Saturday Guardian by Andy Beckett this weekend. I don’t read The Times or The Telegraph so we won’t talk about how I know there were thumbs up reviews in those papers too. Talking to a few people after I blogged the book I realised there’d been the odd misunderstanding because I’d only really dealt with the ‘Mundus Subterraneus’ section that devotes more lines to me than any other part of the book; oh I just love reading about myself! ‘Mundus Subterraneus’ really is the most fictional part of the tome, and the rest of the work is far more factual. Sinclair hasn’t written a conventional history of Hackney, since the focus is bohemia, but there are plenty of hard facts for those that want them. Sinclair is even surprisingly polite about assorted Hackney-linked Trotskyites and liberals; you’d think his nihilism might make him more critical of them… but maybe it’s a generational solidarity thing going on here. That said, Sinclair is still more than capable of the odd mordant spasm, as the following jibe at the expense of one section of the professional middle-classes shows:
“The (Chambers) bequest was a nuisance, paintings of variable quality, curious objects, to be catalogued, stored, exhibited. The best that could be said of this stuff was that it gave employment to an emerging human type, the conceptual curator. Bureaucrats schooled to replace unreliable and indigent artists. Professional explainers: even when there was nothing to explain. The Chambers Collection was unfit to view, but it couldn’t be sold off at auction or dumped in a car boot sale at the Hackney Wick Stadium….”
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by The London Spy on 2009-02-23 13:32:53 +0000

I preferred hearing about the lacuna in Sinclair’s account of Golden Lane. One thing that hasn’t come up yet is how he missed the connection between the Golden Lane Estate and Julie Christie. It would have made a nice link from Chris Petit! So let me run it by you. Clare Gerrard and Mark Hewitt who run the architectural practice d-squared lived until recently on the Golden Lane Estate; I understand they’ve just moved out to Muswell Hill to raise a family. They still own properties on the estate and may now be running their architectural practice from one of these flats. Anyway, when they had an office in Blackbird Yard (E2), Julie Christie kept her London home across from their practice, and came in one day and asked them to design a draining board for her kitchen. Naturally everyone in their office was very excited to get a commission from this swinging sixties dolly bird, and so they undertook the job. So there you have it, more proof that Sinclair actually needs to do a whole book on Golden Lane.
For those that don’t know about d-squared, here’s the blurb from their website:
d-squared is a multi-strand design practice, combining sustainable architecture and urban design with product design, video and installation art. The practice has built on the multi-skilled background of the team since its foundation in 1994 to establish a reputation for delivering acclaimed work in a wide spectrum of design areas.
Recent built work has attracted wide interest and praise for its clarity and invention, and for efficiency of delivery. We have undertaken commissions for video and art installations for clients including The Hayward Gallery, The British Council, Levi’s and Selfridges. Our research projects, including a series for the Department for Children, Families and Schools, demonstrate our strong commitment to rigorous investigation of client priorities as the foundation for all projects.
The various design skills are used to deliver excellent projects for our clients, whether the outputs are buildings, interactive installations, environmental strategies or film animations. The same attention to detail, focus on client priorities and design rigour is applied to all projects at whatever scale. Our work is underpinned by the conviction that good design adds value and brings delight. d-squared partners are Clare Gerrard and Mark Hewitt.

Comment by The Nicolas Bourriaud Bot on 2009-02-23 13:56:11 +0000

Male Enhancement Pills are 100% Natural and 100% safe. Why spend thousands of dollars on expensive equipment or surgeries that can’t bring the same results as our product but can only bring side effects and many regrets. Visit:

Comment by The East London Anti-Spy on 2009-02-23 15:07:23 +0000

Well don’t forget that the north end of Golden Lane Estate runs up to Baltic Street, and here you can find Split-Image who service architects with virtual realisations of designs etc. Tom Bridges, Roland Woolner and David Peto, who make up the business strike me as self-obsessed plonkers – so not surprising that they are Cambridge educated – but they’ve worked with Golden Lane Estate residents like Eric Parry at his architectural practice.
And while we’re on the subject can anyone substantiate the rumour that English surrealist poet David Gascoigne used to stay in a friend’s flat on the Golden Lane Estate?

Comment by The Inauthentic Wendy Giaccaglia on 2009-02-23 15:45:30 +0000

I have been working on the Golden Lane Estate since October 2006. I was acting up as Temporary Area Housing Manager (AHM) until March of this year. I have worked for the City of London for four years. I started out on the Rents Team job-sharing. It was an excellent stepping stone to my current post as I had contact with residents from all our residents.
I am lucky to have amazing residents on the Golden Lane Estate who care very much about the future of the estate and respect its past. I am also fortunate to have staff members who love Golden Lane. Barrie Ellis has been working here for thirty years and I can see how proud he is of the estate. The pride that everyone takes in the estate makes my job much easier.
I work closely with the City of London Police, particularly with our Ward Constable PC John Levey and the Police Community Support Officers, Lana Atkinson, Daniel Goggin and Richard McEwan. We meet frequently to discuss Estate issues and from those meetings come their priorities for the service levels they provide to the estate. I also produce a newsletter for the estate in which I promote the services of the City of London Police. If there is an issue pertinent to the estate at any given time, the Police will write an article for the newsletter. We have recently collaborated on a very successful weekend ‘joint surgery’and continue to try to find ways to keep residents informed about safety issues. I have just received a City of London Police Officer’s Commendation for the work I have done in raising the profile of the Police to the residents. It was a huge honour, and I feel that by raising their profile with the residents, we are also raising our residents’profile with the Police. It’s a win-win situation.

Comment by The Plagiarist on 2009-02-23 16:05:43 +0000

The Golden Lane Estate is a 1950s council housing complex in the City of London. It was built on the northern edge of the City, in an area devastated by bombing in World War II.
The idea to build a residential site to the north of the Cripplegate area, followed devastation of much of the City of London in The Blitz during World War II. Following almost complete destruction in the Blitz, only around 500 people remained in the City in 1950, a mere 50 of whom lived in Cripplegate. The brief was to provide council housing at subsidised rents for the many people who serviced the offices in the City, particularly caretakers, secretaries and police officers, as part of the recovery strategy for the City. There was an emphasis on single people and couples, rather than families.
The site, just north of the historic quarter of Aldersgate, had previously been occupied by small Victorian industries and businesses. Some of the basements of the bombed buildings were retained as sunken areas of the landscaping.It was designed by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, who later designed the adjacent, Barbican Estate.
The estate was commissioned and paid for by the City of London but constructed in the immediately adjacent Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury, later forming part of the London Borough of Islington; it was transferred to the City of London in the 1990s, following boundary changes lobbied for by residents. However, it is distinguished from the bulk of the City of London, which is today the largely non-residential European financial services capital. The Estate has more in common socially and economically with the Clerkenwell creative district surrounding it, especially in view of the large number of designers and architects now in residence. The first phase of the estate was officially opened in 1957. The estate was enlarged to the West, with three buildings added later: Cullum Welch House and Hatfield House and Crescent House, this last completed in 1962.
The Golden Lane Competition
The competition for designs was announced in 1951 and at a time when post WW II recovery was still slow the opportunity to design such an estate attracted a lot of interest among architects. The competition and entries to it were covered widely in the architectural and popular press. Golden Lane Estate is architecturally important as the first work of the partnership formed when Geoffry Powell won the competition to build the estate on 26 February 1952. The three partners-to-be of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon were all lecturers in architecture Kingston School of Art and had entered into an agreement that if any one of them won, they would share the commission. The competition was assessed by Donald McMorran, who also designed (in conservative style) housing for the Corporation of London. Alison and Peter Smithson were among the dozens of entrants to the competition, and though not even runners-up in the competition they publicised their unsuccessful entry energetically in the press.
Architecture of the Estate
The maisonette blocks are faced with panels in primary colours (red & blue on maisonette blocks and yellow on the tower block). There is less use of unfaced concrete than in the Barbican. However, some of the concrete surfaces which are today painted were originally unpainted as they suffered early on from staining and streaking from iron pyrites in the aggregate.
Inside, most maisonettes display open tread concrete staircases projecting from the party walls as a cantilever. This, and the fact that the bedrooms are suspended, structurally speaking, without supports over the living rooms gives very compact planning with a surprisingly spacious feel to small flats, in spite of the fact thay they were built under severe Government building restrictions of the post WW II years. The engineer was Felix Samuely. Some maisonettes retain their hour-glass shaped hot-water radiators, visible in windows. Crescent House, the last of the blocks to be completed in 1962, runs along Goswell Road and shows a tougher aesthetic that the architects were developing at the adjacent Barbican scheme, the early phases of which were by then on site.
The architects kept to their brief of providing the high density within the 7 acres (28,000 m2) available. The visual anchor of the design is the tower block of one-bedroomed flats, Great Arthur House, which provides a vertical emphasis at the centre of the development and, at 16 storeys, was on completion briefly the tallest residential building in Britain.
Roof Garden
The three-level roof garden of Great Arthur House is one of the finest public architectural spaces of 1950s British architecture. It has fabulous views of St Pauls Cathedral, the Barbican and over North London. It extends to three stories high, making a virtue out of the lift winding gear and tank housing. It makes the most of the small footprint of this tower block. Pergolas and carefully integrated window cleaning equipment are treated for their sculptural qualities. An ornamental pool with stepping stones reflects on spring and Autumn morning ripples from the water to the underside of the extravagant curved concrete canopy. It was originally open to all residents of the estate as recreational space – which is at a premium on this dense urban site. The roof garden sadly been closed for more than a decade for health and safety reasons.
A Model for Social Housing & Urban Living
When completed the estate attracted even more publicity than the architectural competition as a symbol of post-war recovery. It was widely photographed and written about. Today the estate is home to approximately 1,500 people living in 559 one, two, three or four room units. There are 385 single storey flats and 174 maisonettes. More than half of the flats have been sold on long leases under the Right to buy scheme provisions brought in by the Thatcher government, and have proved attractive to design-conscious buyers. The rental flats continue as council housing with preference given to City of London workers, let at affordable rents. Applications for rented housing units can be made to the City of London. As a result the Golden Lane Estate is more balanced socially than the adjacent Barbican, which was conceived from the beginning as luxury housing. The Barbican is a strongly defended suburb, aloof from the street and elevated on a podium. The Golden Lane Estate is notably permeable, with pedestrian routes crossing through it and a more friendly, accessible architecture.
On the western edge of the estate is a line of shops, and there is a tenants’ hall and club room, a public swimming pool and gym, police office, estate office, nursery, pub and tennis courts (originally bowling green) – the whole combining to make an urban microcosm. A few of these facilities survive in their original uses, preserving the values that lay behind the creation of the estate. Once common in post-WW II local authority planning and housing, this idealism, commitment to quality design and a holistic vision of urban living have in many cases been abandoned by municipalities.
Corbusian Influences
Both the earlier work and that at Crescent House is clearly influenced by the work of Le Corbusier, an influence the architects were happy to acknowledge. Crescent House displays affinities with his Maisons Jaoul at Neuilly-sur-Seine whilst the maisonettes, with their open plan stairs and double height stair spaces, are reminiscent of those at his Unite d’Habitation in Marseilles and elsewhere. The idea of making the estate an urban microcosm is itself a strand of Le Corbusier’s thinking, at the Unites and elsewhere. The detailing and finishes of the Golden Lane Estate are, however, more resolved and better designed than many in Le Corbusier’s work.
Listed Building Status
The Estate comprises Listed buildings of Special architectural interest, at Grade II (two) since 1997 except for Crescent House which is Listed at Grade II* (two star) in view of its importance in post-war residential architecture. The estate is largely intact, though there has been steady erosion of design detail, especially over the last decade. In 2006/2007, to address this Listed Building Management Guidelines were developed with Avanti Architects, a panel or residents and other stakeholders for the maintenance of the estate, to ensure its important characteristics are preserved. Though Listing restricts owner’s freedom to change their flats, under pain of criminal prosecution, Listing has in fact increased values of flats. There is also increased pressure on the City of London as freehold owners to maintain the estate better than in the recent past.

Comment by We Don’t Care About Hackney (or Hockney for that matter) on 2009-02-23 16:44:35 +0000

Sinclair reaches a new Londoncentric high (low) in talking at length about a borough that is of no interest to people who live there never mind someone in Mumbai.
Yeah…you live in London. Get the fuck over it, tossers!

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-23 16:57:22 +0000

I’d be interested to know what Julie Christie’s draining board looked like. Was it French provincial? antique country house? Alter-modern?
I love Crackney.

Comment by The Fake Iain Sinclair on 2009-02-23 20:30:28 +0000

A limited first edition of Iain Sinclair’s “Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire” in association with Hamish Hamilton, signed by the author, comprising 50 copies only. Forty-five have been bound in black Siltex cloth by the FineBook Bindery, Wellingborough, and contain an etching and aquatint on moulin du gue by Oona Grimes, along with a folded map of Hackney and one holograph postcard with text by the author, housed in an Oxford Library Buckram Lite solander case and numbered 1 to 45. The very special edition of five copies, numbered i to v, have been handmade with a flat-back case binding by Clare Bryan and contain two etchings by Oona Grimes, three holograph postcards, the map and five sets of signed instructions to the artist before illustration, hitherto unpublished material. These are housed in an artist’s Colorado drop-back box with inner compartment, with stencilled red and silver spray designs on board and box applied by the Artist.
Edition of 45: £140 Edition of 5: £550

Comment by Silver Head on 2009-02-23 21:09:42 +0000

My death ray zap gun is all ready to blast hell outta Hackney!

Comment by Dr Gaz on 2009-02-23 21:14:01 +0000

No it ain’t, you and your ray gun are on call right now for filming at the Whitehook Valley dump!

Comment by Bravissimo Girl on 2009-02-23 23:39:28 +0000

Whether you’re planning on sashaying your gorgeous booty down the aisle in a bridal dress made from the pages of “Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire” or strutting your sexy stuff on the dance floor in a trouser suit constructed outta distressed sheets from “Downriver”, this shape enhancing basque will elevate those boobs and cinch in that waist. What more could you ask for? Confetti Basque by Panache (PNF1) only £39.00: underwired basque, 8 hook fastening, polyamide polyester elastane, fully adjustable and detachable shoulder straps & suspenders. A must for Iain Sinclair fanatics with big boobies! Bravissimo, clothing cut for your curves!

Comment by The Australian PC John Levey on 2009-02-23 23:57:18 +0000

“Allo, ‘allo, ‘allo, wot’s goin’ on ‘ere then? You can’t have a tribute copper in the comments to a blog about an Iain Sinclair book. Oh no no no no. Any more of this nonsense and I’ll have to nick myself for impersonating a police officer… oops, nearly let on there that I’m not the person that I’m not even half pretending to be! So if I do nick myself where does impersonation end and belief begin? It’s a crazy cyber world of Baudrillardian simulation out here in the Aussie outback!

Comment by The Canadian Rodney Rude on 2009-02-24 11:08:13 +0000

You can’t trust a Queensland copper! I was arrested by Queensland police in the mid-1980s after offending officers during a show. I fought several long and expensive court cases defending my right to perform my show to adult audiences. My legal battle continued after police brought further obcenity charges in Western Australia where the case finally went to the full bench of the supreme court. I won my court cases and all charges were quashed. After the Fitzgerald Inquiry against corruption (1987-89), set up to investigate police corruption in the state of Queensland, the police officer leading the case of obsenity against me was jailed for corruption in an unrelated matter. Since that time I have performed without incidence in all states of Australia.

Comment by The Money Laundering Wet Wipe on 2009-02-24 11:54:43 +0000

Thank you for visiting the Ananatural Production. This website is temporarily under construction. Please return at another time. …

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-24 12:45:20 +0000

Hey MsMarmite! I’d imagine Julie Christie’s draining board was fairly minimal… although I can’t claim to have seen it. But visit the d-squared website to grasp what they do….. their pictures give a better idea than the blurb… and it looks minimal to me… but here’s a description of something…
“The brief asked for multiple functions in a space which could also be used as a single large volume: a home cinema, two offices and a bedroom. The scheme accommodates all of these demands by making walls and furniture that fold away. The colours of all elements, walls, floors, and furniture, are coordinated to ensure that despite its various reconfigurations the whole space remains visually coherent…. Daylight is exploited to the best advantage with reflective surfaces placed inside and out, to draw light deep into the interior. Detailed specification of materials and finishes are based on the principle of creating a healthy and sustainable environment.”

Comment by The Real Iain Sinclair on 2009-02-25 20:01:32 +0000

Bourgeois plonkers prepared to shell out that much dosh on the limited edition of my new book will also be likely to go one further by buying the edition of 3 which includes a custom-built coffee table in unsustainable tropical hardwoods emblazoned with the logo ‘Mediative cocconing inside an Audi is the only way to save…erm…see the rainforests’
For a limited time only, signed by the author in Stewart Home’s own blood!
$10000 each

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-26 17:54:54 +0000

hey @MrTrippy,
You are cute when you talk design!

Published At