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Urban Narratives: re-writing Brixton's estates

Part 2 Project 2011
Grant Freeman
University of Brighton, UK
Urban Narratives: re-writing Brixton's estates
The thesis focuses on Stockwell Park and Angell Town estates in Lambeth. It creates a
new approach to tackling social challenges in the estates by inserting new spatial,
architectural and social narratives that change the perception of estates and their
Urban Myth
The estates have been driven apart by years of gang rivalry and are commonly known
as sites of deprivation and fear, stigmatised in the media as notorious breeding
grounds for anti-social behaviour. The project started with a tour of the estate by a
resident social activist, Julie – druggie hot-spots, a street where a postman was
stabbed in the eye, and the garages where two girls were gang-raped - were her
landmark spaces. The memory of these events has affected the perception of the
spaces significantly.
Social Narratives
Julie's narrative of the estate could not be transformed through social activism alone.
The estate has a single community centre in a disused garage. It is poorly funded,
poorly maintained and poorly built. The project sets out to transform the estate by
inserting new narratives that change the way spaces are perceived, experienced and
used, using spatial, social, structural, and material interventions.
A communications device was installed across the estates, through which locals left
messages for one another and broadcast their desires. These sound-based
interventions altered the perception of space, personalising the corridors, walkways
and sites of crime with a new form of social engagement.
Spatial Narratives
The project weaves eight interventions into the estate fabric. Existing spatial and
architectural typologies – the corridor, the garage, the courtyard - and the activities and
programs of the community centre are exploded, re-modeled, and dispersed across
both estates to create a network of community activity spaces - a courtyard becomes a
care centre and a graffiti pit a chapel.
Urban Narratives
The interventions are woven together by a consistent public realm strategy creating a
continuous spatial sequence – a new urban narrative. Continuing the transformation of
existing architectural elements, the asphalt, concrete and brick courtyard surfaces are
adapted to make a coherent network of routes linking the interventions

Grant Freeman


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