The price of “sink estate” demolishment

cena na razrushenietoThis article is part of our weekly series “Plattenbau stories”, introducing the topic of plattenbau districts in Europe and the world. ONE ARCHITECTURE WEEK 2016 will be held in Trakiya, a plattenbau districts in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, from September 30th until October 9th. The main focus of the festival is the topic of“citizen participation in the creation of the urban environment”.

An article in The Conversation, for the full version click here.

We continiue the previous topic of our weekly articles – prime-minister David Cameron’s urge to invest  £140m in demolishing Britain’s so called “sink estates” and to build new houses in their place.

According to Cameron it’s time we stopped the unsuccessful attempts at renovating these estates and take more radical measures. What do historical facts tell us about this matter? Years ago, in 1997, Tony Blaire had a similar to Cameron approach to the matter. He tried to gentrify similar council estates – by making them more popular among the middle and high class british citizens. This attempt to artificially create a homogenous living space backfired. Most of the tennants of the council houses were driven away from the place they made a home of, saying that they no longer felt like they belong there.

The problem in this case is more in the socio-economical field, not in the architectural aspects. By destroying the aesthetically unappealing buildings and replacing them we solve just one of many manifastations of this matter. But the root cause remains untreated.

Characterising a place with the label “sink estates” not only gives a bad name, but can lead to social conflict. There have even been case of residents sending complaints to local newspapers about the negative representation of their home. A social stigma of this scale can only serve political causes, by excusing radical and “flashy” descisions.

Loreta Lees, an urban planner and the author of the above-mentioned article, suggests cheaper and more effective measures. She has calculated, that the renovation of such estates will cost £10,000 per building, not the £60k that are planned to be spent on demolishing it and will help us evade the payment of the real price – destroying people’s lives.