August 03, 2004

An exclusive development

I saw the most grotesque gated "community" today, a few hundred yards north of King's Cross. What was most grotesque was the gate itself - a huge thing, wooden, thick, almost like a drawn-up drawbridge. It formed an enormous barrier at the end of the street, made to seem even more enormous by the size of the development, and even more offensive by the otherwise open design, a courtyard surrounded by several storeys of flats, each boasting large windows and a balcony with chairs and a table. The message could not have been less subtle. You can look, but you can't touch. And they can look at you.

So solid, so forbidding was the gate, so large the buildings behind it compared to the houses on the street, that the gate itself seemed to tower over them. These were council houses, a terrace, presumably occupied by the people that the gate was designed to repel - which given the respective sizes of the buildings gave the impresssion of an elephant protecting itself from a mouse. The terrace ran into one of the other buildings at the end of the street - or what the gate had decreed was the end. The gated community seemed to have landed halfway along a street and crushed the unlucky half beneath it, permanently blocking the street to the survivors.

But it also reminded me of the way that houses in a medieval city would often be huddled together against the walls of a castle. They did this to be as close to shelter as possible, for protection. Now the purpose of the drawbridge is not to protect the peasants, but to exclude them.


Post a Comment

<< Home