Documenting the district of London from the 1960s when socially-conscious architects built a modernist construct to address the housing shortage caused by the second world war, the book dives deep into archival design ephemera from newspaper clippings to postcards, alongside newly commissioned photography and interviews by Tara Darby.
Released via Ben’s publishing house Here Press, The Town of Tomorrow, 50 Years of Thamesmead is a publication to get stuck into whether you’re an avid observer of architecture, a fan of photography or just a Londoner looking to discover more about this metropolis many of us call home. In assembling and preserving Thamesmead’s history, the publication aims to “convey the story of this influential but often misunderstood town, from the dreams and excitement of its ambitious original vision to the complex realities of living there today,” say its publishers.
Between the Erith marshes and Woolwich, during the 1960s, the district of Thamesmead was built with a daring and hopeful architectural vision. It featured “concrete modern terraces, blocks of flats and elevated walkways built around a system of lakes and canals,” and in turn gained “attention from architects, sociologists and politicians throughout the world,” explains The Town of Tomorrow.
While this was first an attempt by London County Council, by the 1980s “as opinion turned against the modernist concrete architecture, the focus shifted to more conventional red-brick homes” – this juxtaposition is displayed in the book through archival photography, largely from the London Metropolitan Archives and Tara Darby’s photographic depictions taken in 2018.
In 1986, following the abolition of the Greater London Council, Thamesmead has been managed by various groups as it relies on private investment. This, coupled with the original buildings falling into disrepair during the 1990s, led to the Peabody Group taking over, an organisation which is currently “embarking on an ambitious regeneration plan” 50 years after its first.
This complex but fascinating social and design history of Thamesmead is told comprehensively in The Town of Thamesmead. Its pairing of well-researched imagery alongside a contemporary view of the area makes for a publication which thoughtfully tells the 50-year history of Thamesmead, with the future fully in mind too.
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