Roehampton's Alton estate

Social Life have been working with Wandsworth Council's arts team, different people involved in the Roehampton Community, and arts practitioners to explore whether a new "Creative Community Hub" - an arts centre with a strong focus on outdoor participatory arts, and close ties to the local community - could be potentially viable as part of the planned regeneration of parts of the Alton estate in Roehampton.

The Alton estate is one of the largest public housing estates in the UK, and is now home to over 13,000 people. It was built between 1958 and 1959. It is one of the London County Council’s most ambitious, and first, post war developments. It is a modernist landmark.

The “Alton East” area was influenced by Scandinavian mass housing of the time; “Alton West”, completed a year later, was directly inspired by Le Corbusier’s “Unite d’Habitation” design principles for residential housing. It includes eleven story slab blocks and twelve story point blocks, built in light coloured concrete. The slab blocks and bungalows are listed, and the whole estate is a conservation area.

The regeneration plans aim to improve the shopping centre in the heart of Alton West and create new community buildings and a health centre. It involves some demolition of housing.

The local community in Roehampton is diverse. Residents are more likely to be unemployed and significantly more likely to rent from the council than the Wandsworth average. Social Life’s data mapping reveals what residents are likely to feel about the places they live. Using this approach, areas similar to the Alton estate emerge as likely to be low in neighbourliness, wellbeing and belonging.

The Alton estate has a unique architectural heritage. It is built on a slope and the blocks sit among large grassy areas, surrounded by, trees. People's care for their homes is visible, and residents told us of their pride in the area's distinctive character and how they value its strong visual identity.

Arts organisations told us how local people had been enthusiastic about their work. Spare Tyre theatre company collected stories from local people in their "Wandsworth Whispers" project. There will be an outdoor dance and film screenings in May in as part of this year's Wandsworth Arts Festival.

The Alton estate is a surprising part of south west London, sitting on the edge of affluent suburbia but cut off from surrounding areas by roads and open spaces. We've enjoyed this short project. We hope that the new create hub will be able to support the local community, and celebrate the massive structure of the original design, bridging the aspirations of the original designers and planners, and the realities of London life half a century later.

Posted by Nicola Bacon