Words: Dominic Knight | Illustration: Tabitha Knight
‘Tear it down to build it up’ is not the anti capitalist slogan of the arab spring, or any other revolution, not even of the coffee shop guerrillas sat behind iThings hurling abuse at people who aren’t as committed to the cause as they are. No. It is the invisible slogan of the building industry, it’s the governments plan to the housing crisis on paper, but in reality it is the destruction of our heritage, our image and our living quarters.
More and more flatpack housing estates are popping up every five seconds. Seemingly overnight a beautiful old building disappears and within a matter of days a hulking post apocalyptic skeleton is erected, partially blocking out the sun, then a few more days later it’s suddenly ready to live in. Comfort, style and security all rolled into one identical set of rooms from top to bottom. You would be forgiven if you drunkenly broke into any of your neighbours houses and started beating off in front of the TV because aside from the picture frames of their family on the wall and the different coloured sofa cushions, there is no way to tell these places apart.
If you watch these buildings being assembled it’s like ants playing with a small child’s dollhouse – you can see how rigid and un-reretfully structured they are from the inside with the sink and washing machine placed in the exact same place in every joining ground floor flat and the bedrooms made to look like an upper class travel lodge.
This is nothing drastically new, you can look at the majority of the working class towns of the north and see the uniformity of almost every single street in Leeds or Sheffield that hasn’t had the money pumped into it to be given a new facade, but the difference is, that unlike these horrific monstrosities being dropped all around us like decaying Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen relics, the old tiny red bricked houses of the north were and are an image of Britain, hand built by skilled labourers to try and solve a housing problem that will always be there.
The building I am specifically talking about was an old children’s hospital, tall and victorian looking, but in the style of the Addams family house, covered in vines and weird spires poking out from strange angles. A building I would kill to own, and one that I loved walking past. I understand there are always issues with structure in old buildings and there is now the constant problem of environmentally friendly buildings, but if it’s still standing, there isn’t anything that wrong with it. Fix it. Stop throwing shit away that doesn’t look pretty in the conventional sense. Fruit has dents, tables get scrapes in them, buildings age, but they are all still useable. Stop being such a wasteful society and grow the fuck up. You do not get a new toy every time you throw it in the mud.
If my children grow up to see a world of replicon buildings and not knowing what true architectural beauty is, i’m going to go on whatever rampage my frail dying body will let me.