As I walked back from Brixton Tube to the house I grew up in, I crossed the newly-furbished Windrush Square. It was a balmy late-summer evening (the weather always improves when schools start). The tables outside the Ritzy cinema were convivially full. At the opposite end, an elderly man sat on one bench, a yoof on another, and two women, engaged in a conversation (the benches are modern takes on old-fashioned conversation furniture) on a couple of others. The whole place was friendly and as warm as the weather. This is the architecture of trust. I don’t know what the crime stats are around there. When I was small, they were high. Recently I’ve never experienced anything but – to coin a contemporary oxymoron – chilled warmth in Brixton.
The contrast of Windrush Square with another recent project is staggering. The Evelyn Grace Academy is another hideous school building. It’s grey. WHY build a school in GREY??? Notice in this picture, on some architecture site, that the sky is BLUE and the sun is SHINING therefore the school building looks sort of all right. I’ve seen it on traditional British days. There are no curves. That’s the worst thing about modern architecture – everything is too straight. The running track’s an ingenious use of space, granted, but it also adds to the feeling of enclosure. The whole place is behind fencing and railings and is very much a compound. It’s the architecture of distrust.
How can we expect children to behave in that? Oh, for a return to the Board Schools’ warmth and light. And no railings.