THREE RANGERS’ G
JEROME: Well, before you do that, Officer Dixon, why don’t you go have yourself a look at that first billboard over
there, and then we can have ourself a talk about the motherfucking environment. How about that?0
1.Great London in Small Hill
Take a walk up North from Holland Park Underground Station, intentionally ignoring one of the richest parks in London— that comes with the Design Museum, the Tokyo Garden to commemorate East-West friendship, an ecology center, Disney-land-liked terrace in Holland Park Mews, an open air theater. Note that right behind the theater is the Grade I listed Holland House. Known as Cope Castle, the great Holland House was owned by several Alpha-rich1 families until it was destroyed by German firebombing during the Blitz in 1940. Consequently, the ruin of the Holland House along with large part of today’s Holland Park was sold to the LCC at 1952 and passed on to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 1986. The private ownership of Holland House and its large woodland thereto became public property after the German bombing raids. Out from the exit, the tube entrance looked miniature compared to its surroundings— four lane grand avenue, street trees taller than 20 meters in height, four story double fronted houses which are more than 14 meters in width each. The Nash style houses painted white remind us the similarity from here at W11 to W1’s Regents Park and its residential area adjacent to the Outer Circle. Up to Portland Road, few suspicious nicely decorated cafes greet us with half-decent filter coffees.
They usually do not differentiate between a flat white and a cappuccino. Turn to the parallel Clarendon Road, we see the same Georgian Houses but the size of each house is literally doubled. Furthering the visual hierarchy of wealth in relation to houses, on this road the cars don’t park on the road anymore, they sit in each of the houses’ front yard. The West-East cross road composed of Hippodrome Place, Clarendon Cross to Lansdowne Rise provides an interesting section from the Avondale Park to Lansdowne Crescent. As the Avondale Park and the adjacent Assisi R.C Church mark the outer realm of the neighborhood where council housing starts to appear, the size of private green space sandwiched between residential blocks and the plot size itself doubles each time you cross a road.
“ In the U.K. housing is now, first and foremost, a financial asset, a safety deposit box for the super-rich and a cash
Walking northward on the third parallel street, we are at Walmer Road—the thin outer line of the concentric planning division toward the two crescents in the center of Notting Hill. Large windows and front yards are no longer a trait here. Replacing them, continuous blocks of council housing with small rectangular windows appear. The street is clean and gives a stoic feeling with well-cared old European cars parked here and there. At the turn where Bomore Road meets Walmer Road a tower appears—breaking the silence, or it used to appear—until the morning of June 14th 2017. Looking at bomb damage maps3 of the area produced by LCC, the damaged area before post-war redevelopment schemes is literally the blue print of why and how there are council estates or brutalist machine-for-living towers as social housing in such a privileged neighborhood. These council housings appear out of nowhere—as the bombs appeared in the air with sirens— creating physical, mental, visual, financial and political displacement at areas across the entire city.
2.Small Waynflete meets the Bottle Kiln
Take a turn at Bomore Road, the Kensington Leisure Center marks here with its swimming facility the red zone— damage beyond repair area of the Notting Hill bomb map. The enclaves created from air raids often become sites of public amenity and public housing however the chains of cause and effect does not end here but rather continue into smaller and smaller unrecognizable ripples. Walking up Bomore Road, passing the leisure center, soon we arrive at Grenfell Road where the Grenfell Tower stands. Lets suspend our concern and take a 90 second detour to the Waynflete Square right next to the Latimer Road Station. The seemingly common, slightly over-designed garden provides really interesting vantage point from the ground. Surrounding the Waynflete Square is the low rise Waynflete estate. Take a panorama look while standing at the center of the square, then five identical towers will appear in view framed in the low rise Waynflete estate. These towers are the Frinstead House, Markland House, Dixon House, Whitstable House and the Grenfell Tower— except the Grenfell Tower only appears as a blackened, ruined, terribly sad looking object sliced in half and attached with red temporary lift on the outside. The image we
just witnessed—obvious in the perspective— is the isolation of enclaved poverty in the form of towers. These towers situated in any neighborhood are the visual targets for gentrification carried out by local councils with developers.
“the UK housing market doesn’t function like a pure market: it is linked to global capital flows, not local
Slowly we walk back to Walmer Road, discovering an oddly shaped remain of a bottle kiln sitting in between Hippodrome Mews and Walmer Road. A blue plate on the kiln reads, “ this kiln is a reminder of the 19th Century when potteries and brickfields were established here amid some of the poorest housing condition in London…the name of the mews behind is the only surviving evidence of the Hippodrome racecourse…” Between 1837 and 1842, entrepreneur John Whyte leased 140 acres of land from James Ladbroke to open the Kensington Hippodrome racecourse which enclosed the slopes of Notting Hill and part of Westbourne Grove. However first the racetrack bordered on the “Potteries and Piggeries” of Pottery Lane—a slum known as the Cut-throat-lane, so it was easily assessed by some of the poorest inhabitants of the neighborhood—which led to complaints from the wealthier customers. Secondly, another problem was the heavy clay characteristic of the soil at the area—good for brick making at the Pottery Lane but terrible for water drainage which made riding dangerous. As a result, the racecourse was closed following Whyte’s deteriorated financial position in 1842. The redevelopment of Ladbroke’s real estate started very shortly after by the architect Thomas Allason. The layout of large private communal gardens enclosed by terraces and crescents of houses—clearly inspired by John Nash, was set at the time, and continue to contribute to the look and feel of Notting Hill until today. The semi-concentric curving roads and large private green spaces give a hint of the history of slum and horse race— a history of gentrification5 : the process of
renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle class taste.
In the 1970s, a Sloanie wearing a Hermès or Liberty silk head scarf neatly tied just below the chin, covering part of the face is also called a Sloane Ranger6. Furthering the jest, they also come with a pair of Hunter Wellington boots popularized by Princess Diana. Before the Hunter boots became Sloane Ranger ’s native dress, it was to the rural uniform what a safety pin is to the punk. Living between the queer gap of young upper middle class and upper class, these rangers pursues a distinctively fashionable life style. Straying around the area, Sloane Rangers’ funky yet fancy outfits signify that the social status of occupants in the area has developed from lower middle class to upper middle class. Immigrants and artists who contributed to the diversity and liveliness of Notting Hill, for instance, the carnival, the Portobello Road market, and the colorful houses on the East side, were slowly forced out after generations of gentrification. The gentrified Notting Hill Carnival still happens every year in August, however the former purpose of the carnival— to reduce the racial tension between West India immigrants and white nationalists for the local residents— is gone. In substitution, with the cost for policing the event looking up to more than 6 million pound in exchange of about 93 million pound local economical value7, it became a financial asset for the locals. In August 29, 1958, Maj-britt Morrison, a white Swedish woman, had been arguing with her Jamaican husband Raymond Morrison at the Latimer Road tube station. The young Maj-britt was assaulted by a gang of white youths the next day. The same evening, the 1958 Notting Hill race riots started with hundreds of white Teddy Boys attacking the houses of West Indian residents on Bramley Road— right next to the present day Waynflete Square.
“We are often asked, ‘Who owns Britain?’ and people are astonished and shocked when we say we don’t know.”8
The Morrison couple in picture9 dressed tastefully raw yet neatly fashionable— as if someone you would spot on today’s Brick Lane, or the Spitalfields Market in East London before it was replaced by a Norman Forster designed corporate plaza in 2002.10 Living in the then eclectic Notting Hill, Raymond was a painter and Maj-britt a writer, just like many other artists who resided in the area in the 50s, or other immigrants and arty types who live in different areas of London like Peckham today. Bourgeoisie is not only a social class but also meaning those who live in the borough—the city dwellers. But who are the city dwellers? Why are people moving out? What is happening all around London’s estates? And who are the cities for? The history of Notting Hill might give us some rock solid cases on gentrification but in fact it is just the tip of an iceberg. Hidden behind the surface, the borough of Kensington and Chelsea has seen 900 planning applications for basements in the past few years11. From underground wine cellars, Ferrari ferris wheels, electric neon-light dance floor to 25m swimming pool, the underground private development is another Disneyland— only that it is real.
4.Ground Control to David Bowie
In 2003, photographer Nick Knight shot a series called Kate Moss as Bowie12 for British Vogue’s issue for May. Bowie’s androgynous wardrobe fitted Kate right in. In 1969, David Bowie released Space Oddity, in which he sings:
“…This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do
Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go…”13
In the same year, he met Angela Barnett. They married the following year.14 Listening to Bowie in London covered with snow, I am floating in a most peculiar way. The Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do. He was born in 1947 in Brixton— another hot spot for gentrification. In 1974, he left London to reside in the U.S. and he never moved back to the U.K. again. Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles. I’m feeling very still. And I think my spaceship knows which way to go…
5.One of Five—Victimless Crime
In 1974, the first McDonald’s in the U.K. was opened by the then Mayor of Greenwich.15 In 1974, The price of a Big Mac cost 45p, large French fries 12p, hot apple pie 15p and a cold drink was at 8p. Today you will have to pay £2.79 for a Big Mac. Price inflation isn’t it? If McDonald’s meal price today suffered the same rate of inflation as house price inflation, you will need to pay £19.6 for just a Big Mac instead of £2.79. 16 A victimless crime is an illegal act that directly involves only the perpetrator, or occurs between consenting adults; because it is consensual in nature, there is no true victim.17 In the wake of what happened on June 14th last year at the Grenfell Tower, we can see the terrible fire not only destroyed but also revealed the unresolved, unknown darkness before, during and after the fire. Looking at it closely, the fire at Grenfell Tower is a display of how the role of an architect has shifted in terms of how a building is carried out from planning, design, contractor, developer, council, regulations, local community,
refurbishment to fireman and escaping residents. The role architect has performed in the brutalist council tower, including the refurbishment project on Grenfell’s facade carried out by Studio E Architects, is so very trivial that it failed to describe or even to grasp the picture of the event. The refurbishment done on the skin of Grenfell is only another evidence on how architect, developer, council and general public have over-invested in merely the visual aspect of built environment—putting up a new shiny facade to cover-up the undesirable old grey look of a poor tower in a Sloanie-ish neighborhood— when the £8.7 million refurbishment budget could have been used on improving the flats themselves or simply not downgrade the less-flammable cladding panels just to save £293,000. The ambiguity within the blackhole of Grenfell is not only victimless, but without the existence of 71 dead victims. The necessity of a complex legal system to provide guidelines for any civil activity, whether it involves financial value or not, also comes at the expense of bureaucratic procedure. The ambiguity within a bureaucratic procedure means the lack of direct and open understanding of firstly what allowed the Grenfell fire to have happened, secondly the lack of efficiency and common sense for what has to happen following the fire. At seven months on from the deadly fire, only 54 of 208 households evacuated from the block have moved into permanent accommodation, and 98 households remained in emergency accommodation.
“Again, this viewpoint frames the housing crisis as being caused by a lack of supply alone, which it is not.”18
Following the sign19 hung on a lamp post under the A40 trunk road near Grenfell that says, “Grenfell Assistance Center”, I did not find the assistance center but instead a tower wrapped in newly done facade made in chameleon-liked brownish bricks at Freston Road. The tower is called Frinstead House20— one of the five identical towers in view when you stand in the middle of Waynflete Square. Frinstead House, being part of the Silchester Estate, had undergone a recent remake by Haworth Tompkins Architects.21 On the Google Street View at Freston Road22 you can still see the estate with scaffolding attached. In the 70s, Freston Road was the home of 120 squatters who formed the independent Peoples’ Republic of Frestonia, fighting back against threat with demolition, eviction and dispersal.23 The squatters all changed their surnames to Bramley so that they could be rehoused as one family. The new Silchester Estate (not including the Frinstead House which is separately managed by a TMO) provides 45
percent of the flats at social rent and 39 percent in shared ownership. In order to achieve this, the council sold a site in the south of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to a developer for financing. The blurring effect created by the brick works at the facade surrounding the estate was praised for its aesthetic and for basically invisibility-cloaking the Frinstead house from street view unless you look up deliberately.
6. To put the smoke out
The smoke from the fire during the Blitz, the smoke from the fire at Grenfell, and “the smoke” created by
Silchester’s new facade swirl in time— turning toward us, away from us and left us with questions that no one can answer.
INT. CAR DRIVING BILLBOARD ROAD - DAWN 134
As the car rolls along the road, they’re both quiet, nervous.
They drive in silence a while.
MILDRED: Hey Dixon?
MILDRED: I need to tell you something.(pause) It was me who burned down the police station.
DIXON: Well, who the Hell else would it have been?24
7. 3 Billboards at Waterloo Bridge
“Three billboards calling for justice over the Grenfell Tower tragedy appeared outside parliament yesterday—the day after hundreds of people marched to mark the eight-month anniversary of the inferno. The lorries displaying the signs were also driven past St Paul’s Cathedral. The signs read: ‘71dead’, ‘And still no arrests?’, ‘How come?’…”, read the Metro newspaper distributed at tube entrance on Friday, February 16, 2018. 25 “It started actually with the Grenfell Tower fire investigation then it leap-frogged to the Miami gun control situation, it was outside the UN… that’s the kind of power that an image can have and that’s what we’re making, we’re making powerful images.”, said the best actress winner Frances McDormand at the Oscars. 26
“A point about seventies violence was that a lot of it had that participative leisure feel to it…one of the most interesting seventies movies was something called Westworld, which was holiday camp violence, patterned after the style of a Participative Theme Park.”27 The new Westworld released in October, 2016 reminded us again the links between seventies fashion trends and now. Sloanie or what not, it is a briefing for a descent into hell.
0. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, p.5 ,Screenplay, Martin McDonagh
1. Taub Stephen, The 2017 Rich List of the World’s Top-Earning Hedge Fund Managers, May16, 2017, Institutional
Investor’s Alpha, http://www.institutionalinvestorsalpha.com/Article/3716778/The-2017-Rich-List-of-the-Worlds-
2. Minton Anna, Big Capital, p.xiv, Penguin, 2017
3. Ward Laurence, Bomb Damage Maps, p.88-89,Thames & Hudson, 2015
4. Minton Anna, Big Capital, p.xiv, Penguin, 2017
5. Gentrification: the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class
taste; the process of making a person or activity more refined or polite. Oxford Dictionary, 2003, Oxford University
6. York Peter, Style War, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1980
7. Akhtar Pav, London cashes in on the carnival, 21 Aug, 2003, The Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/
8. Minton Anna, Ground Control, p.21, Penguin, 2009
9. picture of the Morrison couple
10. Minton Anna, Ground Control, p.23, Penguin, 2009
11. Johnson Rachel, London’s gone basement mad: how luxury bunkers are causing a rift in the capital’s most
affluent areas, 9 December, 2015, the EveningStandard, https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/
12. Allwood Emma, Nick Knight remembers David Bowie, 22 March, 2016, Dazed, http://www.dazeddigital.com/
13. David Bowie, Space Oddity, 1969
14. photo of David Bowie and Angie Bowie, 1970
15. Victor Anucyia, A Big Mac for under 50p, 18 May, 2015, Dailymail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/
16. Calculated using a research published by Tristan Carlyon in 2013 : food and house price
17. Black's Law Dictionary. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company. 2004.
18. Minton Anna, Ground Control, p.68, Penguin, 2009
19. Grenfell Assistance Centre sign under A40
20. Frinstead house(photo)
21. Wilson Rob, Building study: Haworth Tompkins remakes the street, 2 August, 2017, The Architects’ Journal,
22. Frinstead house Google Streetview
23. Harris John, Freedom for Frestonia, 30 Oct, 2017, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/
24.Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, p.82, Screenplay, Martin McDonagh
25. Metro newspaper on Friday, February 16, 2018
26. Baillie Katie, Best actress winner Frances McDormand, 5 March, 2018, Metro, http://metro.co.uk/2018/03/05/
27. York Peter, Style War, p.10, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1980
1. Chaffin Joshua, Recovery from Grenfell Tower, Financial Times,2018 https://www.ft.com/content/
2. Agerholm Harriet, Trauma of Grenfell, Independent, 2018 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/homenews/
3. Tubb Gerard, Plastic industry influenced fire safty, skynews, 2018https://news.sky.com/story/plastics-industryin
uenced- re-safety-tests-in-wake-of-grenfell-tower- re-11227957
4. Booth Robert, Key questions about Grenfell ,the Gaurdian, 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/
5. Clark Natasha, THEY WERE WARNED, the Sun, 2017 https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3900620/fire-brigadewrote-
6. Neate Rupert, Ghost Towers: Half of new-build luxury London flats fail to sell,the Gaurdian,https://
7. Dowling Tim, Deep concerns: the trouble with basement conversions, the Guardian, https://
8. Asthana Anushka, May to set timetable to reveal foreign owners of UK property, the Guardian, https://
9. Zhou Naaman, Sydney’s last stand: the residents holding out against gentrification, the Guardian, https://
10. Lin Neill, Grenfell Tower: Architect's Role, academic paper at Architecture Association, Feb 2018
Notting Hill Festival Image Notes
End Note, or Has Fashion Changed?
In order to do what we do, one has to believe that positive thinking is a mental structure that is innate rather than acquired by learning. Positive psychology, like clothes, is engineered into our nature to keep one warm and healthy. On the basis of understanding all the good qualities a positive mental structure can possibly give, one still has to note that any good structure is good because it is stable. And stability in one’s mental structure is something to be wary about because it can also mean ignorance, coldness, dis-engagement, or detachment from certain realities. In other words, an innate naivety in one’s nature. Going back to fashion and clothes, I am wondering if fashion has changed at all? I hope fashion has changed. It surely did, just take a look at all the Fall/Winter collections already out for 2018. The below was part of a film script written by John Waters in July 22, 1992, titled Serial Mom. The black satire portrayed a serial killer where she seemed to have no control over her act of killing.
Down the hall, inside a bank of old fashioned wooden phone booths is JUROR #8, excitedly talking on pay
JUROR #8:(Proudly)We did it! We set her free! I knew she was innocent right from the beginning!…
Without warning, MOM slams her way into phone booth, hangs up the call and grabs receiver out of JUROR #8's hand.
MOM: (Snarling scarily) You can't wear white shoes after Labor Day!
JUROR #8: (Stammering in open-mouthed terror)No...please...that's not true anymore.
MOM:(In homicidal fury) Oh yes it is! Didn't your mother ever tell you?!
MOM suddenly bludgeons JUROR #8 over the head with the telephone receiver.
MOM:Well, now you know!
JUROR #8, stunned by the blow, struggles to stay conscious.
JUROR #8: (Staggering in pain)But...fashion has changed...
MOM: (Enraged)No it hasn’t!