Built as a Post-War Modernist Utopian estate following Le Corbusier's idea of the Ville Radieuse or "city park"; Roehampton's Alton Estate may not be everyone's idea of the "Utopian dream", but if brutalist architecture is your thing then it is well worth pointing your camera to this direction.
Set in what was once a parkland between Richmond Park and Putney Heath in South West London, the Roehampton Alton Estate was built in the 1950s to house the bombed out masses. You can still see some of the green space that this sight was chosen for, but it has been supplemented with a mixture of concrete tower blocks and lower-level housing.
This type of post-war architecture is not everyone’s idea of beautiful, but I think it is really fascinating and says a lot about the society they were trying to create in the post-war period. Nowadays, only a few people would describe it as utopia and there are actually high levels of crime and social problems.
This doesn’t mean that it is all bad news though. I’ve found that it is one of the few places in London that people will still speak to strangers. Whether it’s the guy in the chip shop who always wants to know what is going on, or the street drinkers who might just shout something incoherent at you.
But it’s the architecture I really love and its interaction with the setting. I think the way the buildings rise straight out of the ground in stark contrast to the surrounding landscapes is really striking and quite beautiful in my eyes. I love taking pictures of buildings and landscapes and my trusty Diana has spent many a happy hour snapping the scenery.
The estate isn’t all 20th Century architecture; there are still some old buildings around, particularly on Alton Road which divides the East and West parts of the estate. These beautiful Victorian town houses are now derelict and have a certain shabby charm, but predictably the developers have recently moved in and no doubt they will soon be refurbished and repainted and sold to the highest bidder.
The estate also had its moments of fame. Most notably, it appeared in the first series of Little Britain as the home of Jason’s Nan – Little Britain
Anyway, I hope I was able to inspire you to visit this place and take a few photos of you own.