A somewhat oblique text that emerged from the A.I.R residency I undertook in 2009.
I was already quite familiar with the Archway area of London. When I was a teenager in the 80s I had watched the construction of a small tower block which was designed in the new post modern style or at least with some of the trappings; Lego block colours, ocean liner details. By the time I was doing the residency this building was closed up and due for demolition. Anna Hart managed to gain access. Inside we were presented with a tableau of the social/architectural politics of the recent past. Anna described how the building was an example of an architectural project that had never manged to exceed its plan- its rigid pattern resisting any enduring connection with it’s inhabitants- they could only briefly cling to the structure.
Originally constructed with a defined social purpose, a half-way-house of sorts, sheltered housing for addicts; owned by Haringey Council but physically located inside the Islington Council boundary. In this it typifies the architecture of this border zone, an urban fault line which ends at 'Suicide Bridge'. It had never been popular with local residents who were beginning to see house prices balloon. It was closed down and then for a while squatted. The photographs I took catch the detritus of this last stage, seemingly abruptly brought to the end with the erection of security grills. There were signs of happiness here also, children raised, the distant view of Arsenal’s stadium framed with paeans to manager Arsene Wenger and a team in their heyday. ‘In Arsene we trust’.
Archway Heights was demolished in 2010.
Years earlier at the same location the philosopher Francis Bacon fell ill while stuffing a chicken with snow, an ad-hoc experiment to preserve flesh from times ravages. He was taken to a friend’s house at the crest of the hill, but never recovered and died shortly afterwards.
Bacon is a fascinating mercurial figure, veering between high honour and disgrace; a polymath buzzing to explain the smallest details of the world- look at how the edges of a shadow tremble- what does that mean. He surrounded himself with beautiful men, richly dressed, clothes covered with buttons, even in hard times. He was fascinated with ideas of preservation, how could decay be halted? He suggested an opium diet for young men as a way of arresting aging.
In his utopian speculation ‘New Atlantis he describes communities of scientist priests living together in ‘Soloman’s House’ as they organise all the worlds knowledge. In part I imagined Archway Heights as one such tower, decayed, addicted still in love.