The Lydstep Flats
Image from the Lysetp Scrapbook I made in 2020. The Lydstep Scrapbook intends to share the intimacy of living in the Lydstep flats, through collecting and forming multimedia materials such as archival, portraits, interviews, images of interiors, and the documentation of household items from around the home. This will form a multimedia archive that will reflect on the modern social and political values of living in high-rise flats, in the UK in 2020, as well as a record of the individuals that call the Lydstep Flats home. Britain in the 1960s was in the grip of a high-rise boom. Living in high-rise accommodation was synonymous with fresh air, light, and modern appliances. By 1975 a total of 440,000 high-rises flats were recorded to have been built in the UK. Public housing was shifting to new raw concrete brutalism, favored by politicians of all stripes, much due to the media and cheaper methods of materials used in the architectural profession. Originally made for moving people out of the inner-city slums to towns, urbanism proposed keeping people in the city and building at heights of twenty stories or more. The Lydstep Fats sit on the edge of the Lydstep estate situated in Gabalfa, the smallest borough in Cardiff. The tower blocks built in 1959, consist of three tower blocks each identical to the other with eleven floors. Considered as luxury flats when they were first built, the flats are now a mix of privately owned property and affordable council houses. The community of the flats has changed dramatically in reflection to when they were first built, you were considered fairly “well off” to rent a property for £3.10p a week in 1959. When Margaret Thatcher's government came to power, in 1979 the direction of housing changed. Instead of building social housing, councils were told to sell their homes. Over the course of sixty years, the perception from the media of high-rise living has shifted due to historical incidents such as the Grenfell tower fire, the Ronan Point gas explosion, and even 9/11. Increasingly, the high-rise became associated with crime and a lack of community, from streets in the sky to slums in the sky. Tower blocks gained an image problem that never completely went away. The Lydstep original 1960's residents have been and gone, though a few still remain. Today the residents reflect a community from all different walks of life but are still living in the same 1960’svalues of living high. It is paramount to my project to make relationships with the individuals and community of the Lydstep estate. Creating these connections will be how I will sustain continuous access and also delve deeper into their lives. The issues I face are the social perimeters of visiting households in this moment of a global pandemic. I make it explicitly clear with residents that I will respect the boundaries of the participants, wearing a face mask at all times and sanitizing my hands profusely well as following government guidelines. If I am apprehended and told that I can not visit the flats I will make outside portraits and interviews around the area of the Lydstep Estate. The Lydstep scrapbook will also act as an interactive online platform and will offer other ways for the community to contribute such as the ability to remotely share writing in the form of stories of living in the area; archival images will both be featured in the scrapbook. Through engagement with the community, I will address each household my intentions of the project, through multiple methods of contact. Posting 235 residents letters explaining who I am and how they can help to be part of the project. Contacting residents via social media and Facebook Groups. I will be putting up posters around the corridors of the flats inviting residents to have their portraits taken. By knocking door to door and following up my request for engagement with the community.
Link to the Lydstep scrapbook here