Many thanks to Kate Gordon, who got in touch after last week’s post on the concrete jungle of the West Smethwick estate. She very kindly provided some fantastic photos showing just how the estate got its nickname – doesn’t take a great stretch of imagination does it!
The estate was officially titled Galton Village, or alternatively the West Smethwick Estate. These photos were taken in 1985-6 when consultation was being conducted for re-painting some of the blocks. It was hardly the Broadwater Farm mural – residents ended up with the off-white below, a mint green or a mushroom brown.
These pictures are pretty amazing really. They depict the tipping point of a political and social moment, just before estates like this began to be either razed to the ground or completely renovated. The heavily modernist architecture was supposed to be the future – the likes of Le Corbusier, Goldfinger or the Smithsons were held up not just as planners but as urban theorists. Perhaps that was the problem: it takes more than architecture to create a community. The pictures stand almost as a relic now – so much work has been done on estates like this now that you’ll be hard pressed to find similarly-grim conditions these days – at least aesthetically.