Archive for 06/01/2015

Municipal Dreams

John Scurr House still looks quite special as you glimpse it from the DLR at Limehouse but it has an even more extraordinary history, both in its politics and its architecture.  It started life as a design showpiece – a daring example of municipal modernism and an exemplar of high quality tenement living for council tenants.  It came near to ending it as a slum but for its recent rescue and striking refurbishment.  This blog tells that story, one involving many of the leading names in social housing and addressing many of its key issues.

John Scurr House, 2014 John Scurr House, 2014

The scheme was officially opened in July 1937 but the journey to that proud day for the Borough of Stepney was a complex one.  That the densely populated industrial borough needed new housing was not in doubt but what was desirable and what was practicable were fiercely controversial.

An aerial view of Shadwell and Stepney from the south-east in 1946.  John Scurr House can be seen in the bottom right-hand corner. EAW000637 Britain from Above © English Heritage An aerial view…

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Portraits of Wildflowers

Mexican Hat Flower Head 1634

The wildflower called Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera, reaches its flowering peak with the formation of colonies in the late spring, but it’s common to see at least a few of these plants blooming here and there for the rest of the year. When I was at the Arbor Walk Pond on December 26, 2014, I noticed exactly one Mexican hat plant with several flower heads on it, but by then I’d run out of daylight and decided I’d go back soon if I could. The weather over the next couple of days was yucky, but on the morning of the 29th we had sunlight so I returned and took plenty of pictures, including the one shown here. The ray flowers on this Mexican hat, though a bit ragged around the edges, brought welcome bits of brightness to a landscape that has become mostly dun now that winter has arrived.

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‘The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way… As a man is, so he sees.’

William Blake


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