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Listing, 'significance' and practised persuasion at Spa Green housing estate, London

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This paper deals with the everyday, embodied performance of special architectural interest as enacted by residents of Spa Green—a modernist housing estate in north London designed by Lubetkin and Skinner of the Tecton practice, drawing on the innovative engineering of Ove Arup. Spa Green was designated as being of 'special interest'—and listed at grade II* in 1998—on the advice of English Heritage. Using a composite of data gathered by way of interview, video and photographic methods, the paper explores the ways in which this nomination as 'special' has reshaped the ordinary (everyday) lives of Spa Green residents. Since listing, changes have come both in who lives in Spa Green and how they do so. For example, some long-established residents have transformed how they live in and talk about the estate since its change in status. Similarly, the special status of the estate has attracted new residents who are self-conscious in their approach to—and consumption of—a modernist residence. For both groups, listing and the nomination of significance has transformed their ordinary, domestic lives; altering what kinds of knowledges they have about their homes and how they perform those knowledges. The paper looks specifically at these transformations in—and through—the seemingly modest features of the kitchen fittings, window dressing and bathroom/toilet configurations. Drawing on the art historian Keith Moxey's notion of 'persuasion', the paper argues that residents are moved to perform the special interest status of their homes, so engaging in a form of embodied persuasion.

Keywords: Spa Green; architecture; conservation; housing; modernism; persuasion

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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