Richard Cottrell, Rufus Willis and Simon Tucker
The Rise and Fall of the Elephant, Southwark Local Archive
The Old Elephant
In 1959 the iconic bronze Elephant and Castle was removed from the rooftop of the eponymous pub to make way for the LCC’s masterplan, only later to be reinstated and re-mythologised astride the infamous new shopping centre. Half a century on, and after years consigned to a perpetual state of planning purgatory, the 26 hectare site is preparing for another wholesale transformation that leaves the long suffering neighbourhood to wonder where the Old Elephant might end up next.
Unit 12 has been engaging with the epicentre of the regeneration, the much maligned sink estate of the Heygate. Working from the outside in we have been considering the developer’s red line as a potential seam, rather than a boundary – a territory for exchange where future plans can be interwoven with the existing built and social fabric.
Incremental and ephemeral speculations and strategies that respond to local communities are proposed to inhabit the ‘borrowed time’ that the estate will be subject to during the anticipated two decades of planning, demolition and construction. Inspired by this condition of urban ‘inbetweeness’ the unit has collaborated to produce a re-working of the masterplan that critically addresses issues of conservation and continuity, preservation and permanence. Our approach questions the accepted methodology of situationless formal regeneration and places inherent value on the particular, the peculiar and the specific.