Buildings are man-made structures, and they are all over the planet; they are a clear indication of our presence here. They provide shelter to people, to keep us warm and dry.
But housing is a serious problem in England, and I’m sure in all parts of the world. It is enormously expensive and a lot of people cannot afford to buy one, and rents are sky high. That certainly happens in London. Most young people in the UK cannot any longer afford to buy even a small house on their earnings, unless they have wealthy parents to help. A number of them are also burdened with debt when they leave university, because of the loans they had had to take out to be able to study.
At the other end of the wealth spectrum things are even worse. The numbers of social housing flats, subsidised housing association dwellings and cheap rentals are at an all time low, and the government is not helping to build as many new ones as are needed. Landlords, whether private or public, do not maintain properties properly and some of the places where people are forced to live are unfit for human habitation, or full of dangerous problems.
This was clearly revealed when earlier this year a terrifying fire engulfed Grenfell Tower in London. At least 80 people died and those that survived had no flats to go back to. The reason for the fire were the lack of proper maintenance and updating of fire protection, and the fact that the building had been clad with flammable aluminium cladding, mostly for the purpose of ‘beautifying’ it, while the much more necessary sprinklers and other fire protection devices had not been installed. This unsafe cladding had been applied to many other buildings throughout the country.
Grenfell Tower stands in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the richest in the country. The municipal council was not interested in spending money on their social housing. Not far from the area where this building burnt down, stand a large number of luxury towers with flats bought by foreign magnates and sheiks, who leave them empty for most of the time, if not all the time; they are bought as investments, perhaps to launder money.
In the meantime, in spite of all the government promises, most families that lived in Grenfell Tower have not been rehoused.
My Cityscape has buildings with ‘missing’ windows. Those are to indicate the ‘dark’ windows of the unoccupied luxury flats.
Hand-dyed and commercial fabrics, fusing, machine quilting. The ‘dark’ windows are outlined with stitching in the same colour as their background.