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Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

Status: Regeneration threatens this ancient artifact.

Welcome to the Elephant, maybe the greatest design of all time. Or maybe not. Maybe it is the hideous carbuncle as described by most planners and architects today. Until you look at their contemporary master works and see that the Elephant Mall is exactly the same! Do I hear the cry of triple and double standards? Do I hear the cries of architectural foul play? Why does everybody accept a smear campaign of a building? The Elephant & Castle shopping centre and it's surrounding estate should have been protected, not left to waste away.

Why do same these same intellectuals want to reign down destruction upon the Elephant, when just down the road they fawn in appreciation for the doppler new Peckham Library? Something stinks about all this. Hence my shock demand to save the Shopping Centre, something that might seem more at home in my carbuncle section. It might have a carbuncular whiff about it, but it has it's place in time, and has gained historical recognition. I think it deserves protection, rather than be left to deteriorate. It's a another victim of hypocritical critique and developers eye, and I don't think it deserves to die.

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre

The E&C Mall opened up in 1965, an advanced indoor shopping centre in the heart of London, beating the almighty Brent Cross project by about 10 years. This element sat very well within the Goldfinger masterplan for the area, and matured into a full social and community based arena, with its shops, services, station, and Bowling Alley, all supplemented by the growth of the surrounding market place.

It's always been a fun item, and references to the area name (taken from an olde pub) just adds to its cuteness. It even spent some years painted in a sickly pink, a huge homage to the in-joke. It has to be recognised as an important example of sixties utopia, and could easily exist as such again, but has been let go, perhaps in preperation for trashing. The station area is a prime example of a cold council quick fix, brutally whitewashed and run down. In fact the whole exterior of the Mall has been shabbily treated and abandoned as an eye sore of dirt, droppings, and unsympathetic advert hoardings.

Elephant and Castle - Field of Hope

Just about everything, including bad press, has been done to condemn the place. But will the radical upheaval of the Elephant really create something better? Or is this just another money making exercise? Will another design such as Peckham be worth it? The Elephant & the estate have been a casualty of crime and abandonment. When the area was opened and finished off, it was beautiful. Respectable society, as it was then, cared for the area, and crime was minimal. But then permissiveness was king, and the area took to ruin. And the council let it happen. Now it's been made vunerable so that the speculators can move in.

The press will tell you all thats bad about Elephant & Castle. They wont tell you how nice it was, and how nice it could have been. How there is absolutely nothing wrong with the layout at all. The press also lied about there being no open spaces, for as I sat opposite the Mall, amongst the daffodils in the 'Field of Hope', I reckoned that they're just destroying yet another piece of London's heritage for some more ill gotten gains. I suppose it's doomed. Oh no, here comes another useless noisy 5 year construction site. Maybe they'll name the new Elephant: the 'Field of No Hope'.

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre
Elephant Mall - Happy communal shopping.

I took a tour, spoke to the peoples. They are quite happy with the centre. It has a life and a history of its own. As for the building, it aint that bad. It works, and is a happy place to shop. It has a warmth that's missing from modern day failures. It's only problem is the scorn that had been poured upon it by press and prospectors. It's all conjecture. They've not lived here, not shared in the Elephant experience.

Save the ELEPHANT & CASTLE Shopping Centre

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre
Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre. Stalls side by side with
regular shops in this unique and friendly environment.

I enjoy the Elephant and Castle as it is. It could be made to work, only it's not on the developers agenda. Locals like it too, they just dont like the crime and how the Elephant has been left to rot. They know that a pile of money will not stop ruination of London. It's nothing to do with the buildings. It's to do with the unchecked crime. No matter what they build here, there will always be problems. Society has been left to get too unruly, and villains are just encouraged to do what they like. Maybe someone has convinced the neighbourhood that new buildings and hundreds of cctv cameras will make the area nicer and safe. You hear reports that some residents actually agree with this viewpoint. But do they really?

Not forgetting the Elephant's HEYGATE ESTATE

Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle

The Heygate Estate is like all vunerable areas in London. Its a target for greedy and corrupt people in power. They play the same old game: Leave the estate to left to rot. Crime is ignored by police, services are run down. Suddenly, things are a living hell for the neighbourhood. Now the politicians and councillors can claim that the area is a problem, allowing them and the developers to move in and make a fortune.

There is nothing wrong with the design or structure of Heygate. It's just the victim of another political money making scam. Heygate is a fabulous sixties development behind the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, fashioned in cascaded lines of balconies. It could have been the utopia that it was designed to be, if the residents had ever been protected, and the criminals kept out of the manor. Instead, the villains were allowed to do as they please. Kids are encouraged to act like gangstas. Everyone is wearing a hood. It's the perfect excuse for redevelopment plans. Now the tenants are being forced out whilst the wrecking crew move in, and the estate is in line for a pretty good demolition exercise in the near future.

Heygate residents know that at the completion of the estate in the early seventies, this place was a beautiful place to live in, until certain political and council decisions gave rise to the unchecked disorders that ruined a nice area. It's the same all over London, and now, only 30 years later, it's all a great excuse to move in with the bulldozers, and make loads of money. The Heygate is just another blot on the plans for the area, another nice little earner, and so it will go the way of the shopping centre.

As we have seen before, no amount of fake regeneration scams will stop this area suffering in the hands of lowlife thuggery. But that was never the point, was it? Heygate is just another stop on the agenda of the publicity seeking concillor, or desperate uncaring money man. We should be up in arms about losing a community to the whims of these people.

And not forgetting the Walworth AYLESBURY ESTATE either.

And just south of the Elephant area, the sprawling Aylesbury estate deserves a mention or two, for this seems to be going the same way. The council's attempts to privatise the housing was thwarted, so they're inventing excuses to pull it down instead. No doubt some fat cat contracts will be awarded to developers, eager to gain rich rewards. Meanwhile, like at the Heygate, the government has let crime run amok on Aylesbury's area, as if to convince tenants the buildings are bad, as if the buildings are responsible for the gangsta behaviours and drug dealing that the pc police turn a blind eye to. They must think the tenants are really thick and stupid, and it's this contempt for the tenants that says it all. The politicians just view tenants as mindless dossers who are in the way of their greedy schemes. They are using all their power, money, and influence to force tenants to fit in with their money making scams, and will do absolutely anything to succeed. Poor old Aylesbury...

Charles (of London Town)

E-Mail Charles at:

The London Destruction Website.