No Spitting at The Dorset Estate July 2011
Architect, Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990) believed that architecture could inspire people towards social emancipation. The Dorset Estate is a Modernist housing project whose gardens, library, social club, pub, in addition to the actual homes, are a testament to his hopes. Three of the high rises show his architectural prowess with majestic spiral staircases, winding their way through the central axis: he saw these elaborate constructions as devices for connecting people. Over fifty years have passed since the completion of the Dorset Estate in 1957. Has this utopian social housing ideology translated into the reality of life in the building?
‘No Spitting’ is a community-based arts festival which took place in the architecturally significant site of the Dorset Estate in July 2011. Dominique Baron-Bonarjee and Mihaela Varzari, a curator, and both residents of the estate, were driven by the desire to establish a common ground with the residents through organizing and participating in cultural and arts events. They curated a programme which uses the arts as a catalyst for interaction between the wide variety of locals living in the Estate and beyond. The project took place at the Dorset Estate’s grounds, common areas and in consenting residents’ flats and around the staircases.
The title ‘No Spitting’ was inspired by the now obsolete prohibitive signs found in the entrance halls of some buildings within the estate: the intention is to playfully alter its associative meanings.
The final day included commissioned works by artists Marcin Dudek, Kazimierz Jankowski and performances by Beatrice Jarvis and Dominique Baron-Bonarjee.
Kindly supported through th ‘Make a Difference’ Award from Tower Hamlets Homes.
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‘Trace’ performance in James Hammett House
I performed a walk up the central staircase, described by the architect, Lubetkin, as ‘a device for connecting people’, carrying a leaking bucket filled with a solution of clay water. The walk left a trace on the staircase connecting all the flights. Of course it brought people out of their flats in a connection of surprise and at times outrage. It led me to the conclusion that the janitorial task of ‘cleaning up’ might come closest to the concept of ‘utopia’.