Watford and Slough: two towns synonymous with the bland utilitarian landscape that mutated around Britain's major city sprawls during nearly three decades of post war rebuilding and economic growth.
Commercial development was seen as outside any aesthetic consideration. It merely had to be functional, with a limited degree of durability. Little concern was paid to those who had to spend a considerable part of their productive lives within the drab essentialism that marks the period's architectural motif. The designs excreted from many -and I hesitate to use the word- architect's offices during the creatively vacuous 60s and 70s can now be seen as an hysterical experimentalist approach to the urban habitat pursued with missionary zeal by town planners and designers with nary a thought to either the spiritual needs of the worker or the aesthetic miasma inflicted upon the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Arcadian idylls were seen as reactionary; nothing must stand in the way of progress. The ethos seems to be simple: grade and flatten the landscape into submission, build offices and factories, and then pour concrete into the adjoining spaces, often right up to the back garden fences of local homes. If a stream ran though then encase it in a concrete tube and bury it; if a copse of rare broadleaf trees cluttered the site, tear them down and burn them. Natural disorder was tamed, elegance was strangled by functionality and form was placed in a plastic bag with some bricks and thrown into the canal. To consider the nature of the space, how it works, how it is perceived, and how the environment can be sympathetic to its user must have been considered a mere indulgence, an expensive distraction. And then with a cruelty we hardly dare consider, they named them Industrial Parks.
These sites are now the habitat of the also-ran business; fragile independent small enterprises supported by grants, hungry for cheap rent and heedless of their environment, desirous only of good motorway access and a thriving local market. The work's canteen is abandoned for the caravan converted to reheat burgers flipped into anaemic baps served from a patch of torn tarmac at the end of a string of hastily scribbled advertising boards zip tied to lampposts: Hot and Cold Food Open. Despite the desultory greensward or stray privet bush being religiously manicured in some demented attempt to divert attention from the surrounding calamity, the end is more than obviously nigh for many of these places. The dismal architecture has now found a likely bedfellow in unconstricted decay. Even graffiti artists have neglected these barren estates, and as they slide ever closer toward oblivion, to be reincarnated as toxic brownfield sites, time has come to record their ossified grey personality, and to witness with no small thrill the long downtrodden Earth as it pushes its fledgling roots and saplings through the cracked concrete in search of long denied daylight.