Selected Texts by AOC
Selected Texts about AOC
Tom Coward
Geoff Shearcroft
Searching for Great Urbanism:
Croydon – My Great Town
Croydon is a Super Suburb. A C20th idea-city transposed onto a medieval market town, in the middle of semi-detached suburbia. A rudely beautiful product of civic ambition, popular aspiration, geographical accident and imperfect political and economic speculations.

The views from the 19th floor of Taberner House, Croydon Council’s Pirelli-like offices, are revealing.

From the north side the view is epically urban. A motorway cuts through collages of post-war tower-blocks. Seiffert’s NLA wedding-cake and Lunar House’s space-age rooftop wing compete for attention, whilst the Millennium Dome and Wembley Arch are pathetic miniatures on the horizon. Down below, the Fairfield Halls’ ‘Bootleg Beatles’ posters provide melancholy 1960s feedback.

But from Taberner House’s south side, the view is of green-belt Surrey. In the southern half of London’s biggest Borough, the last of Croydon’s tower-blocks tip-toe their way into a landscape of clay-tile roofs, playing fields and church spires.

Croydon is a place where the mildly provincial coexists with, and often generates, the boldly radical. Central Croydon, with its towers and flyovers, is not the result of wartime bombing, but the speculative ambitions of provincial town fathers.

Croydon’s self-confidence sets it apart.

Many find the resulting urban bricolage uncomfortable, but closer examination finds an ideal landscape for exercising the imagination and honestly generating culture. Ikea’s inhabitation of Croydon B power station was a proto-Tate Modern, Croydon College inspired Punks, whilst Birds Portchmouth Russums’s 1993 fantasy to place alien culture-dromes atop Croydon’s multi-storey car parks couldn’t have been more consistent with the place’s unique spirit.
Published by Vincent Lacovara
Building Design
27 February, 2006