I spent February visiting ghost estates across Ireland - half built housing estates; brand new, empty shopping centres; shuttered streets; abandoned factories - and visiting squatters in Dublin and Galway. The following slideshow presents a summary of the things I saw over those four weeks.
The Pizza Express in Kentish Town opened in the 1990's and closed in May 2013.
Local residents have been battling to save the iconic building for years. They have successfully stopped two proposals which wanted to demolish the building and replace it with a block of flats.
A new plan to an extra floor on the building and convert the it into two upper floors of flats with an open space below appears to have been approved. This plan retains a lot of the 1920's features. The downstairs area will become an art-house cinema, reverting the site back to it's role 100 years ago when the Coronation Gardens Cinema ran there from 1911 to 1913.
According to a Lib Dem petition calling for a stop to the developments there are no plans to provide any social housing on the site, despite the crippling housing crisis gripping the capital.
On 14th January 2014 the Camden New Journal reported that squatters had moved in to the building. Not only was it an article that dealt rationally and even-handedly with the news, but every one of the readers comments posted below were supportive of the squatters. In an article about the development plans the Kentishtowner referred to them as 'rather polite squatters'.
The building was home of the North West London Polytechnic from 1927 but it will always be the old Pizza Express building to me. It was a regular haunt of my teenage years, the site of family dinners with my parents and dates with boyfriends. The beautiful 20's architecture of the place always caught my imagination and I would spend my time there refurbishing the building in my head, creating my own luxury home.
I went down there a few weeks ago to visit the squatters and to see what they had done with the place. Apart from painting the walls red and adding some art and domestic details to the building, the squatters had kept the space just as I remembered it. Everyone was incredibly friendly as I was given free reign to wander about with my camera.
I went back again today to talk to the squatters about their situation and they have been moved out to make way for the developers.
This place has been one of my favourite buildings for twenty years and there are many others who feel passionate about the elegant modernist architecture. Whatever happens I hope it stays as beautiful as it is now.
cinema & squatters quote