Dotted around London can be found some of the Great Estates that are the consequence of developments by single minded owners often in Georgian periods. But the Great Estates are not just a historic quirk, but are a still growing phenomena across the city.
Some of the new Great Estates are obvious, such as Canary Wharf and the new development zone behind King’s Cross station — others less visible, such as the Soho Estates built up by porn king, Paul Raymond
New estates are also emerging, such as the Olympic Park legacy and the controversial development at Earl’s Court.
It is to look at these that a new exhibition has opened at the Building Centre that in a series of display boards offers a large list of London’s Great Estates, their history and current status.
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In fact, the Great Estates are less great than they once were as changes in property laws made it possible for tenants to buy their homes or offices, and the homogenous swathes of land under a single owner started to fragment. However, one of the aspects that made the Estates so desirable to live in, was a unified management and code of practice about developments. So the Estates have transformed into management companies that keep an eye on large diverse portfolios of land — and they are often the foundation of some of the new Estates as developers clump together to rebrand an area and try to market hem to new occupants.
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One of the more controversial issues about the modern Estates though is the debate about pseudo-public spaces where what appears to be a public square is actually private, and subject to the whims of private security guards.
For example, across the entire of London, there is just one place that the Google Street Cars have never visited — Canary Wharf. It’s off-limits.
As an exhibition though, this is open free to everyone, and in addition to the display boards dotted around the place, there are a number of delightful scale models of some ongoing or planned developments.
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I noted how the Earl’s Court model lit up only the religious buildings in the model. American real estate adverts often cite proximity to local churches as one of their amenities.
The exhibition is open until the 19 December – open Mon-Sat. Entry is free.
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