Conditions of Living examines the rise of economic segregation in recent housing developments, a phenomenon commonly known as ‘poor doors’. This socially engaged artwork by Anthony Luvera has been created in collaboration with a community forum of local residents living in Tower Hamlets and draws upon extensive research into the social, political, and economic evolution of market-driven ‘affordable’ housing provision, and the state of social housing today.
Brought together from almost 1,000 households in eight developments, participants in the Conditions of Living Community Forum have a range of housing tenure backgrounds, from social and affordable rental accommodation to shared and sole ownership. Using photography, sound recordings, and discussion-based activities facilitated to enable participants to share their personal experiences of living in these developments, Luvera worked with the Community Forum to consider how economic segregation in housing operates, and how restrictions expand outward from separate entrances to access to amenities, resources, and public space. Through group workshops and individual meetings, participants were invited to explore issues relating to why some buildings have segregated entrances, and how architecture and planning affect access to key social rights such as healthcare, culture, the environment, education, and transport.
Segregation in housing developments can occur in a variety of ways, through physical doors leading to different parts of the building; separate floors assigned to non-market rate flats or the so-called affordable housing units; distinct internal segments of the same building usually with isolated lifts; entire blocks within a wider complex; or specific amenities that are restricted to certain residents based on the type of unit they live in. Local authorities allow property developers to design ‘poor doors’ into their housing developments and consequently embed segregation therein. London is one of the world’s last major cities yet to ban ‘poor doors’ despite years of political proclamations against this segregationist practice.
The built environment plays a powerful role in determining the ways people live together and is at the core of the experience of housing. Architecture and planning can be used to enforce social inequalities through the privileging of market forces, resulting in discrimination and segregation. Conditions of Living brings together research and the experiences of those living in the buildings to construct an image of this much discussed, yet often invisible phenomenon. Conditions of Living invites us to reflect on these convoluted systems and contemplate alternative possibilities for housing conditions, communal living, and collective action.