John Berger in ‘The Meaning of Home‘ reminds us that “originally home meant the centre of the world, not in a geographical, but in an ontological sense. Mircea Eliade has demonstrated how home was the place from which the world could be founded. A home was established “at the heart of the real”….without a home at the centre of the real, one was not only shelterless, but also lost in nonbeing, in unreality.”
The wonderfully named Excalibur Estate in South East London was one of many prefab estates built in 1945-6 after the Second World War by German and Italian prisoners of war to help provide homes for returning servicemen and their families. These were only intended to last ten years or so but survived much longer becoming much-loved by residents and forming established communities. Now this estate, one of the last to survive intact, is to be demolished, apart from six of the houses, which are now listed Grade 2. New houses will be built but many residents have left and moved away so the community will change. I think the prefab church will also survive.
A museum has been created in one of the prefabs, curated by Elisabeth Blanchet, open until the end of May, with an interior suggesting the spirit of the homes as well as art work and other material forming a record of the estate and the inhabitants and their lives.
Interiors of the ‘museum’
Views from the window
I have written before about the concept of ‘home‘ but in terms of place, and landscape, rather than four walls and a roof. This project shows what that more conventional concept of home can mean.