Wallington visit

February 16, 2011

Upon arrival to Wallington, my first observation was how the station was recessed from the main road. Normally, when one exits a station, they’re immediately flanked by shops; business men and women trying to quickly peddle their wares before you’ve moved on to getting to where you need to go. Perhaps you need some gum? A bottle of wine for that dinner party you’re heading to? Last minute ingredient for dinner? None of that, just a small round about for pick-ups and drop-offs.

The type of supermarkets in an area can quickly say something about the community. On the corner of the main road and the small road leading to the station was an “International Supermarket” – we were curious to see how “international” it was. The produce intrigued me, as I encountered things like colocasia, prickly pear, and custard apple. One of the team went to ask a shop assistant about colocasia particularly, as we were curious what it was, which started a discussion about the shop itself. Though it is listed as “international” its goods were predominantly Turkish. The gentleman was happy to talk about the store and on the way out, we gave him an information card about the project and said goodbye.

Walking around, we could see many modifications to existing structures; exemplifying their versatility, allowing people to adapt them to their specific needs. An old detached house turned into a private surgery with a wheelchair accessibility ramp; the ground floor of a block of flats turned into a medical centre; and a dentist setting at the end of a row of terraced houses. Not so much in regards to mixed-use (commercial and residential), but this versatility is also shown in how people customise their own properties so that it is their own. Half of one semi-detached was decorated with pebbledash painted yellow, lead glass windows, and palm trees while the other was pebbledash painted white, modern white double glazed windows, and a slightly overgrown front garden. Though they share a common wall, it’s clear that one side is owned by someone and the other is owned by another person, and both have their own distinct style and taste.

There was a fair bit of development also to take note of, which could signify revitalisation, popularity, or perhaps a bit of both. One can see the older structures of the high street juxtaposed with the modern luxury high rise of flats being built. Though there is a striking difference between the two, a more apparent difference is between that of the older high street shops with a shopping centre built in the 60s or 70s. Brick and cornices compared to steel and plain windows – a cold Bauhaus style that doesn’t bother with intricacies, but it’s those little details that give a place warmth and character.

My colleague noted that newer builds seemed to be set back from the road, often with a grass or hedge barrier of some measure. In some
cases the façade was at a right angle to the main road. One wonders if such characteristics make the buildings less adaptable or more sustainable for their intended use. What will this area look like in 50 years time? Will the newer buildings today have been adapted? Will they still be thriving in their intended use (is that happening today?) Will the older buildings be long gone? Or still harbouring a flexible template for locally required commercial use and service provision?

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