Editor _ Alex Parkyn-Smith_Photographer_Courtney Greatrex
The places in which we sleep, live and work have a significant influence on our moods, thoughts and state of mind. Bertrand Russell suggests that our political systems and social organisation are restricted and defined by the architecture that surrounds us. When we talk about ‘protecting the environment’ our heads are filled with images of felled rainforest and thick smog pouring from industrial wastelands – it is the four walls that surround us and the streets we walk that have the biggest influence – these are the places from which we can incite the most drastic change.
Our first-hand perception of the environment changes the way that, as influential individuals, we decide the planets future. This is not an effort to promote recycling or responsible energy usage, far from it. It is rather to stress the importance of the population’s health, wellbeing and livelihood as it determines the productivity, innovation and organisation needed, alongside other measures, to protect the planets resources.
As the current government rolls out damaging austerity measures, it is difficult to see any consideration for society as a particular and organic body. The individual is forced to live on as prospects, social support and the average residential room size shrink*. We must all learn to see the deteriorating environment as a current concern much closer to home. To illustrate these assertions a collection of short vignettes explore the diversity of students experience of the environment they inhabit.
*CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) survey found that new-build English rooms are now, on average, the smallest in Europe.
Vignette I – The Room
I can reach the walls on either side of me – its cosy. The metal window frame is searingly cold to the touch and droplets of condensation streak down the salmon pink walls. I wonder how often I breathe the same air as I lie sleeping. When I wake, the curtain only holds back some of the light, while the rest bounds joyously into my little cube. I have a mirror now which lets me see a little more: it gives both the illusion of space and lets me know a little more about myself. It would be nice to have a little more room to stretch my thoughts and stop me from turning inwards. I am warm and dry and live so close to everything here.
Vignette II – The Streets
I grew up in Dalston, Hackney, which has now grown to be considered (as stated in The Guardian) the coolest place in Britain. When walking around I used to feel like I was part of such a vibrant culture, in an area which was so energetic, if not a little chaotic, but which offered an alternative to the popular and mundane areas that didn’t garner the same (bad) reputation. It sculpted who I am. Alas, it was only a matter of time before the masses soon realised that this East London suburb offered much more than crime. As the popularity of Dalston has sky rocketed in the last decade, shiny, silver apartments and annoyingly trendy bars are popping out from every spare inch of land. Although Dalston is unrecognisable to me now, and I’ve moved out of it, I am so proud to come from my Dalston, not ‘the coolest place inBritain’.
Vignette III – London
There isn’t any oneLondon. In such a focus of humanity there isLondonin every direction. Some would say that the old cobbled lanes and burdened eves represent the ‘real’London, one ravaged by the great fire and immortalised in the history books. Others would sympathise with the hard and angular ‘city’ and its economic focus for the capital. It is easy to be very alone here and yet hard not to feel the warmth from commuters breath in a cramped tunnel. London thrives because the environment is never the same – some find their perfect surroundings, people and interactions. The royal parks let the city breathe but urbanity can be stifling.