The Archway story: how to gentrify your neighbourhood, in 5 easy steps

Before and after. Images: author's own (L); Essential Living.

When I told a native Londoner that I was moving to Archway two years ago, they repsonded with an unusual level of honesty. "Archway is the place you go to get everywhere else, right?"

He was, to an extent, correct. Archway, perched at the top of the Holloway Road in north London, is really just one giant junction; a square roundabout that sends you off in every direction to other, fancier places. The Over- and Underground stations, and a baker's dozen worth of bus stops, make it a Tesco megastore of transport links. Its other defining feature is a giant, 16 storey Gotham-esque tower, done up in black marble, casually referred to by the Islington Gazette as one of London's "least-loved buildings". 

But even in the time I've lived there, Archway has begun to fidget under its less-than-complimentary reputation. Slowly but surely, developers, plus local businesses and government, are conspiring to ensure that within five years, it will be effectively unrecognisable. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is a topic for another day. But for now, the ways an area seems to transform itself, all at once, are worth examining. After all, it could be your neck of the woods next. 

Step One: De-Gothamise that tower.

I’m not sure even the most dedicated of Brutalism affecionados could hold a candle for Archway Tower. In fact, I'm pretty certain they don't, because the recent disappearance of its black frontage seems to have gone largely unnoticed among the architectural community. 

The building, once used as government offices, was bought from owners by Essential Living in 2013, having lain vacant for two years. Under rules in place at the time, converting an office block into flats meant you could bypass affordable housing minimums. 

So Essential Living have gone about gutting the building, leaving only a concrete skeleton. Soon, they'll carry out their makeover; cladding it in a sort of peach-coloured metal, to make it look less, well, terrifying:

Step Two: Get rid of the traffic. 

Last year, TfL opened consultations on plans to transform the Archway gyratory. (That's apparently the offical term for square roundabout-type things.) Post-consultation, they've released more up-to-date plans. Here they are:

Click for a larger image. Image: TfL. 

It's a little complex, so here's the lowdown. The peach coloured area was once road, and formed a major artery from the traffic-clogged Holloway road towards Finchley and points north. Now, that direct route will be cut off, which should do something to alleviate the number of cars in the area. Instead, that area will become pedestrianised, bisected only by one of several new cycle tracks. It all looks rather nice:

Image: TfL.

Especially when you consider the fact that at the moment, that view looks like this: 

Step three: Create somewhere for the middle classes to live. 

Essential Living is planning to develop the tower into 184 flats, which will probably be a combination of studios, and one and two bedroom flats. None will, as far as I can tell, be socially rented. The plan is to have a concierge, and communal areas at the top of the tower. 

Scott Hammond, Essential Living’s managing director, says the flats are aimed at local young professionals:

We’re creating homes built from the ground up for rent, with professional management aimed at anyone seeking a better value renting experience. It will appeal to many people who already live in the area.

The building is designed to encourage community living with a range of amenities and social spaces. Our ambition is that your home begins and ends at the door of the building, not the door of the apartment.

The area is already populated by lots of young working professionals (like myself, in fact), looking for slightly cheaper rents. But, inevitably, the various measures around the tower will presumably push those rents up, so you'll see an influx of slightly-better-off professionals. It also doesn't seem that there'll be much room in the tower for families. 

Step four: Pubs out, cafes in.

Someone who was a resident in the 1990s told me that Archway was once known for its raucous Irish pubs, and occasional fights between ex-IRA members. I can't say that's still true, especially as the well-known Irish pub near the station, The Lion, recently shut down. The only clue as to why lay in a few bright purple pieces of paper lined up across boarded up windows, reading "TREATS CAFE SHOP". The chain, which sells sandwiches and snacks, will presumably be aimed at commuters heading to the station in the morning. 

Step five: Loyalty cards.

One problem with Archway's self-image lay in its residents' psychogeography. Its location amid other, slghtly better-off places means residents a little north of the junction might say they're from Highgate, or those to the west might think of themselves as living in Tufnell Park. Seemingly to tackle this, local businesses under the Archway Town Centre Group have come up with the "Archway Card", which offers you discounts at local independent businesses around the junction. 

The ATCG, meanwhile, has a clear remit:

[We're] working in partnership with Islington Council to create a thriving town centre at Archway which is clean, safe, accessible, with a diverse retail mix.


So there you have it. The results of this type of regeneration (or gentrification, depending on your point of view) can be hard to predict: unexpected sections of the community can benefit, especially if more jobs pop up in the area.

But one thing's for certain: house prices will start climbing up to match the surrounding areas. Ah, well. It was good while it lasted. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was corrected shortly after publication. It originally stated that Archway Tower was listed. It is not. Thanks to Douglas Murphy for pointing this out.


The IPPC report on the melting ice caps makes for terrifying reading

A Greeland iceberg, 2007. Image: Getty.

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body responsible for communicating the science of climate breakdown – released its long-awaited Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles, the report is a cutting-edge crash course in how human-caused climate breakdown is changing our ice and oceans and what it means for humanity and the living planet. In a nutshell, the news isn’t good.

Cryosphere in decline

Most of us rarely come into contact with the cryosphere, but it is a critical part of our climate system. The term refers to the frozen parts of our planet – the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the icebergs that break off and drift in the oceans, the glaciers on our high mountain ranges, our winter snow, the ice on lakes and the polar oceans, and the frozen ground in much of the Arctic landscape called permafrost.

The cryosphere is shrinking. Snow cover is reducing, glaciers and ice sheets are melting and permafrost is thawing. We’ve known this for most of my 25-year career, but the report highlights that melting is accelerating, with potentially disastrous consequences for humanity and marine and high mountain ecosystems.

At the moment, we’re on track to lose more than half of all the permafrost by the end of the century. Thousands of roads and buildings sit on this frozen soil – and their foundations are slowly transitioning to mud. Permafrost also stores almost twice the amount of carbon as is present in the atmosphere. While increased plant growth may be able to offset some of the release of carbon from newly thawed soils, much will be released to the atmosphere, significantly accelerating the pace of global heating.

Sea ice is declining rapidly, and an ice-free Arctic ocean will become a regular summer occurrence as things stand. Indigenous peoples who live in the Arctic are already having to change how they hunt and travel, and some coastal communities are already planning for relocation. Populations of seals, walruses, polar bears, whales and other mammals and sea birds who depend on the ice may crash if sea ice is regularly absent. And as water in its bright-white solid form is much more effective at reflecting heat from the sun, its rapid loss is also accelerating global heating.

Glaciers are also melting. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, smaller glaciers will shrink by more than 80 per cent by the end of the century. This retreat will place increasing strain on the hundreds of millions of people globally who rely on glaciers for water, agriculture, and power. Dangerous landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods will become increasingly normal in mountain areas.

Rising oceans, rising problems

All this melting ice means that sea levels are rising. While seas rose globally by around 15cm during the 20th century, they’re now rising more than twice as fast –- and this rate is accelerating.

Thanks to research from myself and others, we now better understand how Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets interact with the oceans. As a result, the latest report has upgraded its long-term estimates for how much sea level is expected to rise. Uncertainties still remain, but we’re headed for a rise of between 60 and 110cm by 2100.

Of course, sea level isn’t static. Intense rainfall and cyclones – themselves exacerbated by climate breakdown – can cause water to surge metres above the normal level. The IPCC’s report is very clear: these extreme storm surges we used to expect once per century will now be expected every year by mid-century. In addition to rapidly curbing emissions, we must invest millions to protect at-risk coastal and low-lying areas from flooding and loss of life.

Ocean ecosystems

Up to now, the ocean has taken up more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the global climate system. Warming to date has already reduced the mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, has reduced the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life. By 2100 the ocean will take up five to seven times more heat than it has done in the past 50 years if we don’t change our emissions trajectory. Marine heatwaves are also projected to be more intense, last longer and occur 50 times more often. To top it off, the ocean is becoming more acidic as it continues to absorb a proportion of the carbon dioxide we emit.

Collectively, these pressures place marine life across the globe under unprecedented threat. Some species may move to new waters, but others less able to adapt will decline or even die out. This could cause major problems for communities that depend on local seafood. As it stands, coral reefs – beautiful ecosystems that support thousands of species – will be nearly totally wiped out by the end of the century.

Between the lines

While the document makes some striking statements, it is actually relatively conservative with its conclusions – perhaps because it had to be approved by the 195 nations that ratify the IPCC’s reports. Right now, I would expect that sea level rise and ice melt will occur faster than the report predicts. Ten years ago, I might have said the opposite. But the latest science is painting an increasingly grave picture for the future of our oceans and cryosphere – particularly if we carry on with “business as usual”.

The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of heating is especially important for the icy poles, which warm much faster than the global average. At 1.5°C of warming, the probability of an ice-free September in the Arctic ocean is one in 100. But at 2°C, we’d expect to see this happening about one-third of the time. Rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification, melting glaciers, and permafrost also will also happen faster – and with it, the risks to humanity and the living planet increase. It’s up to us and the leaders we choose to stem the rising tide of climate and ecological breakdown.

Mark Brandon, Professor of Polar Oceanography, The Open University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.