Original Plans and Images from the Thamesmead Housing Development in London


I found this 42-page saddle-bound book yesterday at an estate sale:

thamesmead first areas book cover

I was rummaging through a room full of stuff in an upstairs bedroom that smelled strongly of mothballs. But the owner of the house had clearly been well-traveled and well-read, and I wasn’t surprised to come upon a cache of great books on design and architecture. I started stacking them up and included this one, even though I wasn’t quite sure what it was about, since it appeared to be details of a London civic design project.

map of thamesmead area london

thamesmead housing project plans

thamesmead area one

area one layout plan thamesmead london

area one housing thamesmead structure

thamesmead structure diagram

thamesmead children playing 1970s

Thamesmead was a civic housing development project undertaken by the Greater London Council Department of Architecture and Civic Design (the publishers of this plan). Thamesmead was the most ambitious post-war social housing development in London. The project developed marsh land, previously used as weaponry storage, south of the Thames River in a multi-stage housing project. Thamesmead was to combine urban living, both owned and rented, with shops, schools, and park space.

This 1970 informational reel, produced by the Greater London Council, outlines the scope of the massive undertaking:

The completed Thamesmead served as backdrop for parts of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

clockwork orange thamesmead

It was a working neighborhood for some time.

Youth in the Thamesmead development, 1977

thamesmead housing development with stroller 1977

thamesmead schoolboy with dog 1970s

The GLC was abolished in 1986, and the remaining undeveloped land in the Thamesmead was entrusted to a non-profit organization until 2000. In 2000, two separate property management groups took ownership of the properties.

The original Thamesmead plan was intended to house up to 100,000 residents. The area is currently estimated to house just 50,000. Significant design flaws cited in the failure of the project include Thamesmead’s almost complete lack of shopping options and the development’s distance from any London Underground stations. (Proposed plans to include Thamesmead on the Jubilee Line extension in the 1970s did not happen.)

thamesmead london today


UPDATE: There has been an overwhelming amount of interest in this booklet. Even though I haven’t been actively updating this blog, I continue to receive inquiries about the Thamesmead book. I seem to be the only person in the world with access to this important piece of material detailing the original project plans for the Thamesmead. Since this was originally posted, my husband and I purchased a house, changed jobs (twice), and had a baby. All the while I’ve been meaning to get around to scanning the entire booklet, though I didn’t have access to a working scanner. I have finally scanned the full booklet. If you would like access to it for research purposes, email me at raz [dot] katherine [at] gmail [dot] com.

I have also listed the book for sale on Amazon at an institutional price in the hopes that a library, university or architectural organization will acquire it and add it to their library so that others can regularly access it. In the meantime I am happy to provide access to the full work to anyone who inquires about it.


Artwork from the 1973 film Le Planète Sauvage


Trailer for the 1973 French animated film La Planète Sauvage, based on the 1957 French science fiction novel, Oms en Série, by Stefan Wul. If you want to watch the entire film, someone uploaded it to Youtube earlier this year.

I thought it would be cool to take a look at the diverse artwork created for the movie posters that accompanies the film’s multi-national release.

fantastic planet movie poster

savage platnet poster one sheet

This one is available from Bloody Rare Posters.

fanastic planet movie poster

fantastic planet film poster


fantastic planet blue poster



Olga: Found Photos on Flickr

1 comment

olga los angeles 1967

These photos all originate from one of my favorite Flickr photo streams. While there’s nothing obviously remarkable about them, I’ve been captivated by them since discovering them a few years ago while searching for a vintage New Year’s Eve photo.

The owner, Olga, uploaded a large collection of family photographs that span nearly a century. Scrolling through them feels similar to sifting through a shoebox of family photos at an estate sale. Photos we take of our own family end up feeling overly familiar, but with some objectivity you can admire the fashion, the decor, the expressions, the shot composition. You can’t help but try to piece together what happened in this person’s life between the moments captured in the photograph. There’s something Harris Burdick-like in not knowing the ending.

In an era where we’re so obsessed with instantly capturing moments and sharing them with everyone we know, there’s an earnestness and innocence to photographs taken without that intention in mind. I guess sharing them takes some of that feeling of original discovery away, but I’m doing it anyway.

olga new years 1967

olga pittock mansion

olga patrick 1993

olga portland rose garden 1985

olga eron playground

olga taiwan 1950s

olga halle at the beach

olga Viktor "Viki" Tranquille

olga's three year old buddies

olgas mom 1950s california


Altair Designs


altair designs 3

I found a copy of Altair Designs 3 (1976) at Armadillo’s Pillow in Rogers Park a few months ago. I remember having a few books in this series when I was a kid. I loved filling in the geometric designs, though my interpretations usually ended up looking like ass.

The Altair books were developed by Ensor Holiday, a British biologist whose interest in geometry, according to the Altair books, “led him to the search for a common mathematical basis to certain geometrical patterns that recur in different cultures all over the world.”

The patterns for the first Altair collection were hand drawn, but in subsequent collections Holiday employed the use of a computer. Parts one and two were based on the square and equilateral triangle, respectively, where each basic shape was subdivided or “organized” to arrive at a pattern. According to the books, this method was also used in Muslim architecture in the seventh century and gives it its distinct look.

In Altair Design 3:

… the design is revealed in the spaces between the more solid elements rather than by lines, just as the pattern of a city is given by the pattern of its streets and the streets are outlined by the buildings lining the streets. The skill in interpreting tehse designs will lie in coloring the buildings and blocking off the streets to bring out the pattern one wants.

altair design book

Each page of the Altair books displays a lined pattern which the user is encouraged to fill in with their own interpretation, which makes the book a uniquely creative experience.

altair designs green and blue

altair designs stained glass

blank altair design

altair 3 colored

altair 3 pastel