I‘m originally from the outer suburbs of South London, but have been based in Leytonstone for the past seven years (before that – cliche alert – it was Hackney after leaving art school).
Like many of us, I moved to E11 to get a place of my own and stay connected with my friends across the border. People see my Instagram account and ask if I’m an architect, but I’m actually a graphic designer, and work in-house at Sotheby’s, looking at beautiful things all day long. It’s essentially an ever-changing museum.
Confession alert: I’m obsessed with houses – and their stories. Perhaps I could have been an architect in another life, or perhaps many of us have an architectural mind without the formal training?
When people think of architecture, they often think of new builds and modernity, but I’m much more interested in the historical analysis of the late Victorian and Edwardian suburb. ‘It’s all archaeology’, as Phil Harding would say, and the same is true of exterior elevations which tell the story of over a hundred years of modifications.
I suppose what’s interesting is mentally excavating, rather than skimming the top soil. It’s a love that dare not speak its name (nor for that matter, mentionable on a first date) but it’s essentially local history. And yet, let’s face it, there are enough Barbican worshippers with ‘I love Brutalism’ tote bags, so perhaps I should be allowed to fly my freak flag.
I’d argue that it’s seemingly impossible to be human and not have an awareness of architecture. The suburb I grew up in – um, Croydon – was built in the first quarter of the twentieth century, and a somewhat romantic affiliation for this (quite large) epoch came out of my former years. ‘You’ve always been very observant’, was a retort my mother would give me on my early childhood rambling about my environment, though I suspect it was her way silencing my annoying comments.
Still the relationship with buildings, history and lives continues in my head as I walk down any given street in Leyton or Leytonstone. Over the next two weeks I’m going to reveal ten spots that you could incorporate into your #dailywalk. Without further ado, here are the first batch.
For more of Michael’s choice picks of houses across E10 and E11, read next week’s instalment. Follow him on Insta @michaeldelalama