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Thamesmead: A Town for the 21st Century
​© Tony Ray-Jones / RIBA Collections

Thamesmead: A Town for the 21st Century

Photography display exploring past and present Thamesmead through archival images from the RIBA Collections and contemporary photographs by artist Nina Manandhar.

This photographic display explores Thamesmead, an estate built by the Greater London Council (GLC) on the southeast bank of the Thames. Twelve archival images of Thamesmead selected from the RIBA Collections are shown alongside nine contemporary photographs of the estate’s residents by artist Nina Manandhar, a project commissioned by Peabody and NOW Gallery.

Initially hailed as a futuristic "town for the 21st century", construction of Thamesmead began in 1968. Despite this early promise, it quickly gained a reputation for crime, no-go areas and poor transport links: an image reinforced and immortalised by its portrayal in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian crime feature A Clockwork Orange. Today, Thamesmead is undergoing an extensive regeneration project by Britain's oldest housing association Peabody, which promises new homes and improved community facilities.

Amid celebrations of its 50th anniversary, this display revisits the original architectural ambitions and looks at its current day occupation in anticipation of the next phase of Thamesmead and perhaps a renewal of its promise to yet again become a town for the 21st century.

Artist Nina Manandhar on Thamesmead

"Thamesmead Estate is famous in the public imagination for its use as a location for both Clockwork Orange and Misfits, but what about its place in the imagination of its residents? What began as portrait commission to document the residents of Thamesmead ahead of the large-scale regeneration has become a wider photographic exploration into everyday expressions of cultural activity which already exist, with a focus on how creativity is manifested through elements of personalisation.

Since 2017 I have been working closely with the residents to explore how they re-imagine the landscape, and create their own spaces, behind the Brutalist facade. From the boots of Anthony Okin, the 90 year old "Thamesmead Cowboy", the Bharatnatyam performances of young dancers Neha and Ruhi, to the wheels of Dave Dashwood's eight classic cars, to the Sunday attire of the local Fathers House Community Choir, to the customised Tudor frontages – all reflect individuals attempts to make their mark on the landscape."

With additional styling by Siobhan Lyons.

You can view more images from the Collection online at RIBApix.

Related events

Saturday 6 April, 11am: Architecture Walking Tour: Thamesmead

Tuesday 23 April, 7pm: 50 Years of Thamesmead Talk

The RIBA and Nina Manandhar would like to thank the following for their assistance: Peabody; Twentieth Century Society; Residents of South Thamesmead.

Opening times

Monday to Saturday: 10am to 5pm

Tuesday: 10am to 8pm

Sunday: Closed