The Barrier Block is a documentary by Tuuli Manninen, an artist and a student of Urban Studies at Bartlett, UCL. The documentary is a product of an independent project in supervision of professor Mike Raco.
The documentary is based on discussions on the notions of architecture, belonging and change with residents of Southwyck House, a council estate in south London, Brixton. The interviews provide an insight to experiences of changes in the built environment and social life in the area. The Barrier Block, officially known as Southwyck House, is a public housing estate in south London, Brixton. It was designed by a local government architecture department to fit in with a city-wide redevelopment plan including a motorway that was planned to pass right next to the estate. Already before the construction of the building had finished in 1981 plans for the motorway had been cancelled.
Today the estate stands as a monument of the past ideals of planning, although many of the local residents are not aware of the context of the monolithic architectural design. Aiming at avoiding the academic presumptions of the gentrification discourse, the documentary captures some of the hopes and fears related to future of a changing locality. The methodology of the project was a negotiation between an open-ended participatory project and the necessity for setting of research questions. Instead of having a pre-set narrative for the documentary, the discussions with the residents of the estate gave direction to the content of the project. The residents interviewed in the documentary preferred to remain anonymous. The documentary aims to unpack the social lives inside buildings, finding links between memory and architecture. The Barrier Block has survived through different socio-economic phases, animated by the people who live in it.