Exhibition takes inspiration from pioneering Manplan editorial programme

The Gareth Gardner Gallery is set to host Boundary Conditions: Reframing the Pepys Estate, an exhibition that combines freshly commissioned photography with graphics and archival material. The exhibition coincides with the 2023 Deptford X art festival.

The exhibition draws inspiration from the influential Manplan editorial programme, which ran between 1969 and 1970. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Pepys Estate’s construction in 1973.

The exhibition offers a contemporary perspective on the estate while delving into its fluctuating fortunes.

The Deptford estate was inaugurated by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1966 and received significant attention in the September 1970 Manplan issue, featuring monochromatic reportage photographs by Tony Ray-Jones. The magazine described the Pepys Estate as both “monumental in intention” and “socially monolithic.”

It featured towers and lower-rise blocks interconnected via raised walkways, allowing residents to traverse the entire estate without setting foot on the ground. Internally, the split-level apartments were designed with an innovative ‘scissor plan.’

In the present day, many of the more radical elements have been altered or demolished, with one tower converted into luxury apartments for the private sector. The resident population has also become more diverse compared to 1970.

The recently completed photographic and video projects aim to reflect the complex and nuanced identity of the current estate against its enduringly imposing brutalist architecture.

The exhibition comprises four distinct projects, each exploring various facets of boundaries.

Jérôme Favre: Twilight

Twilight offers a contemplative look at life on the Pepys Estate, focusing on the transition from day to night. Through atmospheric images, it examines the relationship between residents and the brutalist architecture, capturing the estate’s more introspective moments as the pace slows down during twilight.

Gareth Gardner: Scissors

Scissors revisits the three towers of the Pepys Estate, originally the tallest residential buildings in London. It explores their innovative ‘scissor plan’ design, which aimed to maximise space efficiency by providing dual aspects for each apartment. The project documents the subsequent fate of these buildings.

Freddie Miller: The District

The District documents the Pepys Estate’s reputation as ‘The District’ among a group of drill artists residing there. It follows the daily lives of these artists during the long summer days, providing insights into the estate’s environment, aspirations, and their relationship with the place. The project combines analogue photography with digital video and emphasises a collaborative approach.

Danilo Murru: No Ball Games

Danilo Murru’s project comprises two parallel sequences of work that capture different aspects of the Pepys Estate. Colour images depict the estate’s physical and social borders, especially where it meets surrounding regeneration projects and planned areas of gentrification. Monochrome images portray hidden corners and edge spaces within the estate, revealing its unintentional complexity and beauty over the past six decades.

Additionally, graphic designer and photographer Tim George is collaborating with curator Gareth Gardner to create a visual identity for the exhibition, inspired by the original designs for Manplan. Contextual information panels will channel the spirit of Manplan and its pioneering printing methods, developed by designers Michael Reid and Peter Baistow.

The exhibition will also feature archive material related to Manplan, including original magazine copies. It will include highlights from photography and videography artworks related to the estate over the past 53 years, such as Reading Pepys by Dr. Tim Livsey and James Price, and photographs taken on the estate by Rob Kenyon in 1981, commissioned by the Albany Summer Playscheme.

>> Also read: RIBA exhibition showcases architectural photography with a social focus