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a life in architecture

cornelia parker

The Boundary Street Estate in Shoreditch was one of the first large London County Council housing estates; it was built at the turn of the last century. The artist Cornelia Parker loves it. 'I think it's a wonderful architectural extravaganza; red brick, stripy, Arts and Crafts. All the buildings are different. They're all run down but I look at them daily and think how beautiful they are. Arnold Circus has a band stand on a mound in the middle. The mound was created when they cleared away the slums in the 1890s. It had been the worst kind of devil's pit in London, full of prostitutes and crime; you'd disappear into it and never come out alive.'

Parker finds the area full of historical interest. 'It borders on the City; Boundary Passage runs into old Nicholl Street where the Old Nick prison used to be - the word 'nick' has come from it.' In courtyards behind the housing there are artisan workshops 'full of metal workers, architects, painters, woodturners'.

Some flats are now owned privately.Parker first bought one there in 1994: 'It had been on the market for a year and a half, it was very dingy but it was a fantastic flat.' She now lives opposite in an old print works. Although the area is very run down and the majority of occupants are still Bangladeshi, changes are afoot. 'I've a feeling that this whole area is going to become a yuppie paradise. It's curious - I suppose I've been part of that.'

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