Stephen Willats

Brentford Towers, 1985

Brentford Towers
This project work was made with the residents of Harvey House, Green Dragon Lane Estate, Brentford, West London. As Willats explained:In the conceptual model, from which Brentford Towers was derived, the tower block is seen as a commonly available symbol that denotes the wider social fabric in which we are all locked. There was to be a complete binding between the reality embodied in the work, the context in which it was to be presented, and the primary audience of the work.*
A group of fifteen residents of Harvey House worked with Willats to select objects from within their living room that had a personal significance for their life within the block and contrast them with something they could see from their picture windows in the same living room to which they attached a special meaning. Willats then made photographs of these various objects with the residents and tape recorded discussions with them about the relationship between the objects of the interior and exterior environment. The responses were presented on display boards showing a photograph of the participant, the objects they chose and an indication of where they lived in the building. Extracts from the discussions were chosen and the participant hand wrote these onto their display.
Starting from the ground floor, every two days a new display board was erected on a different landing within Harvey House until the top twenty second floor was reached. The displays created a Conceptual Tower within the block, but in this case a Tower based on the personal conceptualisations of the tenants, of their daily lives within the building rather than the conceptualistions of architects and planners.
*From: Society Through Art, Stephen Willats, HCAK 1990. The full text is transcribed in the Selected Texts section of this site.

Stephen Willats: Brentford Towers, One of the Display Boards

One of the Display Boards

Stephen Willats: Brentford Towers, The Board positioned by the lift

The Board positioned by the lift

Stephen Willats: Brentford Towers, Display Board

Display Board

Stephen Willats: Brentford Towers, Board by lift

Board by lift