Dovecot Towers is on my mind. I’m making preparations for the book I plan to write, going through old posts etc, and a few weeks ago, I went back there.
To my surprise I found the return visit quite daunting. With the building looming up ahead, I imagined the soundtrack, with stag-parties, Sarah screaming, and the people who gossiped, played and argued on their balconies, never realising I could hear. I wonder how the other residents remember life there - after all, some people enjoyed happy days in Dovecot Towers. Occasionally, even I managed to raise a smile…
I was accompanied by Owen Hatherley, author of Militant Modernism, and responsible for the excellent Nasty Brutalist And Short blog – see links. Owen is a fan of brutalist architecture, which, in a column for Building Design, he defends with eloquence and passion. Personally, I’m not so keen, but Owen’s spirited advocacy could almost change my mind.
Owen is aware of Rentergirl, so I wondered what he’d make of Dovecot Towers. With the trained eye of a practiced architectural critic, Owen appraised the exterior. Here’s what he had to say:
“Dovecot Towers is tucked away in the back end of beyond - seemingly in an alleyway, without much hope of any light ever getting into the rooms. Then there were the grilles on the ground floor, which just made it seem like an industrial structure rather than housing - which, given the popularity of ageing satanic mills as yuppie flats, was probably the intention (also the reason for the cheap red brick, I suspect, although that looked like a bit of shallow dressing on a concrete frame), but combined with the dead flowers left for the suicide it all looked decidedly inhospitable. More than that, though, I remember that bit in the middle. Not really a square or a plaza, not a garden, just this odd bit of greenery that thought it was a feature of some sort. I can only wonder what it all looked like in the drawings...”
I agree with everything Owen says, except for one point. I don’t believe that Dovecot Towers was intended to reflect any style at all. It was - in more ways than one - thrown up. Architects speak of buildings having a dialogue with the surrounding area. In which case, what was Dovecot Towers trying to say? Then I saw the wilted bouquet. No green shots, just some half-dead lilies propped up and dwarfed by a shoddy, bleak and shabby buy-to-let disaster.
I’ve since learned that Davey might not have intended to die that night: he was threatening to jump, possibly to scare Sarah in the heat of the moment, and may have fallen, which for me makes his death all the more tragic. Coroners only record a verdict of suicide if there is conclusive evidence, like a note, so there was an open verdict. I heard from Sarah a while back. She’s determined not to be bitter and miserable (her words.) I also understand she’s doing voluntary work abroad.
As for William, my former landlord - well, I never did find out what happened to him.