Angels in the architecture

When I was 14 my pottery teacher told me she’d never in all her years of education had a student as bad as me. She said it was as though I only had to look at the clay and it dried up. A “friend” gave me the sarcastic advice that sculpture is easy, you just see the angel in the marble and set it free.

Angel

Easy! Why didn’t I think of that?

I was reminded of this when a colleague told me that organisations often have ‘angels’, people who are the heart and soul of the place. These don’t have to be (in fact, they rarely are) the CEO. They’re just as likely to be the cleaner, project worker or receptionist. The way angels respond to change, the stories they tell about the past and the hopes they have for the future give an insight into the real life of a workplace.

It got me thinking, do neighbourhoods have angels? And are they always people? I’m thinking of times I’ve worked in places where people talk about the old days of heavy industry, when people worked in shipbuilding or making spark plugs. The spectre of the past is alive in these places and it affects the way new initiatives work (or don’t work). Some people might be drawn to an area because of its past, others might feel nostalgic, others still might feel repulsed and want nothing more than to leave the place and the past behind.

The Peel has been part of Clerkenwell in London for over 100 years. It’s an area rich with history around leisure in places like Sadlers Wells, self improvement in places like City University and radical protests starting in Clerkenwell Green.

But who or what are the angels in Clerkenwell? How do we find them? What are the angels in your neighbourhood?