This article originally appeared in VICE UK.
What is it? A windowless two-bed inside a warehouse;
Where is it? Brixton, where young media types, new money gentrification and 3am McDonald's knifefights live in perfect harmony;
What is there to do locally? Go to the David Bowie memorial and see some miserable thin lad with a candle and an acoustic guitar whisper "he taught us it was okay to be weird" to no one;
Alright, how much are they asking? I don't normally tinge the price bit with any sort of value judgement but I have to make an exception here because they are asking £1,625! Per calendar month! Bills not included! Windows not included!
Do you like windows? Right, yes, but: have you considered instead not liking windows? I mean what are windows, really? We spend most of our waking hours covering our windows: net curtains so we can sort of see fuzzily out but other people can't see in; blinds to shutter-to when we want enough privacy to do a wank; curtains to keep the drafts out, the light out, the heat in. Really, have you considered fully what life without windows would be like? You'd never have to clean a window, for instance. It makes you infinitely harder to be merked with a brick covered in dog shit. Local youths cannot so easily bother you with their footballs. Windows, when you think about it – when you really zoom out and think about it – are actually quite a lot of bother. Have you thought about having this instead: no windows? Have you thought about having no windows at all?
On a related note: I would like to introduce you to this flat in Brixton that has no windows.
Here is the floor plan, which I double-checked just on the off-chance that the estate agent stood in front of the windows while taking photos of the flat, and in fact the entire front of the flat is fully glazed, and that these photographs were all taken at drastically bad angles to give the appearance of a flat without windows when in fact the flat very much has windows. But no. This flat has no windows.
Oh, hi. Didn't see you there. Oh don't... don't mind me. Just looking up point 11a from the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as adopted by the UN in 1955, no biggy. This is what I do with my spare time: I read things. I am a voracious reader. I read. I learn. This is me. This is who I am. Oh look this bit's interesting:
The windows shall be large enough to enable the prisoners to read or work by natural light, and shall be so constructed that they can allow the entrance of fresh air whether or not there is artificial ventilation;
Haha, yeah: a £1,600+ per month flat in Brixton is literally worse than prison is as according to the UN. So yes: I am pretty sure it has some sort of round-the-edges-of-the-kitchen-ceiling skylight thing. But it also has absolutely no windows. So it's tricky, even looking at photos of the flat, not to escape that claustrophobic feeling, that feeling that maybe you are not even on Earth – maybe you are on the moon, or some distant cruel planet, where no glass can withstand the force of the darkness outside, and that you have to be here in your little halogen-lit confines, slowly growing crazier and crazier, slowly finding it more and more normal to smear your shit up the wall, turning jumpily at the skittering sounds beyond the walls. Are you alone in here? Or is there something Other crawling the corridors with you?
There's been a trend recently in London Rental Opportunities of the Week to add some essential component of a flat on as a sort of afterthought – a toilet with a shower tray in it, for instance, or a weird toilet cupboard tacked on to the kitchen – and if you pace yourself backwards through the mental steps that took place before each of these happened you can conjure from the depths the ghost of a landlord, in the detritus of what was yet to come, a landlord with a phone clipped to his belt and a polo shirt tucked into his jeans, and his hands on his hips, gesturing towards the wreckage of a kitchen, going, "Well, yes, legally to be habitable this flat does have to have a toilet... but does it really need a hob?" or "Can we build some sort of dark small box for the shower to go in, instead of a legitimate bathroom? Same rent, half the space." But the windowless Brixton prison suggests something deeper, darker: a flat built for purpose with the specific remit of no windows, that a space buried in the middle of a warehouse conversion will be fine lit with little more than lamps and an obscured skylight, that people can adjust to a fundamental lack of vitamin D, that they can always take supplements. And if we skim the walls smooth enough and do it up with a nice kitchen, we can still rinse £1,600+ per month out of someone for it. What next, London? A flat without a door, just a small sewage duct you crawl into it through? Ceilingless 'back to nature' £550 per week shitholes in Tottenham? Maybe just brick me into a room and leave me to slowly suffocate there, and ask me for a monthly direct debit and three months' deposit up front for the pleasure? Why not that? Why not that? Ah? Can you hear me? The walls are closing in! Can you hear me? CAN YOU—
(h/t Helen Nianias)
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