Paradise is on the edge of an industrial estate just north of the M25.
It’s also behind a Jobcentre in Manchester. By the bins.
In 2010 we decided to start documenting places called paradise. You don’t have to look far before you comes across a paradise. Paradise Rd. Paradise Lane. Paradise Street.
To name something is to define it. And every name is chosen for a reason. Renaming was used to establish and underline tenuous ownership throughout the British Empire. Anglo-Saxon names left behind like footprints.
But what about paradise? These names clearly aren’t a possessive land grab. Instead they’re clumsily trying to create an image. The naming of these service access-roads and industrial parks is so incongruous it manages to be simultaneously prosaic and romantic. It’s a kind of naive enthusiasm trying to convince us of what surely everybody will realise isn’t true, like an overeager parent naming their child Winner.
These names end up saying more about the namer than object.
So who is it that picks these names? In the UK it’s the local council. Sometimes they’re suggested by developers. Sometimes they’re thrown open to competitions for the public. But the ultimate decision lies with the council.
A recent study looked into the long term trends in the naming of roads. It showed a move that reflected changing interests. No longer do councils plump for Arcadia Gardens. We’re much more likely to come across a Kyoto Place, along with other references to sustainability and ecological awareness.
But paradise isn’t a word solely connected to a modern, green agenda.
Paradise comes steeped in religious significance, the ultimate home of the just. All 3 of the Abrahamic religions have it. Paradise means heaven, the ideal place.
Then again utopianism isn’t a new thing in town planning.
Throughout the 20th century architects, from Corbussier to Lloyd Wright, have created architectural utopias as theoretical projects. While the 1946 New Towns Act tried to move people out of the overcrowded slum of the major, post-war cities. Its explicit intention for these 30 new towns was them being practical and real urban utopias.
But to back in that industrial just north of the M25 called paradise, what were they thinking? Were they trying to create a new utopia or a home of the just?
Maybe they were just having a laugh. A town planner with a sense of humour. Stranger things have happened, how else do you explain Milton Keynes?
Regardless, welcome to paradise.