The cause of the conflict between the Highgate elite and the recent influx of the global super-wealthy is their disparate reasons for living in the area, according to a new study of Highgate that is part of a two-year investigation into the social impact of the super-rich on London, entitled Life in the Alpha Territory.
The researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London and King’s College London found that, while Highgate’s old elite took civic pride in its environment and architectural heritage, the uber-wealthy were not interested in the area’s cachet or the period features of the local architecture. Their primary concern was to find a home of at least 6,000 sq ft, or one that could be remodelled to at least that size. Period features were ripped out in “often brutal structural conversions of older properties into state-of-the-art living spaces” and replaced with luxury brand fixtures and fittings and an inoffensive minimalist aesthetic. For those who cannot afford detached mansions, that can mean excavating huge basements under terraced or semi-detached town houses.