Last week I was invited to view the inside of the Balfron Tower in advance of a ‘pop up’ opening with the National Trust as part of Balfron Season. As a long term fan of Brutalist architecture I was excited at the prospect of seeing inside one of the famous Goldfinger tower blocks, so Snarfle and I trundled over to Langdon Park in Poplar, East London.
We were ferried up in the coffin shaped lifts (presumably built to accommodate emergencies… and deaths) before arriving on a top floor to view Flat 130, a maisonette flat once occupied by the architect Ernő Goldfinger for a few months after the block was built in 1968, apparently to demonstrate the benefits of high rise life. For the pop up the flat has been redecorated in an earnestly retro style by the Hemingways; think shag piles, Tretchicoffs and G Plan. Of course, I particularly liked the little illustrated details.
The walkways in the sky are connected to the ‘service tower’ by suspended concrete paths, not the most salubrious of passages after nearly 50 years of use. Gosh I do love a brutalist building but I wouldn’t want to live in one: arrow like windows recall the defensive architecture of medieval castles, and the predominant view below is of the A12, from which we usually view this building at high speed, on our way to places more pastoral.
We made our way home via Glenkerry House (above, a later Goldfinger addition to the Brownfield Estate), the Festival of Britain clock tower and Chrisp Street market, where we stopped to enjoy some street food and music from Paul Mosley.
Sadly this is the swan song for Balfron Tower as social housing: the flats are being scrubbed up to be sold off on the ‘luxury’ market – far from what Goldfinger originally intended.
Tours with the National Trust take place between 1st-5th October and 8-12 October and are will include a discussion on the local area, modernism and the development of post war social housing. Book your ticket here if brutalism tickles your fancy.
UPDATE! Due to popular demand the National Trust have now extended the tours of Flat 130, Balfron Tower for a further two weeks. Grab your tickets now as they’re sure to sell out again soon.
Tickets are being released for 6 more days of tours, Friday to Sunday 17-19 and 24-26 October. Tours are on the hour, 11am to 4pm. Please note places on tours are ONLY available by booking in advance at here. To register interest in visiting with a local community or educational group please contact email@example.com.
Joseph Watson, Programme Manager of National Trust London – “The National Trust is delighted to announce that more tickets for the Balfron Tower are now being made available for the coming fortnight. As part of the extension, we are undertaking further work with local schools and community groups, inviting them to visit Flat 130 for free. I would like to record our special thanks to local residents for welcoming us and allowing us to extend the run.”
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