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BLOG BEING UPDATED - TRY AGAIN LATER This blog records the controversial era of British architecture, 1960's Brutalism. Many Brutalist buildings have been demolished and many still are under threat


Brutalist event and exhibitions

The Architects

meet the architects behind the buildings

Buildings in danger

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Brutalism in Britain


Brutalism today

Does brutalism have a future?

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Camden Town Hall Annex

The former Camden Town Hall Annex opposite St Pancras and Kings Cross stations on the Euston road looked was thought to have been lost after Camden council moved out of their old premises and put the site up for sale. It was anticipated that the buyers would apply for demolition given the sites prominence and potential, with the enviable 'eyesore' arguments used as justification. However perhaps surprisingly the scheme put forward for the building has chosen to keep the building, however with one large addition. A rooftop extension (the plans can be viewed HERE along with a good analysis and critique of the scheme!). Although it is interesting that they have chosen to retain the building (possibly solely on cost) the rooftop extension is not a welcome addition, far too big for the building which already dominants the area around it and would not respect the buildings original form.

What do you think? Is the rooftop welcome given that it will entail the future of the building (albeit with a large modern extension tacked on the top)? Is the building worth preserving at all?

ARTICLE - Time Out: Balfron Tower

Balfron tower which has been previously featured on this blog was built in 1963 by the pre-eminent brutalist architect Erno Goldfinger and was the first in a series of similar social housing schemes, the most noble other example of course being the later Trellick tower in Kensington. The article in the weekly free London listings magazine Timeout focuses on the impending gentrification of Balfron tower with its conversion from its built purpose of social housing provision to private ownership. Balfron has lagged behind Trellick tower in this regard which was transformed in the 1990's from a 'no go area' to highly desirable real estate. Undoubtedly its transformation under 'right to buy' (effectively privatisation) was important in saving the tower as a feature of the west London skyline (and becoming listed by English Heritage) and facilitating the investment which the building had lacked for so many years under council ownership. 
This process of gentrification which will now be repeated at Balfron (which is already listed) comes two decades after Trellick, primarily due to its less attractive and peripheral location, a stones throw from the roaring Blackwell tunnel approach. However it is comforting to see that the 'Popular HARCA' housing association regards Balfron tower as viable in private ownership, suggesting that there is a ready market and appreciation for such brutalist icons (perhaps forcing a rethink at Robin hood gardens?). However what is concerning is the transformation of these icons has led to a corruption of their original idealism and a blurring of the context in which they were built. Trellick and Balfron towers along with many other brutalist housing schemes were built to house London's poorest with the use of high quality materials and design based on the egalitarian principle that everyone deserved a decent home and standard of living. The process of gentrification can often be brutal for tenants who are effectively thrown out of their homes as there are no plans for any provision of affordable housing in the new scheme, unlike the Trellick scheme in the 1990's despite the housing crisis being much more intense today. 

The consequences of the gentrification of Balfron tower are mixed and can be contested. On the one hand privatisation will allow the capital invested which the tower has been so deprived and is likely to make the building financially viable which will ensure its survival and future. Yet on the other hand the idealism in which it was built has clearly been lost, the egalitarian and the progressive environment determinism (in which it was believed good design would improve the lives of the poor) which are so often central to the narrative of brutalist buildings is in danger of being forgotten and brutalism as a style to be perceived as elitist with only the privileged who can afford a newly refurbished apartment in Balfron tower appreciating its merits - which is far from its original progressive aims.  

Read the online addition HERE

EXHIBITION: 'The Barbican Exhibition: building a landmark'

The latest in a series of exhibitions about the building of the Barbican has opened in the Barbican arts centre featured a series of fascinating (and many unseen before) pictures during construction which spanned several decades and the overcame many technical challenges (such as the burial of the underground lines underneath the arts centre as well as the creation of acceptable sound acoustics in the confined space of the new underground theatre).

Directions: the exhibition is set in the corner by the stairwell and entrance from the Highwalk on the ground floor (If entering the complex via the main lakeside entrance it is on the right-hand side near the cafe).   

More information on directions and the exhibition HERE

A unrelated series of photographs which compliment the exhibiton can be seen HERE

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

ARTICLE: Barbican estate value soars

This recent offering from thespaces website charts the rise and rise of house prices in the iconic brutalist barbican - 'Brutalist beauty: the Barbican Estate’s value soars', in the last year alone it has risen by 10-15%! As the article charts there is a ready market for these flats with their very central location but mostly amongst British buyers, with there being a lack of foreign interest. One result of this has been the retention of original features and lack of radical alternation (which in the long run may also add to their price)
However, the Barbican was built for and has always catered for more exclusive residents unlike other brutalist schemes such as Balfron Tower which should be more of a concern. 

- Also see their six music videos featuring brutalist architecture

Saturday, 2 May 2015

FILM: a short film on Milford Towers

WATCH: A short film on the Brutalist South London Milford towers in Catford by southlondoninterest 

Also catch their Blog Post on Milford Towers which I was asked to contribute to