Thursday, 17 May 2012

feature : Erno Goldfinger - Housing the Masses (1902-87)

photo thanks to : sneaky magpie

In the aftermath of World War II and the immediate housing shortage, the British Government saw high-rise buildings as the solution.
Erno Goldfinger took designing tower blocks to an unprecedented level, designing four of London’s most iconic high-rise residential buildings : Balfron Tower (1967), Carradale House (1970) and Glenkerry House (1979) all in Poplar, London Borough of Tower Hamlets; and Trellick Tower (1972) in North Kensington.

Throughout their existence they (particularly Trellick) have endured a love-hate relationship with the media and the public. For some they represent all that is wrong with inner city mass housing – grey, brutal, soulless, stark boxes in the sky. For others they represent a masterclass in urban planning, proportion and detailing.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of a wealthy Austrian lawyer, Goldfinger later studied fine art in Paris, where he met some of the leading architects of the day - Auguste Perret, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. It was here where his love affair with concrete began.

After a string of shop interiors and one dissolved architectural practice, Erno married British artist, Ursula Blackwell (of Crosse & Blackwell fame) and moved to London in 1934, befriending all of London’s architectural radicals such as Wells Coates, Maxwell Fry, European émigrés Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Russians Serge Chermayeff and Berthold Lubetkin.
In the beginning Goldfinger’s projects were modest, yet uncompromising. He was known as an agelastic man with a sudden temper, who always got his way. In one design a row of 3 terrace houses in Willow Road, Hampstead (1939), replacing a number of cottages, one disgusted local resident, Ian Fleming, apparently later named James Bond’s arch villain, Auric Goldfinger, after him !

After the war, Goldfinger produced a series of high quality, concrete-framed office and school designs and is heralded as a champion by the New Brutalists (Alison and Peter Smithson). It was during this time he also designed the (only successful), residential part of the much maligned Elephant & Castle complex (1963).

The icing on the cake would however be his high-rise tower blocks.
Love them or hate them, they are all Grade II listed and personally I am pleased to say they are here to stay. Prince Charles is most certainly “not amused”.

by Darren Maddison

Balfron Tower (1967) - 27 stories

Carradale House (1970) - 11 stories

Trellick Tower (1972) - 31 stories
Glenkerry House (1979) - 14 stories

photos thanks to : love london council housing

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