National Trust launches ‘pop-up’ opening of the Balfron Tower

For two weeks only, the National Trust is opening Flat 130 in the Balfron Tower, Poplar, to the public. Designed by modernist architect Ernö Goldfinger, and finished in 1967, Flat 130 is the flat that Goldfinger himself lived in for 2 months in 1968, to prove the desirability of high-rise living.

Why is the National Trust, an organisation better known for its country estates, miles of coastline and cream teas, opening a flat in a Brutalist, concrete tower in East London?

Balfron Tower, along with its younger sister Trellick Tower, is a testament to a particular moment in time when a vision of a utopian post-war Britain coincided with Brutalism – an architectural movement that indelibly changed the landscape of our urban environment.  This was intended to be a heroic architecture that sought to offer the best of design to the masses and to free people from the condemned slum housing and poor conditions still prevalent in 1960s Britain. This opening is part of Balfron Season, a unique programme of events presented by Bow Arts in association with Poplar HARCA, taking place in and around the Grade II listed Balfron Tower. 

For this opening, the interior of Flat 130 has been furnished by designers, Wayne and Tilly Hemingway, in the style of a 1968 period flat.

The National Trust already cares for Goldfinger’s own home in Hampstead, 2 Willow Road, so the Balfron Tower is the logical choice for the Trust’s first foray into Brutalism.  Goldfinger also finds a surprising ally in the National Trust’s founder Octavia Hill, with their shared concern for communal green space.  Hill, whose life was dedicated to providing better standards of housing, argued in 1888 that ‘tenants and all urban workers should have access to open spaces … places to sit in, places to play in, places to stroll in, and places to spend the day in’.  This sentiment was echoed by Goldfinger in a letter to the Guardian eighty years later, ‘the whole object of building high is to free the ground for children and grown-ups to enjoy Mother Earth and not to cover every inch with bricks and mortar.’

The word iconic is over-used, but Balfron Tower is an icon of a moment in time marked by utopian visions and dystopian outcomes.  In this vein, National Trust London seek to draw attention to special places that are part of the history and landscape of London and undoubtedly the Balfron Tower is one such place.

Duration 01 October 2014 - 12 October 2014
Times Wednesday - Sunday. Tours last approximately 75 minutes and leave at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.
Cost 12 (£10 for students with valid ID). Must be pre-booked.
Venue Balfron Tower
Address St. Leonards Road London E14 0QT, ,
Contact 0844 800 1895 / /

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