Posted by: Gary Klaukka | August 2, 2009

Poplar

Some time ago I visited Trellick Tower, which is one of Ernő Goldfinger’s more prominent modernist creations. A couple of weeks ago one of my friends and I made an urban excursion to East London. We took the 15 from Charing Cross and travelled all the way to Poplar where another one of Goldfinger’s towers is located. This one is called Balfron Tower, and it was completed in 1971. In order to promote the idea of living in tower blocks, Mr Goldfinger himself lived in a flat on the 26th floor for a couple of months (and then returned to his cottage in Hampstead). While Balfron is almost as tall as Trellick (28 and 31 storeys, respectively), the latter was a more massive project. Trellick Tower has 217 flats, whereas Balfron only has 146.

When comparing Trellick and Balfron, it seems that Balfron is in a less hospitable area. Trellick Tower is within a five-minute walk from Portobello Road, whereas Balfron does not boast such famous places in its proximity. Both are located next to very busy roads: Trellick next to the Westway (A40) and Balfron next to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach (A12), and both were constructed as part of a larger housing complex.

Some days after I had visited Poplar, I spoke to someone who is heavily involved in regenerating East London around Poplar, Bromley and Stratford. By chance, he was quite familiar with Balfron. He told me that there are changes in store for the building. In the past one of the problems has been that mothers with prams have lived on the top floors and the lift has tended not to work. The plan appears to be to ensure that people with prams and such would live on the lower floors and young professionals and similar people would inhabit the top floors. Rejuvenating Balfron is part of a broader government agenda to regenerate the Lea Valley area.

The photographs were taken by Veikko Eranti in July 2009.

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