The Ivory Tower vs. the Brutalist Tower

Those creating policy are still so far removed from what life is like on a council estate, what does this mean for the people that live there?

Illustration by Rebecca Marks

Former Chair of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, renowned and controversial conservative thinker Roger Scruton died earlier this month. Under Scruton’s command, the Commission had aimed to build new housing in a ‘traditional’ manner, no more modernist concrete brutalist blocks, giving way to cornices and volutes for a better way of living. If those in power really do want council estates to resemble a reprised version of the Georgian square, where does the future lie for neglected modernist housing blocks scattered across London?

The perfect storm brewing between developers, impecunious local authorities and their communities, is when residents are forced out by developers for privatisation - exactly what happened at Balfron Tower. Erno Goldfinger’s 1967 brutalist tower, built as post-war council housing, has been transformed into luxury private homes that went onto the market in late 2019. The (lack of) respect for the architecture is similar to that received by the inhabitants of council housing.

The dominant presence of Balfron Tower over Poplar, East London is something to behold. Its architecture encapsulates the gritty modern experience with rusticated concrete like crawling skin and a striking design that contributes to an intense atmosphere styled by Kubrick and imagined by J.G Ballard. Along with its twin Trellick Tower in West London, reminders to all of the power of archit