A brush with Brutalism

London is studded with tower blocks. The most modern glint with steely glass, soaring futuristically into the city’s sky. But peel back the decades and you come across lumbering hunks of concrete, apparently blotting the landscape, stark and unforgiving.

My Open House London whirlwind took me to Balfron Tower in east London, an astonishing residential block built in the early 1960s. This building, from the Brutalist school of architecture, is by no means elegant, but was awarded Grade II listed status in 1996.

There was quite a queue to take a tour around this beast. One resident passed by and declared “there is nothing interesting about this building!”

We were ushered in by a young artist who has a one-bedroomed apartment on the 24th floor. Surprisingly, the lift was smooth and didn’t stink of urine. Her flat, on a bleak walkway, had a pleasing Soviet era starkness about it – and a commanding view.

There is little coziness about this tower block, which looms menacingly over the cityscape. It hasn’t fallen apart yet and is going to be refurbished. I’m a huge advocate of the tower block. They are an eternal source of compelling photography.

Click first image for the full gallery experience

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For further London tower block action, see:

More joy of tower blocks

London City concrete

12 thoughts on “A brush with Brutalism

  1. An enjoyable read Mike and it brought back memories of my time living and working near Spandau in Berlin in the late eighties early nineties. As you say tower block are a great source for photographers from the people who occupy them to the architecture itself.


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