Balfron Tower (Open House Weekend) Lansbury Estate, Poplar and Irony and Boe’s Giant Chihuahua
(Image: East India Dock Road viewed from All Saints DLR station) Four weeks ago (20/21 Sept) it was open house weekend when members of the public have free access to many of London’s historic buildings. I chose to go to Poplar and see inside Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower which was also hosting a series of art exhibitions.
Giant Chihuahua by Irony and Boe (Poplar, London E14). But my first stop was to feast my eyes on this extraordinary painting. And wonder why would anyone want to paint such a tiny dog as giant on the side of a tower block?
Clock Tower designed by Frank Gibberd (1952) for Chrisp Street Market.
Balfron Tower (1967) designed by Erno Goldfinger.
Lansbury Estate, Poplar neighbourhood, London E14. Prior to visiting Balfron Tower, I took a free guided walk with London Urban Visits (highly recommended) lead by Michael Owens. And this brought alive a whole area of East London that I knew little about.
An ariel view from Balfron Tower of Chrisp Street Market, the Lansbury Estate and St Mary and St Joseph Church. The Lansbury Estate (named after the MP for Bow & Bromley who campaigned for the working people) was commissioned by the LCC as part of the Festival of Britain 1951. Poplar had been badly bombed in WW2 and there was a housing shortage.
1950s sculpture remains although housing around has been replaced and modernised.
Reverse design of 1950s sculpture shown above.
Original 1950s social housing. There were no high rises. Some blocks were built around pretty communal squares like this one. Or flats and maisonettes in long terraces which were only three stories high.
The local park. You can see the Anchor mounted on a plinth to the left to commemorate the area’s connection to men who worked on the docks.
Trinity Methodist Church was also designed for the Festival of Britain by Cecil Handisyde and D Rogers Stark. Note the industrial design reflects the area.
St Mary and St Joseph Church was designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott. And brother of Giles Gilbert Scott who designed the icon red London phone boxes. In fact their father and grandfather were also architects.
The Clock Tower, Chrisp Street Market was also open as part of the Open House weekend. We climbed the clock tower which was the perfect spot for Michael to explain the ideas behind the redevelopment in 1951. The architects thought of every amenity for the people – schools, old people’s home, medical centre, market and better housing. Buildings were made from whatever material was available after the war. And there was no public consulation. This was about the state looking after the people. A very different approach to redevelopment today.
View from clock tower of Balfron Tower.
And then we arrived at Balfon Tower. Designed in 1962 and completed in 1967. Erno Goldfinger was the Hungarian architect who followed the 1960s vogue for Brutalist architecture. He lived in flat 130 for a period. He’s also designed Trellick Tower in West London (1968 – 72)
The original children’s playground. You can see a guy climbing the stairs designed so children could use the slide.
Local children preferring other forms of play on their scooters.
Entrance to Balfron Tower.
The original lift directory. As you can see there are 24 floors and 146 flats. There are only 2 lifts which stop at every 3rd floor. In its heyday, when the building was fully occupied, you could wait half an hour for the lift. That’s if they were working.
The corridor on the 24th Floor offered great views over London. At the moment the building is empty and awaiting private redevelopment. As it is an architecturally listed building by English Heritage, many of the original features will remain.
Corridor view from 24th floor of Balfron Tower.
View from a flat on 24th floor of Balfron Tower.
View of the nearby Canary Wharf which has fuelled redevelopment of the areas by workers needing accommodation close to their workplace.
Irony and Boe’s Giant Chihuahua! Spotted from top floor of Balfron Tower.
Coloured tiles and original door grills on the 15th floor of Balfron Tower. Each floor was coloured differently so residents could identify where they were more easily.
Art installation dedicated ironically to Margaret Thatcher. One of many art installations on view that weekend. This one gave me the shivers.
12th Floor corridor of Balfron Tower.
Necole Schmitz’s art installation was both pretty and smelled very sweet. This flat hosted Home Bodies exhibition with 4 artists.
Home Bodies art installation. The kitchen piece was deliberately creepy though. All remaining furnishing were what was left after residents moved out for the refurbishment.
An artist’s studio. Some of the flats are occupied until December by artists. The light would be great. Though I guess pretty cold come November.
An art exhibition from Balfron Tower Open Season 2014
Local resident and photographer Michael Mulcahy took these splendid shots of Balfron Tower. He wasn’t happy that private developers are removing social housing from the area he grew up in.
And now that I’ve explored this area dedicated to the high rise tower block, the giant little guy makes sense. Its the only way to be seen. Its quite a remarkable piece of street art.