The National Trust is holding a ‘pop-up’ opening of a flat in Balfron Tower in east London, a grade II listed building and one of the finest examples of 1960s Brutalist architecture in the city…
The building was designed by Ernö Goldfinger, and was a precurser to his famous Trellick Tower in west London. Its design mixes bombast – it towers above any of the buildings around it – with elegance, and was intended to offer a modern style of living to those trapped in slum housing at the time. It was completed in 1967 and Goldfinger himself lived in the tower for two months in 1968, in order to demonstrate the desirability of high-rise living and also to discover for himself any refinements that might be required for his future buildings. It is the flat where he lived – number 130 – that the National Trust is opening to the public from October 1-12.
Balfron Tower exterior
The National Trust already cares for Goldfinger’s home, 2 Willow Road in Hampstead, so this was a natural choice for its first foray into Brutalism. This pop-up opening offers a rare opportunity to visit a truly unusual building, and forms part of a series of events based around the tower that are being presented by Bow Arts.
For the opening, the National Trust has asked Wayne and Tilly Hemingway to furnish the property in the style of a 1968 council flat, and they have duly filled it with an array of 60s memorabilia, from packets of cereal in the kitchen to a Beatles poster on one bedroom wall.
Flat 130 before and after refurbishment by the National Trust
As the before-and-after photos shown here demonstrate, the flat needed considerable refurbishment. But while the Hemingways’ styling is fun, the real design delights are found in the details of the flat that still remain from Goldfinger’s era, which include door handles and narrow, elegant light switches.There is also an ancient but stlll working video phone, the date of which is unknown but is believed to be from the 1970s. It is these small touches which really offer a sense of Goldfinger’s vision and attention to detail in his design. This chance to visit the building and see his design close up, before the tower is refurbished and the flats sold to private owners, should not be missed.
Design details in the flat. Images courtesy of Sophia Schorr-Kon
Flat 130 at Balfron Tower will be open to the public from October 1-12, for information about visiting, go to balfronseason.com.