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Bid to upgrade Balfron Tower listing and protect entire estate

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A bid to upgrade the listed-building status of Ernö Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower and include the wider estate around it is due to go to ministers in a matter of weeks

Completed in 1967, the Balfron Tower in east London is the 26-storey elder sister to Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower in North Kensington, which is grade II*-listed by Historic England.

Preservation body Docomomo UK wants the Balfron Tower’s grade II listing to be uprated to grade II* along with the rest of the buildings on the Brownfield Estate in Poplar.

While neighbouring Carradale House - part of the second phase of the Brownfield Estate - is currently listed at grade II. the remainder of the buildings, including Glenkerry House, a shop, car park, community facilities, and low-rise housing originally designed by Goldfinger for elderly residents, are only protected by Conservation Area status.

Carradale House by Erno Goldfinger

Source: Paul in London

Carradale House by Erno Goldfinger, on east London’s Brownfield Estate

The Brutalist estate is just a few hundred metres north of Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens, which this week failed to win listed status for a second time.

James Dunnett, of Docomomo UK and a former employee of Goldfinger, drew up the Brownfield Estate listing proposal, which has a supporting statement from AJ columnist Owen Hatherley. The Twentieth Century Society has also been involved with the bid.

Dunnett said that the estate, which was built between 1965 and 1972 was the most ‘unaltered example remaining’ of Goldfinger’s housing design, following the demolition of buildings on Trellick Tower’s Edenham Edenham Estate that had ‘damaged its overall integrity’.

He added that in addition to protecting the setting of the whole Brownfield Estate, raising Balfron Tower’s status to grade II* would give Historic England greater input on proposals to refurbish the building being worked up by housing association Poplar HARCA, developer LondonNewcastle and Studio Egret West.

‘The object is to get the whole of Goldfinger’s work included in the listing including all the minor buildings and spaces between the buildings, to recognize that the interplay between buildings and spaces - social spaces - between them was critical to the design,’ Dunnett said.

‘As a composition as a whole, Goldfinger’s Brownfield Estate reflects the Modern Movement ideal embodied in Le Corbusier’s slogan “Soleil, Espace, Verdure” – the belief that by building taller but without necessarily much increasing the density these conditions could be obtained for the mass of the population.’

The bid also calls for consideration to be given to the preserving the estate as social housing, in recognition of Goldfinger’s socialist principles. Dunnett said the only other such recognition related to the listing description of Lubektin and Tecton’s Finsbury Health Centre.

In his supporting statement, Hatherley said the estate was ‘remarkable as an example of a time when public housing could be valued as much, or rather more, than any other form of building’. He added: ‘On both architectural and social grounds, this is a place which needs preserving.’

A Historic England spokeswoman confirmed that listing recommendations were being prepared for submission to the government.

‘We have received an application to list the Balfron Tower and the other buildings and structures that make up Ernö Goldfinger’s LCC Brownfield Estate, in Poplar which was developed from the early 1960s, and  built from 1965,’ she said.

‘We have visited the site and are preparing our advice to go to the Department for Culture Media and Sport.’

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