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Balfron Tower

2014-Present

Our approach has been one of ‘constructive conservation’ and of respect for the Brutalist aesthetics.

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Our approach has been one of ‘constructive conservation’ and of respect for the Brutalist aesthetics.
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Strategy

Ernö Goldfinger’s 27-storey Balfron Tower in east London had fallen into disrepair and out of favour. But times have changed. It is now Grade II* Listed, and there’s a renewed appreciation of Brutalist buildings like this one. Guided by Goldfinger’s original vision, we’ve worked with developers Londonewcastle, with Historic England and with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to bring the tower into the twenty-first century. Our approach has been one of ‘constructive conservation’ and of respect for the Brutalist aesthetics.

Location:
London, UK
Client:
Londonewcastle
Popla HARCA
Telford Homes
Role:
Architect, 50/50 Interior Architecture Role with Ab Rogers Design, and Landscape Architect
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Our role encompassed the landscape architecture as well as the architecture, and giving this landmark building a second life was always about taking a broader view.
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We’ve preserved and celebrated Balfron Tower, improved the setting of next-door Carradale House – also by Goldfinger – and enhanced the Balfron Tower Conservation Area. Working with the community helped us understand how the public spaces, and especially the new public square, would bring the whole estate together, and we thought carefully about how the landscape around the tower would reconnect it to the wider area. It isn’t just about the tower but about the whole estate.
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Specificity

Landscape and the sense of arrival had never been a priority here, and now at last the concrete is set off by rich and wildlife-friendly gardens which reconnect the tower with the surrounding streets and with the A12 that passes close by. As you approach the tower, a beam of light shepherds you safely across the drawbridge, towards the entrance and into the building.

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The site at ground level, prior to our work
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Our vision for the public realm

To make the entrance lobby a more inviting space, we’ve reconfigured the core, lifts and refuse chutes. This freed up space within the service tower to provide, in a more modern form, the community facilities that Goldfinger once envisaged and to add others. Residents now have access to a cinema room, table-tennis room, yoga room, dining room, library, workshop and gym. They also have access to the roof to grow vegetables and fruit, and to make the most of the impressive views.

Our vision for the communal facilities - CGIs by Binyan Studios
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The divisions between private and public spaces have been softened. We’ve remodelled the existing access corridors to make them open and bright.
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We've also re-instated and decluttered the public square at the base of the tower to create a place for children to play, for adults to sit, and for the wider community to gather.
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Studio Egret West showflat, styled by 2LG

One of each of the original flat typologies has been reinstated to Goldfinger’s original layout, preserving his original vision for future generations. And, alongside Ab Rogers Design, we’ve rethought the layout and design of the rest of the internal spaces, both private and communal. Walls have come down to suit the way we live now, and the apartments has been brought fully up to date.

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Studio Egret West showflat, styled by 2LG
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Every part of the fabric of the building has been brought up to modern standards – for fire prevention, acoustics, waterproofing and thermal insulation – through careful restoration and sympathetic replacement.

Ab Rogers showflat, styled in collaboration with Blue Farrier

Sustainability

Our work on Balfron Tower has been an exercise in making the most of the embodied energy of the existing materials and respecting Goldfinger’s legacy. We’ve worked with, not against, what’s already here. This significantly reduces the building’s carbon footprint and will ensure it performs well in the long term. We’ve given residents a more sustainable way of living – in greener, healthier surroundings.

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Balfron Tower under construction
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Balfron Tower prior to refurbishment

But upgrading the tower and rethinking the way it connects with its surroundings isn’t just about embodied energy and running costs. The knock-on effects are social, economic and environmental. By prioritising community spaces and encouraging chance meetings and organised events, we’ve given people reasons to come together and reasons to get to know one another.

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