Ernő Goldfinger was a brilliant architect, but a difficult man, and many people hate(d) his buildings. When Ian Fleming heard stories about the man in the early ’60s, he named his most famous villain after Goldfinger in the James Bond novel (and film) of the same name.
He is the high priest of the modern architectural style of brutalism that remains reviled by many to this day. His most famous work is the Trellick Tower in West London, now a much sought after ‘des res’ and the set of the British sitcom, Only Fools and Horses.
Much less well known is Trellick Tower’s slightly older twin in the East, the Balfron Tower…
Built in 1967,the trademark sky-bridges from the separated lift/service tower can be seen for miles (including from my office window). Unlike Trellick, Balfron remains largely unknown, although it is a Grade II listed building, and is regularly mis-credited as its trendier western twin when used in photo and film shoots. The majority of the flats are still council-owned, although every so often one of the few privately-owned flats comes on to the market. A top floor flat (can you call it penthouse?) recently sold for £200,000 which is incredibly cheap by London standards (for a listed building with incredible views!) – surely that will be a sound investment indeed when eventually, Balfron Tower receives the recognition it deserves?
I realise it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but set in the semi-industrial borough of Tower Hamlets – which still has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country (although also some of the highest average earnings distorted by the wealth coming from Canary Wharf) – it is not spoiling any picturesque scenery. Personally, I think the building is remarkable and second only to the Barbican project in terms of modernist architecture in London.