chapter  Chapter Eight
21 Pages

‘We Felt Magnificent Being up There’ – Ernő Goldfinger's Balfron Tower and the Campaign to Keep It Public

WithDavid Roberts

In December 2015, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets approved plans to refurbish and privatise Balfron Tower, a high-rise of 146 flats and maisonettes arranged on 26 storeys built in 1965–1967, the first phase of emigre architect Erno Goldfinger’s work on the Greater London Council’s Brownfield Estate in Poplar, east London. This chapter illustrates how Balfron’s history was mobilised to commodify the tower on the one hand, and to interrogate and object to this process on the other. It presents an argument that the practice and guidance of heritage of post-war housing estates must not only pay tribute to the egalitarian principles at their foundations, it must enact them. The most famous representations of Balfron Tower are in feature films which go beyond the typical kitchen sink dramas set in housing estates to fictive dystopian wastelands. The first trend is a renewed appreciation by historians and critics of the quality and originality of the tower.