Sunday, June 14, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #345] A Brutal Day

Most of you know I am fascinated with ugly architecture. It always astonished me the it was possible that anyone ever thought it was a good idea to build these buildings, often placed in the most wildly inappropriate settings. Over time, this astonishment morphed into fascination, and in Berlin, the fascination turned into love.

The style that is the most egregious and delights me is called Brutalist. London, indeed, the UK, excels at it; I don't think you'll find more raw concrete anywhere West of the Iron Curtain.

This Saturday afternoon, I decided to indulge my fetish a bit and take a look at the Robin Hood Gardens estate. It's due to be torn down soon after recently losing a petition to become a listed, and thereby protected, building, so I wanted to see it while I still could. Fortuitously, just up the road from RHG is Balfron Tower, another shining example. Attached are a few pics from my day out in Blackwall, East London.


Full album:

01. DSC00004 - Robin Hood Gardens in the foreground, Balfron Tower behind. From Wikipedia:

Robin Hood Gardens is a council housing complex in Poplar, London designed in the late 1960s by architects Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972. It was intended as an example of the 'streets in the sky' concept: social housing characterised by broad aerial walkways in long concrete blocks, much like the Park Hill estate in Sheffield; it was both informed by, and a reaction against, Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation.

The estate covers about two hectares and consists of two long blocks, one of ten storeys, the other of seven, built from precast concrete slabs and containing 213 flats, surrounding a landscaped green area and a small hill made from construction spoil. The flats themselves are a mixture of single-storey apartments and two-storey maisonettes, with wide balconies (the 'streets') on every third floor. The complex is located near Blackwall DLR station. It is within sight of the nearby Balfron Tower; both are highly visible examples of Brutalist architecture.

02. DSC00009 - One of the two buildings on the estate; DSC00017 later taken from the top stairwell (where the angled blue metal latticework is) later

03. DSC00011 - The charming wall around the complex

04. DSC00015 - The fetching "street in the sky"

05. DSC00017 - A view across the courtyard to the other building from the stairwell.

06. DSC00035 - What's where in East London

07. DSC00038 - Balfron Tower

08. DSC00039 - This shows you the "streets in the sky" concept in action; the 'tower' in the middle is the lift shaft you take up, then you cross over to the buildings, so you can see there's a walkway only every third floor

09. DSC00046 - I happened upon Chrisp Street Market nearby

10. DSC00061 - Thames Barrier is a large flood control structure on the River Thames, constructed between 1974 and 1982 at Woolwich Reach, and first used defensively in 1983.[1] It is the world's second largest movable flood barrier (the largest is the Maeslantkering in The Netherlands).

Located downstream of central London, the barrier's purpose is to prevent London from being flooded by an exceptionally high tide moving up from the sea, often exacerbated by a storm surge. It only needs to be raised for the duration of the high tide; at ebb tide it can be lowered to release upstream water that backs up behind it. On the northern bank it lies in the area of Silvertown in the London Borough of Newham. On the southern bank it lies in the New Charlton area of Charlton in the London Borough of Greenwich.

11. DSC00065 - Millennium Dome, er, sorry, the "O2 Centre"

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

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