Trellick Tower: The fall and rise of a modern monument

Fosco Lucarelli and
Mariabruna Fabrizi


Image: Ernö Goldfinger’s monumental
Trelleck Tower in London (built 1972)

Drawing by San Rocco / Salottobuono
Published in San Rocco Magazine
№ 5 — Fall 2012 [Scary Architects]
Reposted from the blog microcities

Recalling his first job experience, a certain gentleman still remembers the horrified faces of his friends after revealing he was just about to start working at Ernö Goldfinger’s architectural firm. In retrospect, he admits, it was pretty much like the reaction of the peasants to young Harker’s sister when he announced that his brother was going to visit Count Dracula.

Few architects, if any, would earn as much public loathing as Goldfinger during the 1960s and ’70s, and it is not by chance that Ian Fleming’s villain was named after him.

Ernö Goldfinger in front of Trellick Tower_45687163_8

Hated for his short temper as well as for his architectural production, Goldfinger — a lifelong Marxist who practiced in Perret’s atelier — embodied the last phase of heroic, utopian modernism, and experienced its subsequent fall in public opinion.

The socialist utopian ideology associated with the Brutalist style was a perfect fit in the context of the British post-war housing shortage, and the development of high-rise buildings in the relatively flat London boroughs was initially touted by the government as a modern, forward-looking solution. If high-density housing was the setting, then concrete was to be the protagonist. For two decades, practicality had been aesthetics: being economical, flexible and indestructible, concrete became a metaphor for “the future” and acquired enough respect to be emphatically exposed on the façades of large buildings.

Starkly aggressive, with its thirty-one floors towering over a low-rise neighborhood, Goldfinger’s 1972 Trellick Tower in London is a tragic syntax comprising raw concrete, deep shadows, and sky bridges evoking the purified silhouette of a mediaeval castle. With its uncompromising materiality — which inelegantly quotes Le Corbusier — the tower is a daring presence in London’s post-war landscape, an expressionistic monument for the masses. Continue reading