Block of flats, 1972-5 by Ernö Goldfinger for London County Council (later Greater London Council - GLC) Brownfield Estate.
Mixed development public housing scheme, approved for development by the LCC in 1959 and designed by Ernö Goldfinger from 1963. Built in three phases: Balfron Tower, old people’s housing and shop in St Leonard’s Road, 1965-7; Carradale House, 1967-8; Glenkerry House (1972-5), 2-24, 26-46 and 48-94 Burcham Street and Burcham Street Centre, 1972 onwards. The community centre/nursery in St Leonard’s Road was designed as part of phase 2 and built in phase 3.
Reasons for Designation
GLENKERRY HOUSE block of flats, 1972-5 by the eminent modernist architect Ernö Goldfinger for the London County Council (LCC, later GLC) Brownfield Estate, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Authorship: designed and planned by Ernö Goldfinger, a major exponent of the European Modern Movement in Britain and an architect of international standing;
* Architectural interest: in its form and external modelling, designed to the formula established for tall blocks, modified in response to economic and planning constraints; * Materials and construction: concrete aggregate and fine bush hammered concrete finishes maintaining the consistency in planning, palette of materials and aesthetic applied across the estate;
* Planning interest: laid out according to Goldfinger’s Corbusian-inspired interlocking arrangement of flats and maisonettes, three per bay, served by enclosed access galleries at every third floor;
* Degree of survival: little-altered, it retains its strong planning, visual and aesthetic relationship with Balfron Tower and Carradale House and evidence of Goldfinger’s rigorous attention to detail;
* Social and historic interest: phase 3 of an LCC, later GLC mixed development, principally of high rise blocks, designed to re-house a local community within a carefully planned integrated landscape;
* Group value: Glenkerry House has strong group value with the low-rise and high-rise elements of the estate, notably with Balfron Tower and Carradale House.
The Brownfield estate, or Rowlett Street estate as it was known at the time, was developed by the LCC who, short of in-house capacity, approached the architect Ernö Goldfinger.
In 1951 Poplar Borough Council approved a programme to build 300 dwellings on the Tetley Street site to the south and west of Rowlett Street. Before the first block (Langdon House) was completed, the LCC assumed responsibility for developing the area as an eastern extension to the Lansbury estate and part of the wider Stepney and Poplar Reconstruction Area and in May 1955 approved designs by the Architect’s Department for a low-rise development of 354 dwellings at a density of 142 persons to the acre (ppa). It consisted of a mixture of 2-storey terraces, 4-storey maisonette blocks and 2/3-storey blocks of flats. Construction commenced in early 1957 and was substantially complete by 1961. The site was named the Brownfield Estate in July 1958 after an existing road, itself named after a local doctor.
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHEME
Rowlett Street Stage I
The LCC in May 1959 approved an estimate of £50,400 for the acquisition, clearance and partial redevelopment of the first of three extensions to the Brownfield Estate, prompted by clearance and the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel approach; the site was developed in stages to facilitate site acquisition and the rehousing of residents. The density was to be increased from 170ppa to compensate for land take for the Blackwall Tunnel.
Having approached Goldfinger in October 1962, the following month the LCC produced a sketch layout of three 15-storey point blocks as an indication of the type of scheme they anticipated, including the potential for some low buildings for the elderly. When Goldfinger’s scheme was presented to the LCC in June 1963 the LCC architect described Balfron Tower as a ‘landmark’ building and commented that ‘a high sense of visual drama would be achieved while emerging from the Blackwall Tunnel’. Detailed Stage I proposals received approval in February 1964; the contract started on site in June 1965 and was completed in October 1967, with a topping out ceremony on Balfron Tower on 22 February 1968.
Rowlett Street Stage II
Goldfinger was briefed about a future site extension as early as February 1963 and at the outset prepared sketches for the complete site [ie phases 1 and 2]. Thus the first two phases were planned as a whole, to be executed in two halves, and densities and dwelling types were calculated in aggregate. Although delay had been anticipated, phase II was however held back by the LCC’s decision to rehouse in Balfron Tower residents who had been displaced by the site clearance. The LCC authorised the acquisition of the Stage II site in November 1964; Goldfinger received a formal commission in December 1965, and in July 1967 his proposals for Carradale House were accepted.
Rowlett Street Stage III
The LCC reported in December 1966 that the land south of Burcham Street would be redeveloped to provide 129 new dwellings. At 2.89 acres gross, stage III was the largest site but was developed less intensively than the preceding phases (174 ppa compared with 216 for phase 1 and 205 for phase 2). Additionally it was subject to economies imposed by the new Housing Cost Yardstick (government policy introduced to control public sector housing costs). A drawing from December 1969 (RSHIII/109) shows the rudimentary Glenkerry House, without its service tower resolved, three low-rise blocks, community building and car park block to the west in relation to the existing Balfron Tower and Carradale House. Perspective drawings of early 1970 depict Glenkerry House and the low rise blocks fronting Burcham Street. Glenkerry House was built between 1972 and 1975, and the project was complete or nearing completion by 1976. The relatively long development period was characteristic of the 1970s. The car park block, intended to enclose the western garden court, was never built.
A Hungarian émigré, born in Budapest, Ernö Goldfinger (1902-1987) moved to Paris in 1920 and to London in 1934. He stands out as one of the only architects trained under Auguste Perret at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 1920s, and who was closely involved in the early years of the Modern Movement on the Continent, to find acceptance in Britain. He is held in high regard as a major exponent of these ideas in England in the post-war period. Firmly rooted in Perret's Structural-Rationalism, he was strongly influenced by Le Corbusier's social idealist views and architecture, embodied in the slogan ‘Soleil, Espace, Verdure’ (sun, space, greenery). The Brownfield estate epitomises these ideas and the Balfron Tower in particular is one of the closest parallels to European modernism to be built in this country.
Having first produced designs for housing in 1929 in Algiers, Goldfinger went on to develop ideas for high-rise housing, culminating at that time in a scheme for a 24-storey communal housing scheme, again unbuilt, but exhibited at the CIAM (Les Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) conference in Athens in 1933.
In designs for mixed development housing schemes at Abbotts Langley, Herts of 1956-8, comprising a thirteen-storey slab (unbuilt) and three and four-storey blocks and terraces of maisonettes and flats, approached by detached stair towers, Goldfinger explored the Corbusian inspired ‘rue interieure’ formula for tall blocks of flats and maisonettes served by an internal gallery, devising an interlocking section whereby three floors of flats per bay were served by an enclosed gallery, thus providing greater opportunity for social interaction. These principles were fundamental to his later schemes, influencing both the Brownfield estate and the slightly later Cheltenham estate, LB Kensington and Chelsea (Trellick Tower, 1968-72, Grade II*, low rise housing, Cheltenham estate, 1969-73, Grade II).
Phase 3 was dictated by economies enforced by the new Housing Cost Yardstick. In Glenkerry House balconies were reduced, and to fit the narrow site the service tower was attached but set at a right angle to the main block. The design was streamlined giving accent to horizontal banding, reminiscent of the 1930s, rather than in expression of the crosswalls. Glenkerry House is also clearly related to Goldinger's 1956 design, unbuilt, for a housing block at Abbotts Langley, which it resembles in scale and proportion.
Adjacent to it is a single-storey flat-roofed shop, in bush hammered concrete and buff brick. Whilst it was designed as part of the estate to provide facilities and a social hub for the residents, a role which continues, it is not included in the listing.
Since 1980 Glenkerry House has been managed by Glenkerry Co-operative Housing Association Ltd under a community leasehold co-operative scheme set up by the Greater London Secondary Housing Association Ltd.
Block of flats. 1972-5 by Ernö Goldfinger for the LCC (later GLC) Brownfield Estate
STRUCTURE AND MATERIALS: in-situ reinforced concrete, cross-wall construction with pre-cast panels and some timber cladding; a flat concrete roof, in a similar but pared down form and aesthetic to the earlier phases.
PLAN: a fourteen storey block, comprising 75 flats and four maisonettes, laid out on the same principal as Balfron Tower, of an enclosed corridor serving three floors of flats - a west-facing one-bedroom flat overlooking the corridor and dual aspect two-bedroom flats above and below, each with an internal stair. The main service tower is joined at a right angle to the northern end of the slab and a secondary stair tower projects at the southern end.
EXTERIOR: on the eastern elevation enclosed access galleries are expressed as continuous concrete balconies supported on concrete brackets, similar to Balfron Tower. The ground and first floor are supported on cylindrical piers. In front of entrances to the flats, the balconies are dropped to accommodate a window. Windows are arranged in pairs of pivot-hung lights, two per unit. On the western elevation, flats are in two bays, one set back behind a shallow balcony, creating a rhythm across the facade. Windows are arranged in groups of two or three, in units between channelled, round-edged concrete fascias. The main entrance, in the northern tower, has a glazed door unit (renewed) and above it the name Glenkerry House in the original lettering. The stair and lift lobbies are lit by slit windows arranged in groups of five with the glazed boiler house projecting at the top of the tower. The southern stair tower is lit by tiers of slit windows, three per floor. Unlike the earlier blocks, windows have not in general been replaced.
INTERIOR: flats are similarly planned to the earlier phases, accessed from an internal gallery and have flush panelled doors in slender architraves. Common stairs and lift lobbies are well-lit by the tiers of slit windows, are relatively spacious and have steel balustrades as elsewhere on the estate, allowing sight up and down.
Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that all plant and services are not of special architectural or historic interest and are excluded from the listing.
This List entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 29/10/2018