Monday, August 1, 2011
London's Ugliest Building?
The other day I was walking from Maida Vale into Notting Hill, near a branch of the Grand Union Canal, when I crossed paths with this lovely edifice. I thought, "Man, that is an ugly building."
I realized when I got home that Dave and I can actually see this building from the bedroom window of our new flat. At a distance, it doesn't look quite so horrible. (And admittedly, neither our building nor those of our neighbors would win an architecture prize.)
In this photo from our window, you can see it in the background on the right:
I was curious about this building, so I did some Googling. I started by searching "ugliest building in London" in Google images, and sure enough, it popped up. (Along with Strata Tower, aka the "electric razor," which was officially named London's ugliest building of recent vintage.)
My Googling led me to this blog, where the writers concur that this concrete monstrosity is, in fact, the ugliest building in the city. They also provided some more info -- namely, that the building is officially known as Trellick Tower.
According to Wikipedia, Trellick Tower is a 1972 structure designed by Hungarian architect Erno Goldfinger in the Brutalist style. It has a very similar sibling known as Balfron Tower, also by Goldfinger, in East London.
It's easy to see Goldfinger's Hungarian roots in these structures. They definitely have a Soviet-puppet-state aesthetic.
I don't dislike Brutalism as a rule, and sometimes that raw concrete look really works. But this isn't one of those cases, in my opinion. What's with that detached elevator shaft, connected to the main structure every few floors? Isn't that awfully inconvenient for residents?
Apparently Trellick Tower -- a government housing project -- had a bad reputation as a dangerous place soon after it was completed. But security was improved and now some of the apartments are privately owned. I found a listing online for one 21st floor, two-bedroom unit that's priced at £450,000! (That's about $720,000.)
I walked around the base of the building to take these photos, though, and it's not what I would call gentrified. There's quite a bit of graffiti (pretty good graffiti!) and although the neighborhood doesn't seem at all unsafe, it could fairly be described as a bit down-at-heel.
But the building has some local significance and is apparently a well-known landmark. It has made its way into popular culture, on TV and in movies, and was featured in a song by the band Blur. It's also depicted in a nearby mural along the canal:
I hope whoever lives there enjoys it. I, for one, would rather regard it from a distance.