Photography: Cianboy

Erno Goldfinger’s iconic Balfron Tower will get its controversial revamp after planning permission was granted last week.

Tower Hamlets council voted unanimously in favour of refurbishment plans for the 27-storey Brutalist building, drawn up by Studio Egret West and Ab Rogers Design.

The plans were slammed by 20th Century Society director Catherine Croft: ‘Balfron Tower is an iconic post war listed building by an outstanding architect – its national architectural significance recognised by the grade II* listing. Future generations will regret the decision to strip out so much of the original fabric.’

Modernisation work includes replacing the building’s original white timber windows with brown aluminium frames, and updating communal areas by removing some original finishes, such as quarry tiles. The tower’s upgraded apartments – most of which were socially rented until residents began being moved five years ago – will made available for the private market.

‘In our view these are drastic and unjustified changes that will harm the character and appearance of the building, and the wider estate,’ said the society.

Visualisation of changes to windows, Balfron tower. Courtesy of Studio Egret West
Courtesy of Studio Egret West

But planners say that ‘an acceptable balance has been achieved with the heritage needs to preserve the special character, historic significance and appearance of the grade II* listed Balfron Tower along with the requirements to bring the building up to modern standards.’

Studio Egret West and Ab Rogers Design will also repair the building’s bush-hammered concrete facade and reinstate original ‘lost’ features, such as the roof cornice, concrete boiler flutes and internal corridors in the entrance. Internal walls will be also be reconfigured across the 146 apartments as part of the proposal, to bring them in line with modern usage.

‘We can give the building a second life and hopefully make sure it will have people living in it for the next 100 years in good condition,’ said Studio Egret West principal Christophe Egret.

Poplar HARCA housing association is spearheading the refurbishment plan in a joint venture with developers LondonNewcastle and Telford Homes.

Balfron Tower was built from 1965-67 and is one of Brutalist architect Goldfinger’s most famous designs. It was given Grade II-listing in 1996, later upgraded to Grade II* in October 2015.

Over recent decades, however, the building has suffered significant wear and tear.



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