grade II* listing bid for the brownfield estate
In August 2014, I worked with James Dunnett of DOCOMOMO to write a listing upgrade nomination for all of Ernö Goldfinger's buildings and spaces at the Brownfield Estate. In October 2015 Historic England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport accepted our bid and upgraded Balfron's listing to Grade II* and Glenkerry House to Grade II.
The decision is important for our ongoing campaign to save Balfron’s social housing as this Grade II* listing formally recognises the social ideals and purpose of the tower as a key component of its heritage.
Historic England state: "Balfron Tower was designed as a social entity to re-house a community, according with Goldfinger's socialist thinking.” And among their ‘principal reasons' for listing, they note: “Architectural interest: a manifestation of the architect’s rigorous approach to design and of his socialist architectural principles” and "Social and historic interest: designed to re-house a local community”.
Privatising Balfron will destroy these principles and this heritage. Saving Balfron’s social housing will keep these principles and this heritage alive.
Our reasons for the nomination include:
- Goldfinger’s buildings and spaces on the Brownfield Estate are already protected by the Conservation Area, but only Balfron Tower and Carradale House are listed. All of these should be listed at the same level of listing as Trellick Tower in North Kensington, including specifically the spaces between the buildings which can be vulnerable to development pressures, to recognise the exceptional architectural qualities of Goldfinger's work on the estate.
- A Grade II* level of listing would ensure that Historic England was actively involved in assessing any application for listed building consent for alterations or additions of any kind (which otherwise would be at the discretion of the local authority) and could make additional funding available via Historic England and might perhaps make it more possible for DCMS to help funding for refurbishment within the social housing sector.
- The current listing descriptions of Balfron Tower and Carradale House are inadequate and should be elaborated on to include all their ancillary buildings, reflect the social elements in the design and preserve the social purpose of this housing.
In support of this final point I produced a supplementary document devoted to residents’ experiences, drawing from residents’ own words to identify the aspects of the building they cherish and convey how unique design features have framed their everyday experiences. Owen Hatherley wrote a statement in support of the listing upgrade.
Published in Guillery, P. and Kroll, D. (eds.) Mobilising Housing Histories: Learning from London’s Past, 2017. For more information visit here.