Open House London – Balfron Tower

One of the things that’s fascinated me about London is the council housing (aka, housing projects / social housing).  After WWII much of the UK’s housing stock was either rotten or bombed out.  Rather than replacing rows of terrace housing with more of the same, they built massive concrete housing estates in low-, mid-, and hi-rise form.  The idea was to eliminate overcrowding, and bring modern touches (indoor plumbing, flow-through ventilation) to the masses.  The heyday of the council house was from the late 1950s through to the late 1970s.  Though Toronto has  some social housing projects like Regent Park, the UK went much further.  It’s hard to believe, but by the late 1970s one in three Britons lived in council housing.  14% of all UK residents live in social housing today.  The number in Toronto is 5%.

One of the most famous pieces of council housing is Balfron Tower, designed by the famous architect Erno Goldfinger.  The tower is due to be completely refurbished and sold off as private flats (essentially, condos) rather than being rented out as social housing.  This building is fantastic, and awful, and fantastically awful.


7 thoughts on “Open House London – Balfron Tower

  1. Glad you enjoyed it. There was a plan to bust out most of Toronto’s downtown east side and build towers like this. Regent Park, Moss Park, and St Jamestown are as far as the plan went.

  2. Thank you for coming to visit us at Balfron Tower! Just thought that I would add a few corrections to your article, if you don’t mind!
    You state that the windows are single-glazed but in fact they are double glazed which for their time in a council block was indeed very space age indeed!
    I believe that very space age entryphone systems were in fact fitted in about 1980, this information was given to me by one of the engineers whose unenviable job it is to keep these things up and running, they are always a hit with visitors. Before these the building was open, as it was designed to be, but this led to anti-social behaviour and the unfortunate change in the way through routes were used as the doors became sealed up for those without an access key.
    There are 2 drying rooms in the building, on the 10th and the 22nd floor. These were simply as they sound, spaces for residents to dry their clothes, but as more and more people got tumble driers into their homes, and again anti-social behaviour became their main function, they were locked up and the lifts no longer stop on these floors.
    I have no idea who Sarah Richardson is but she is more than welcome to come around and re-design my kitchen! As a short term resident using the flat as a live / work space, and being an artist on an erratic income, i’m afraid that a designer kitchen is beyond my reach!
    There is some more information on my project that you mentioned above in this article in Litro magazine by the writer Juliette Golding here:
    and you can see some of my earlier work on my website at
    Thank you for coming to visit us at Balfron Tower.

  3. Many thanks for commenting Rob – I did enjopy your tour, and will amend my post to reflect your updates!

    Sarah Richardson is a Canadian semi-celeb designer. Younger, hipper, & more urban Martha Stewart. Laundry units in the kitchen are a novelty in Canada and that was the main reason for the shot.

    I was truly impressed with the amount of glass and light in the flats. Good luck with the rest of your project. Cheers from Canada’s best area code, 4-1-6 Toronto!

  4. goooold…..finggaaarrr (bwap brawwwnn bwramp)

    “Goldfinger was known as a humourless man given to notorious rages. He sometimes fired his assistants if they were inappropriately jocular, and once forcibly ejected two prospective clients for imposing restrictions on his design.” – wiki

  5. Pingback: Open House London – Carradale House, Glenkerry House, & Robin Hood Gardens | The 416 Expat

  6. Pingback: Open House – Balfron Tower ‹ Rab Harling

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