Category Archives: London

Park Tower Hotel – London

Park Tower Hotel – London
Construction: 1973
Architect: Richard Seifert & Partners

One of the things I love about London is the jumble of contrasting architectural styles. While every style may not be to my personal taste, I think the whole gains from this heterogeneity. A great example of this lack of sympathy is the Park Tower Hotel, a charmingly irreverent brutalist gem nestled amongst the grand historic buildings of Knightsbridge. It is interesting to speculate what might have been, as the original plans for the structure were rejected for not fitting in sufficiently well with the surroundings.
The building takes the form of a squat 14 storey cylindrical tower, sitting atop a small podium. Protruding splayed windows give the tower a knobbly appearance. The concrete has a slight sandy tint and the black window frames provide a nice contrast to this. A further contrast can be found between the austere concrete exterior of the building and the sumptuous interior, which features extravagant flourishes such as chandeliers, wood panelling, and marble bathrooms. But, if you are the type to pay £450-£3,200 per night, you probably expect this kind of luxury rather than a spartan modernist interior. I know which I prefer.

The National Theatre – London

The National Theatre – London
Construction: 1976-1977
Architect: Denys Lasdun

Somewhat disappointingly for me, my visit to the National Theatre coincided with some building work. Most of the bottom of the structure was fenced off or occluded by boarding. Because of this I didn’t get to appreciate the edifice in its entirety and most of the photos are pretty abstract elements from the top. But it gives me an excuse to make another visit in the near future I guess. Despite this, the building was something of a treat. The large horizontal platforms contrasted with vertical fly towers is classic Lasdun, and the diagrid patterning on the underside of the platforms is particularly striking. The raw grey concrete is left unpolished, and the imprints of the wooden planks which formed the moulds are clearly visible. The National Theatre was grade II* listed in 1994.

Alexander Fleming House (Metro Central Heights) – London

Alexander Fleming House – London
Construction: 1967
Architect: Erno Goldfinger

Originally home to the Ministry of Health and named Alexander Fleming House, these buildings were converted to apartments and renamed Metro Central Heights in 1997. The development consists of several blocks connected by elegant multi level glazed walkways. The exterior surfaces are broken up by projecting sections, distributed seemingly at random. Formerly an understated beige concrete finish, during the conversion to apartments the building got a makeover and was painted white and given bright blue panels below the windows. While purists like myself might think this is tantamount to vandalism, it is certainly preferable to demolition, which was a very real threat for a time. So don’t let the colour scheme fool you, this is first class brutalism from one of the style’s finest exponents.

Metro Central Heights was grade II listed in 2013

1-3 Willow Road – London

1-3 Willow Road – London
Construction: 1939
Architect: Erno Goldfinger

Goldfinger designed this small row of houses in 1939 and lived with his family at number two until his death in 1987. The house is now owned by the National Trust, who offer tours in the morning and an open house in the afternoon for a cost of £6 to non trust members. I certainly don’t begrudge paying that to maintain the place and keep it open to the public. It’s fascinating to have a wander around Goldfinger’s office and living room, look at his bookshelf and collection of art. The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable, answering all of our questions and giving us interesting tit-bits of information. One interesting thing I noticed is that while the rest of the house is quite spacious, the kitchen is incredibly small. I guess he wasn’t much into cooking.

The exterior of the building is quite conservative, the brick facing allowing it to blend seamlessly into suburban Hampstead. However, modernist elements such as the flat roof, the large ribbon window and the concrete columns mark it out from the other buildings in the area, giving us a taste of his future work.

Here’s the link to the National Trust page for the building:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/2-willow-road/