Robin Hood Gardens – London
Architect: Alison & Peter Smithson
Trellick Tower – London
Architect: Erno Goldfinger
For some a classic, for others an ugly blight on the landscape. Trellick Tower is an embodiment of the modernist tenet of ‘form follows function’, with each aspect of its distinctive shape determined by the requirements of the people living within. The main block of the 31 storey tower takes the form of thin slab, enabling all apartments to have windows on either side of the building, giving fantastic views of the city to all residents. Noisy and potentially smelly amenities – lifts, stairs, launderettes and rubbish chute – are located in a separate service tower which is crowned by the boiler room. The service tower is connected to the main slab by glazed walkways at every third floor to ensure a speedy lift service. On the ground floor there is a doctors surgery, shops, and a bookies.
The tower is constructed primarily of in situ cast concrete, with a sandy colour and a rather coarse aggregate. The bush hammered finish gives a rough texture which adds to the uncompromising feel of the building.
It was a beautiful day when I visited, the sun was shining and everyone seemed happy. Two young men answered questions from a tourist as they topped up a nearby graffiti wall (I’m assuming it was all legit). One chap proudly told me that the building I was photographing was very famous, one woman even offered to pose for some shots on her mobility scooter. You get the sense that there is a great community spirit around the place.
Park Tower Hotel – London
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.