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.
Trellick Tower was grade II* listed in 2008, the listing can be found here. The building is the subject of an episode of the BBC series which can be viewed here.
Les Choux de Créteil – Paris
Construction: 1969 – 1974
Architect: Gerard Grandval
I took a trip out to Créteil just to have a look at these unique buildings. The 10 ‘Cabbages of Créteil’ are set in leafy gardens which provided some much needed shade on a hot day. The curvaceous concrete balconies of the circular towers give them their distinctive sprout like appearance. Wooden shutters provide a nice contrast of materials while adding a luxurious feel.
Apparently choucroute production was big in the area during the 19th century. While that may not be to my taste, the architecture that stands there currently certainly is.
Le Palais de Justice – Paris
Architect: Daniel Badani
On my trip into the Parisian suburbs to see the Choux de Creteil I stumbled on this wonderful courthouse. The 16 storey tower symbolises the scales of justice and is designed to resemble an open book. Concrete seems an especially appropriate building for court buildings, as demonstrated by this imposing edifice. Stay out of trouble kids.
Persistence Works – Sheffield
Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley
Finished in 2001, these art studios are something of a throwback. A lot of the construction in Sheffield recently has had a plasticky feel, often in garish contrasting colours. This building however, has a self-assured simplicity. A long first floor box cantilevers over the ground floor, while towers loom behind. The finish is classic grey concrete, minimally decorated with some metal studding on the towers and a simple artwork consisting of blue lights and protruding ‘hairs’ on one end of the main box.
Stonebow House – York
Architect: Wells, Hickman & Partners
A tidy little mixed development in the centre of York, Stonebow house consists of a long row of shops and cafes with an almost cuboid office block rising above. The shop fronts are set back and raised above street level allowing you to window shop or take an alfresco coffee at the Jorvik Cafe while removed from the bustle of the streets and protected from the unpredictable northern weather. Indeed, I was forced to take shelter myself as it began to hail while I was waiting for an annoying van to move.
60s concrete buildings aren’t generally well loved, but this one especially seems to wind people up, most likely because of its proximity to the historic York Shambles. But as I sat there sipping my coffee on a concrete veranda, it was clear to me that the architecture of Stonebow house is as representative of a period of history as The Shambles themselves are. For this reason it should be preserved and in time it may also become a cherished symbol of a bygone era.
Wyndham Court – Southampton
Architects: Lyons Israel Ellis
A complex of flats with several shops on the ground floor, Wyndham Court has several distinctive features which mark it out as a brutalist classic. Each of the upper floors has a different style of balcony, breaking up the exterior with interesting variety. The building’s low rise profile is punctuated by lift towers, which provide a vertical contrast to the horizontal lines of the balconies. Much of the structure is raised on pilotis, most notably at the chamfered corners, lightening the mass of concrete and giving it a wonderful retrofuturistic look. The wood grain from the shuttering is clearly imprinted on the surface of the light grey concrete, which contributes to an overall nautical feel.
Wyndham Court was grade II listed in 1998, the listing can be viewed here.