Trellick Tower in London and a development debate

LONDON — When Barbara Heksel and her family moved to Trellick Tower in 1981, their friends thought they were crazy. Known for its uncompromising brutalist design and the crime in its brooding concrete hallways, London’s public housing project, built in 1972, had earned the tabloid nickname “Tower of Terror.”

But for the Witches, Trellick was an opportunity. It offered a spacious two bedroom apartment with stunning views over west London, a major upgrade from the cramped studio where the family had lived.

“We’re going to take it and make it our own,” Ms. Heksel, 70, recalls telling her husband when they first saw their home.

Mrs. Heksel has lived there ever since and enjoyed a house in a building that has turned from an eyesore into an icon. Designed by Ernö Goldfinger, the Hungarian-born architect whose buildings, as the legend has it, Ian Fleming so offended that he named one of his Bond villains after him, Trellick enjoys cult status. The apartments will be picked up as soon as they are on the list; the location is close to Notting Hill, one of the most expensive areas in London.

Now, however, residents fear that Trellick’s success has left it vulnerable. Last year they narrowly halted construction on a 15-storey tower developers wanted to build between Trellick and a smaller neighboring block, Edenham Way.

“It’s outrageous,” said Molly Berentson-O’Donnell, 26, who grew up on the 16th floor. “Trellick is a standalone tower and I think that’s what makes it iconic. If you build for it, you ruin that beautiful skyline.”

But for Kim Taylor-Smith, a councilor from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who commissioned the new tower, there was little choice. “The feeling was that it was better to have one tall building and a lot of open space,” he explained.

Given the dire shortage of affordable housing in London and the valuable real estate occupied by the Trellick, it is almost certain that someone will build on the site in the future. But residents like to have their say.

“There is one thing we want, and that is collaboration,” said Keith Benton, 72, who has lived on the 31st floor with his wife since 2014 and who helped lead the campaign against the new tower project.

Residents want to preserve the architectural quirks that have given Trellick its community feel. For example, the plans for the new building would include the partial, if not complete, removal of the estate’s “graffiti hall of fame” — a freestanding wall at the base of Trellick that has been a concrete canvas for street performers for over 35 years.

The wall has deep emotional value: part of it has become a monument to the 72 people who died in a catastrophic fire at the nearby Grenfell Tower in 2017. Every June, around the anniversary of that tragedy, residents gather by the wall to hold a “memorial jam.”

“After Grenfell, the council promised us that if there was anything in the plans that we were against, they would go back to the drawing board,” said Mr Benton.

Over time, Trellick has become more secure and attractive to potential buyers; there’s even a full-time concierge. But the increasing desirability is worrying residents. Many fear the construction would only draw more developers into the surrounding neighborhood, tarnishing the site’s character.

“They claimed not, but this is gentrification,” said Mr Benton of the changing perception of the existing building.

Concern over the new tower proposals prompted residents to form a “Save Trellick” campaign last fall. They shared information via social media and took turns standing at the entrance of the tower with petitions. In all, they collected more than 3,000 signatures and arranged a meeting with local government representatives at Chelsea’s old town hall in December.

Planned in the late 1960s to meet rising demand for housing after the war, Trellick was supposed to represent a utopian future where families could live high above the smog, with all the conveniences at their fingertips. Goldfinger’s design included a nursery, corner shop, pub, medical clinic and even a nursing home.

Today, at the age of 50, Trellick is seen as an icon of brutalist architecture, with a striking design that connects a thin service tower – containing laundries, elevator shafts and a garbage chute – to the main block on every third floor by ‘sky bridges’.

The structure allows the duplex apartments to be larger, maximize living space and reduce noise in what would become a ‘vertical village’. The 217 units are matched and interlock with Escher-like precision, meaning in Ms. Heksel’s words “my upstairs neighbor is really two floors above me”.

In 1998, the government granted Trellick landmark status, guaranteeing that the tower would be preserved. “Trellick’s sinister reputation was always exaggerated,” Ms. Heksel said, noting, “it was fashionable to give it bad press.”

Five years ago, the local government demolished the Trellick Nursing Home, which was not under the same custody order, on the grounds that it lacked adequate toilets.

That decision deeply upset residents, who pointed out that Goldfinger was inspired by famed Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier to create a building that met a lifetime of needs.

“It was beautifully designed and people loved it,” said Mr. benton. “Think about it: when you’re old, do you want to move ten kilometers away where no one can visit you? Or would you like to be around the people you love?”

Developers proposed to build the new tower on the site of the nursing home. In addition to breaking up the complex, residents argued that this would lead to overcrowding, putting a strain on already limited resources.

They also said that public consultations on the project were not conducted transparently, leading many to be fooled.

“It all happened during the lockdown,” Ms Heksel said. “The consultation took place virtually. Many residents are old and not very tech-savvy.”

The lingering fear among many of the tower residents is that they could suffer the same fate as the original inhabitants of another Goldfinger tower, the Balfron in east London. That bloc is now almost all privately owned, a result of property laws passed in 1980 by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. The municipality emptied the tower when it was sold and promised residents the right of return, which turned out not to be the case. case.

The urge to build more homes has been fueled by a housing crisis in Britain, particularly London. In October 2021, around There were an estimated 250,000 on waiting lists for social housing in the city. But Trellick residents say the council’s efforts to develop the site around the tower are motivated by profit: For every new unit of public housing built, they note, the council will get £100,000, or about $120,000, from the Mayor of London.

In an interview, Mr Taylor-Smith acknowledged, “We have a legal obligation to ensure that the books are balanced each year.”

“The only way to pay for improvements,” he said, “is to build new houses.” These improvements include custom tweaks to features that are now deprecated.

Emotions ran high during the meeting with local government representatives in December. Residents argued that the designs for the new tower conflicted with the council’s own guidelines, which stipulated that additions to an existing estate should be only four to six stories high and require no further demolition of buildings.

A few weeks later, the plans were withdrawn, with the council promising that any future development would be more of a collaborative effort.

But while the residents won that round, they don’t rest easy.

“All we’ve ever done is hold them back for a few years,” Mr. Benton said. “There’s no guarantee they won’t try again. We have to keep focusing on what we want.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *