Trellick Tower, Kensal Rise / Notting Hill. Architect: Ernö Goldfinger
Ernö Goldfinger gained notoriety as a Notting Hill architect due to his brutalist design of Trellick Tower, completed in 1972. At 31 stories, when built, Trellick Tower became the tallest public apartment building in the UK and its silhouette added a brutality to the skyline of Notting Hill. Architect and Council (at that time, the GLC) worked a couple of years previously to develop Balfron Tower in Poplar, East London (completed 1968). Both projects have much in common – both being part of wider council redevelopment projects that included other types of houses, community buildings and public open spaces.
Trellick Tower has a mix of 9 different flats and maisonettes. Although widely recognised as a Notting Hill architect, Goldfinger actually lived in Hampstead. He was a passionate advocate of hi-rise living but in the early 1970’s, as the tower was nearing completion, public opinion was turning against high-rise living. This pointed to trouble ahead and by the time Trellick Tower was completed, it had already started a long period of decline. The Council did not provide security or access to the staircases, elevators and other public areas with the result that the project was vandalized even before the building was opened. Trellick Tower was often featured in the tabloids as “The Tower of Terror”, and there were stories of women being raped in the elevators, children attacked by drug addicts, and homeless squatters setting fire to empty flats. Goldfinger’s utopian vision for high density housing was dramatically failing: over Christmas 1972, less than a year after completion, vandals opened a fire hydrant on the 12th floor landing releasing thousands of gallons of water into the lift shafts resulting in the loss of all heating and power for more than a week.
Part of Trellick’s distinctive profile comes from the boiler house cantilevered out from lift and stair tower, adding personality to an overtly brutalist concrete lift tower. The boiler room originally housed oil-fired boilers which provided heating for all the apartments. The system was decommission in 1973 (the year after the building opened) due to the oil crisis. Apartments are now heated with electric storage heaters, and the futuristic boiler house lies empty. Trellick Tower was refurbished in the mid 1990’s by a Notting Hill Architect and under new management the use of closed circuit TV, more security, and a concierge system, living conditions improved and those apartments in private ownership (many were bought from the Council under the Right to Buy Scheme) command high values.