Who would have thought that a building once branded ugliest in England, rejected by society’s picturesque ideals of architecture, nicknamed the “Terror of Tower,” notorious for drugs, violence and other unsavoury activities that raged on into the late 80’s, early 90’s could ever be looked upon with favour? But as a quintessential example of Brutalism boasting common features of Brutalist architecture such as the textured concrete, bold geometrics and exposure of structure, as well as revealing an important part of British architecture and social change, this building has national interest and enjoys a Grade II listed status which was received in 1998, and rightly so.
The Tower designed by Erno Goldfinger was built between 1968 and 1972. It is a 31 storey building with a boiler room at the top of the tower (now out of use), made up of 217 flats. Goldfinger thought hard about making Trellick multifunctional and comfortable for the residents, building a separate lift and service tower linked at every third floor of the main building to reduce noise disturbance. The original design also included a launderette, six shops, an office and youth and women centres.
No one can deny that Trellick Tower had a shaky start but Goldfinger had good intentions; he wanted to make the Tower a community, a home, “streets in the sky,” where people could get to know their neighbours. It was interesting speaking to residents and listening to their experiences of Trellick at its worst – scared to use the rubbish chutes, hesitant to use lifts and feeling isolated, and then Trellick at a more positive place – an eclectic mix of people expanding the culture climate within the tower, a graffiti fort (pic left) where artists are free to express and create, a strong feeling of safety and a complete turnaround of crime, as a result of security measures put in place including a full time concierge and entry system introduced in the 90s. Every building has its ups and downs, with Trellick Tower being no exception. But the tower is bold and iconic where people with rich, invaluable stories live, and in its concrete walls lies a beautiful story of Britain’s history which we should be proud of.
Mikki Keyamo (pic right) is an actor in the Spid Theatre Company play, Trellick Tales spidtheatre