Storeys/stories of Ernö Goldfinger's Balfron Tower: archival investigations from a contested site
Chelsea College of Arts, CCW Graduate School.
Chelsea Arts Club Trust/Barry Flanagan Award for PhD study
Since 2012, James's archival research project has been located at Balfron Tower, the local authority housing estate designed by Hungarian Architect Ernö Goldfinger. Goldfinger named the tower after the village in Scotland in connection with the local Scottish community of Poplar, East London, in 1968.
The title refers to the 26 storeys of Balfron Tower and the stories of its narrative. No storey/story will be privileged over another. The project draws on many voices in order to undermine the authority associated with the privileging of a singular reading of the archive. Instead a horizontal methodology will be used in practice and research.
In search of alternative viewpoints, James investigates connections through interviews with residents, visitors, professionals and amateur enthusiasts in London, in Scotland and in Hong Kong, following up a visit by workers from the Housing Authority, Hong Kong to Balfron Tower in 2015. In 1942 Goldfinger published this statement:
Whenever space is enclosed a spatial sensation will automatically result for persons who happen to be within it; it is therefore a fundamental necessity that this should be done by artists and that town-planning and town-building should once again be regarded as an artist's job and not merely that of a drain specialist, a statistician or a health inspector. Sanitation and economics, transport and hygiene all have their part to play, but it is the artist who comprehends the social requirements of his time and is able to integrate the technical potentialities in order to shape the spaces of the future.
James’s practice-led research project is necessary at a pivotal moment in the history of Balfron Tower and social housing in London. Its implications are widespread, impacting upon local people’s lives as well as upon international economic concerns. James’s research contributes to historical and Architectural, archival and critical theory as well as to housing debates online and in local newspapers.
Goldfinger, E. (1942) 'The elements of enclosed space', The Architectural Review, Jan 1942, pp.5-8.
Dr Tim O'Riley