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James Lander

Published date
19 Jun 2018

Storeys/stories of Ernö Goldfinger's Balfron Tower: archival investigations from a contested site

Chelsea College of Arts, Chelsea Arts Club Trust/Barry Flanagan Award for PhD study

The restoration of social housing and public housing in Britain is currently debated amongst academics, architects, artists and residents. Balfron Tower, an exemplar, has divided public opinion since it was built in 1965-7. While it stands empty, there is no consensus on its restoration. The architect who designed it, Ernö Goldfinger, did not specify how to restore it. However, he did advocate for the involvement of artists in non-art matters such as town planning, rather than solely specialists. (1942)

The current restoration proposal makes no provision for social or public housing. Neither does it take into account a contribution by artists towards restoring such provision. Where Studio Egret West, the architects responsible for its restoration, claim to respond to inherent design issues such as wind noise in the vent above the apartment doors, is the restoration of the provision of social or public housing, in conversation with artists, the real issue at stake for Balfron Tower? (2017)

James's thesis draws upon his own experience of having lived there between 2012-16, as an artist not a specialist. From this perspective and from the findings he collected, he offers an alternative to the specialist's restoration proposal. His practice-led research, which furthers Ernö Goldfinger's claim for the involvement of the non-specialist in non-art matters, is necessary in specialist led debates of today.


Goldfinger, E. (1942) 'The elements of enclosed space', The Architectural Review, 91 (541), p.8.

Studio Egret West (2017) Projects.


Dr Jo Melvin

Dr Tim O'Riley