Tag Archives: Balfron Tower

James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous selected for Bow Open 2015

Following the recent screening of videos from the Balfron Tower/Rowlett Street Archives at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), part of The Brutalist Playground, James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous had their work selected for the STRUCTURE TEXTURE FUTURE exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery in London. The exhibition was selected and curated by Rosamond Murdoch, Nunnery Gallery Director and Dr. Shahidha Bari, writer, academic and critic, based in London. Bari is lecturer in Romanticism at Queen Mary University of London. James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous were selected alongside 14 others out of 500 Bow Artists.

The works selected gather around the interlocked themes of ruin and repair, as might be understood in the terms of the industrial and the natural. In many ways, this grounds the collection in its home in East London, a part of the city that is a heartland for creativity and making, but which is also constantly building and displacing.

The work included two copies of TimeOut magazine from the Balfron Tower/Rowlett Street Archives. The story written on Balfron Tower provoked responses on the TimeOut website forum and on the Balfron Tower Facebook group. These conversations are archived. A page from TimeOut was reproduced in the catalogue for the exhibition and two copies of the catalogue were reabsorbed into the Archives. The Balfron Tower/Rowlett Street Archives can be understood as a reciprocal conduit. One in which the materials gathered in the Archives which are up for debate and the materials these debates generate, such as the Time Out magazine and online comments, produce and are produced by the Archives, of which this announcement forms part. STRUCTURE TEXTURE FUTURE was on from 20 June to 5 July 2015, and the catalogue is available online.

Commissioned by the London County Council and known during development as Rowlett Street Phase 1, Balfron Tower was designed by Ernö Goldfinger as social housing. Built in 1968 and listed Grade II in 1996, Balfron Tower is described by English Heritage as having ‘a distinctive profile that sets it apart from other tall blocks. More importantly, it proved that such blocks could be well planned and beautifully finished, revealing Goldfinger as a master in the production of finely textured and long-lasting concrete masses.’ Ownership was subsequently transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (Poplar HARCA) who have managed the building since 2007. It was announced by ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman on April Fools’ Day (2015) that ‘Poplar Harca were unable to afford the cost of refurbishing Balfron Tower without selling it on.’[1] Property developers Londonewcastle are lined up to sell all 146 flats on the private market in the near future.

In response to the planned refurbishment, which has been looming over Balfron Tower for the past five years, James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous established the BALFRON TOWER/Rowlett Street Archives in 2012. These Archives are made up of everything and nothing to do with their subject. From its historical beginnings as Rowlett Street, to the widely documented process of regeneration. From the artistic and cultural activities of recent years, to the overlooked traces and ephemera captured in common areas such as the north and south stairwells. The Archives include documentation, photographs, audio/video recordings and original features e.g. corridor tiles, fittings and fixtures. In amongst the Archives are private documents, for which permission to copy, reproduce or publish has been refused.

[1] Rahman, L. (2015) Statement on Balfron Tower. [Online] 1 April 2015. Available at: http://lutfurrahman.com/statement-balfron-tower/ [Accessed: 1 April 2015] Mayor at time of announcement subsequently removed from office due to electoral fraud.

The Brutalist Playground

Balfron Tower in Poplar, commissioned by the London County Council and known during development as Rowlett Street Phase 1, was designed by Ernö Goldfinger as social housing. Built in 1968 and listed Grade II in 1996, ownership was subsequently transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to the Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (Poplar HARCA) who have managed the building since 2007. It was announced by Mayor Lutfur Rahman on April Fool’s Day (2015) that ‘Poplar Harca were unable to afford the cost of refurbishing Balfron Tower without selling it on.'[1]

Following on from a recent archival display at the Chelsea Café Project, managed by Sinéad Bligh, and the moving image screening during the Research Hub programme at The Cookhouse Gallery, organized by first year CCW research students, the BALFRON TOWER/Rowlett Street Archives will be included in a forthcoming evening event at RIBA on 9th June 2015 to launch The Brutalist Playground. RIBA, with Assemble and artist Simon Terrill, are hosting an evening of free talks, films, tours and more exploring the links between post-war architecture and urban play.

Part sculpture, part architectural installation, all play, The Brutalist Playground is a new commission by Assemble and artist Simon Terrill exploring post-war design for play. Occupying the entire Architecture Gallery at RIBA, it encourages visitors to look at the materiality and visual language of now lost Brutalist landscapes in new ways through an immersive and conceptual landscape.

In the run up to the planned refurbishment of Balfron Tower, the installation at RIBA will offer a timely opportunity to consider this internationally acknowledged building from a different perspective.

The BALFRON TOWER/Rowlett Street Archives were established by CCW PhD student James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous. As property guardians or artists in work/live residence at Balfron Tower, they have been privileged to its inner workings over three years. Their research is distinguished by its forensic nature, encompassing everything and nothing. From its historical beginnings as Rowlett Street, to the widely documented process of regeneration. From the internationally profiled artistic and cultural activities of recent years, to the overlooked traces and ephemera captured in common areas such as the north and south stairwells. Their research uses non-identical twin archives to investigate William Burroughs’ claim ‘Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted.'[2] In collaboration with art and intellectual property lawyers, they will consider the legal implications of these archives and their place within the discourse of architectural modernism in Britain. The aim of their research is the construction of unofficial storeys, in order to repeat the unrepeatable. They will determine who has the legal right to use the material and intellectual property associated with the archives and in which context. The aim of their research is the construction of unofficial storeys, in order to repeat the unrepeatable.

[1] Rahman, L. (2015) Statement on Balfron Tower. [Online] 1 April 2015. Available at: http://lutfurrahman.com/statement-balfron-tower/ [Accessed: 1 April 2015] Mayor at time of announcement subsequently removed from office due to electoral fraud.

[2]  Burroughs, W. (2010) Cities of the red night. London: Penguin.

Image: Children’s playground, Pepys Estate, Deptford, London, 1970s

Open Studios at Balfron Tower

The Open Studios at Balfron Tower event, organised by Bow Arts as part of Balfron Season, takes place across the weekend of 20-21 September, from 11am-6pm, to coincide with London Open House weekend. Balfron Season is a unique programme of events organised by Bow Arts, situated in and around the Grade II listed Balfron Tower.

Connected by a shared interest in the history and legacy of Balfron Tower, Alan McFetridge, Sinéad Bligh, and CCW PhD student James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous present Flat 15 and Flat 12 of Ernö Goldfinger’s iconic high rise building. It is within this unique situation and space that the artists consider the importance of who has inhabited the building, who is present in the spaces now, and who will utilise this environment in the future. Through a combined presentation, the artists prompt an open discussion of the social, political, economic and personal im­plications of displacement and presence within this particular site and community. Inhabiting two vacated flats that, though mirrored, imply visibly different histories, their interventions open up a space for interaction, discussion and consideration located at the heart of Balfron Tower itself.

Completed in 1967 in Poplar, East London, the 26 storey Modernist structure of Balfron Tower consists of 136 flats and 10 maisonettes designated for habitation by social housing tenants. After being granted Grade II listing in March 1996, ownership was transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to Poplar HARCA Housing Association in 2007. At the start of the transfer process, the building was designated for extensive refurbishment, indicating the beginning of the gradual rehous­ing of the community. In the intervening years Bow Arts Trust has provided work/live spaces for artists at Balfron Tower and managed education, environmental and cultural work in the local community. In 2014 the few remaining residents, and the temporary community of artists and property guardians who have inhabited the Balfron Tower over the past 4 four years, will depart in order to make way for the imminent refurbishment of this iconic building.

Since completing the MA Fine Art course at Chelsea in 2012, James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous have undertaken a self-initiated work/live residency at Balfron Tower in London. Occupying two successive flats as property guardians, James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous have spent the last two years amassing a living archive. At the invitation of Bow Arts Trust and in response to The Sensation of Space1 essays published by Ernö Goldfinger, architect of Balfron Tower, Alan McFetridge, Harriet Cooper, Sinead Bligh, James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous are co-hosting this Open Studios event. This month two comparative selections from the archive are distributed simultaneously from Flat 15 and 12 as free newspapers. The act of publishing what would otherwise remain hidden offers a much needed critique of life as a property guardian in London. Intended to spark debate, this circulation seeks to challenge current legislation and ultimately to affect change in the world. 2014 also witnessed the donation of all the work James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous produced, as well as acquired from other artists over the previous fifteen years. The invisible archive, to which the donation refers, in tandem with the living archive, form the basis for Lander’s practice-based PhD. His current research is motivated by and seeks to reformulate the dynamic between altruism, psychological egoism and the hintergedanke ‘ulterior motive.’2

James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous 2014-2018 PhD Fine Art practice-based candidates Chelsea College of Arts University of the Arts London

Is it 28 pages with a memory / fragment on each page?
James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous
2014-2018
PhD Fine Art practice-based candidates
Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon College of Arts
University of the Arts London

Work by Harriet Cooper

Alan McFetridge
Haymaker (2014)
Inkjet media on self adhesive polypropelene
244 x 540.6 cm

Work by Sinéad Bligh

Sinéad Bligh
Epistemological Maquette (2014)
Toilet bowl, toilet seat, sound piece on MP3 player and headphones; duration 06:59 min looped

1Goldfinger, E. (1941) The Sensation of Space. The Architectural Review, Nov, pp.129-131.

2 Weiss, E. (1995) Pons-Kompaktwörterbuch Englisch – Deutsch. Stuttgart: Klett Verlag für Wissen und Bildung. p.214