Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Spirit of Optimism

Dan surprised me with this book when we got onto the train on Sunday, I was made up with it and had a good nosey through it on the way home. One of the things I like most about Modernism is that it was an experiment in optimism. Things were built for people to share and to work together. OK, much of the time we didn't go with that idea and the experiment failed but there you go. 

"nothing is too good for ordinary people"
As I mentioned the other day, we stumbled across the Finsbury Health Centre by Berthold Lubetkin. This building was completed in 1938 and offered healthcare free at the point of use for local residents, something we take for granted now, but this idea predates the NHS. It is not necessarily a thing of great beauty to most now, but it's a beautiful and important thing to me. (You may also have seen this poster from WWII featuring the centre, created by Abram Games).

We spent a long time at the Eames exhibition and we both took something away from it, for me it was that I really like Ernest Race and for Dan he is more in love with Kenneth Grange than ever before. Neither of them featured in the exhibition, but our minds naturally turned to their output after seeing the industrial, commercial and domestic output of Charles and Ray Eames. I was also in love with the Barbican complex itself, especially the covered walkways which offered some protection from the rain!

We ended up in Poplar on Sunday after seeing something exciting from the train on our way to Greenwich, Balfron Tower (1967). The smaller, older, less glamorous sister of Trellick Tower by Erno Goldfinger (yes, feel free to sing). A dull, grey, silent Sunday morning in November was the perfect time to visit this lovely piece of Brutalism.

To bring us right back to the spirit of optimism we finished our trip at the Southbank Centre where everything seemed possible.

Something for everybody, for food, a walk, sightseeing, togetherness, families, couples, individuals, skateboarders, cyclists, residents, visitors, silence, noise, water, concrete and rain. 

power to the people


  1. Have you heard of Portsmouth's (now sadly demolished) Tricorn Centre? That's was a brutalist building designed by Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon. It certainly divided the Portsmouth residents. I for one loved it and was really upset when I heard it was being demolished and avoided the general area when it was happening. I do regret not getting more photos, but it was so huge it was hard to get a good shot of the whole thing, but myself and a friend loved roaming around taking pictures there, that was when we weren't being shooed out by security! It still saddens me that it's gone and I look wistfully at where it once stood when we visit Portsmouth. There's one teeny bit left with graffiti stating something along the lines of This Building May Cause Interest.

    1. Yes, of course! I have a postcard of it in my pantry.

      I know what you mean about losing a building like that. My hometown had a couple of controversial estates, one known as "Legoland" was designed by James Stirling, it was demolished years ago and not even one block remains - despite the architects of the new (and very boring) estate suggesting a section be preserved for historical purposes. It's a real shame, but pretty much sums up my hometown, wouldn't know something with cultural interest if it smacked them in the face!

  2. Apparently that boat installation on the top of the building is rented out for visitors stay in. We quite fancy it. Great view of the Thames. Imagine waking up there in the morning. Interesting post.

    1. Thanks. I would very much like to have a window that faced the Hayward Gallery should I stay in the boat.