Monday 25 September 2017

Post-war tower blocks celebrated

Some tower blocks have been demolished such as the Butterburn and Bucklemaker flats in Dundee
Some tower blocks have been demolished such as the Butterburn and Bucklemaker flats in Dundee

A new project is celebrating the tower blocks that transformed the skylines of post-war Britain.

High-rise flats such as those built in Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham after 1945 have had a chequered history, with many of them pulled down or awaiting demolition.

A team at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) have set out to create a photo archive of every multi-storey public housing project to record a significant part of Britain's heritage.

Social and architectural historians will work together to produce an accessible catalogue of 3,500 images taken in the 1980s.

Tower Blocks - Our Blocks! includes pictures of the Red Road and Gorbals schemes in Glasgow, the Everton flats in Liverpool, Birmingham's Chelmsley Wood, Manchester's Hulme redevelopment, and London estates such as Broadwater Farm, Thamesmead and Roehampton.

The three-year, Heritage Lottery funded project is expected to be completed in late 2017.

Professor Miles Glendinning, head of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies at ECA, said: "We hope this project will help contribute to the ongoing shift in public attitudes towards the post-war Modernist housing heritage, which is fast turning from an object of dislike and alienation into a force for potential community empowerment.

"Council tower blocks were once the most prominent and dramatic legacy of the post-1945 reconstruction drive, but mass demolitions over the past 35 years, still continuing today, have depleted this vast heritage, leaving it obscured or incomprehensible to the public at a time when popular interest in post-war Modernist heritage is sharply increasing."

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: "Without archives, vast segments of our nation's history would be missing.

"As the high rise towers that have dominated many towns' and city's skylines begin to disappear, it is important for us to capture this heritage and give voice to the experiences of those who live in these flats and communities.

The £52,900 lottery grant will be used to digitise the photographs and support local initiatives encouraging high-rise residents to tell their stories.

Glasgow 2014 chiefs faced criticism when they planned to demolish the Red Road flats as part of last summer's Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.

They eventually ditched the proposal to blow down five of the six remaining 1960s blocks live on television amid fears of a public protest.

Critics said it was insensitive to former residents and to the asylum seekers who still occupied the sixth block.

When they were built between 1964 and 1969, the Red Road flats were the highest in Europe at 292ft (89 metres).

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