London Festival of Architecture

June 12, 2018


Concrete Capital took place at the Silver Building - London’s newest creative workspace, adapted from a former industrial building and surrounded by the great piers of the elevated DLR railway. The event included a tour of the building, followed by drinks and a talk that explored the capital’s identity as defined by aggregate. The event was chaired by Concrete author Christopher Beanland. 


'Love it or loathe it, London is made of concrete and this evening of opinions, music and screenings has been curated to celebrate a much-maligned building material. Often described as brutal or inhumane, concrete is now also celebrated for its beauty and role in the bold designs that have shaped the city. By looking back at some of London’s most iconic buildings and infrastructure, we explore the role concrete has played in creating places to meet, live and work in.'


Alongside myself speakers included:


- Emily Hopkins, a PhD Researcher at Royal Holloway specialising in the cultural regeneration of cities

- Dr. Dawn Pereira, Henry Moore Post Doctoral Fellow, University of East London




How did concrete transform architecture in the 20th Century?


It dates back to the first world war and conceptualisation of Carcasse and Ossature - or envelope and Frame by Auguste Perret - the pineer of reinforced concrete. These principles later saw practical implementation by Le Corbusier (his draftsman 1908-1910) as the Dom-ino house in 1914. Previously building’s had been constructed with load bearing external walls and floor joist. 


The  introduction of the reinforced concrete slab with perimeter columns detached the facade from the structure. This redefined Architectural thinking. Even though Perret experimented with exposing concrete as facade early on, the visual relationship with the raw material was never really pronounced until the late 1940sand I think this is because of the mood post war. 


People were more open to experimentation, to change a rejection of what came before. Brutalism in complete contrast to Scandanavian inspired modernism. 




Why concrete buildings are so distinctive in London?


In 1963 the ‘London Government Act’ sought to create a new body to cover the rapidly developing city replacing the London County Council. ‘The Greater London Council’ (the GLC) was divided up into thirty two administrative boroughs. 


In 1964 Boroughs were granted responsibility for housing and juristriction over planning, a shift from County wide concerns to local issues- and I think what really drove momentum in post war Architecture was the competition between Borough Architects departments. 




Borough Architect Sydney Cook -  Low Rise Medium Density Projects. 


Emminster- Abbey Road (1965)

Neave Brown: Alexandra Road Estate (1972-78) 

Neave Brown: Dunboyne Road Estate (1971- 77)

Neave Brown: Fleet Road

Branch Hill (1974-76) 

Maiden Lane Estate (1979-82)

The Brunswick Centre (1967-72)

University College London (1970-76)

Royal College of Physicians (1960-64)




Borough Architect Edward ‘Ted’ Hollaby 


George Finch: Cotton Gardens,

George Finch: Lameth Towers.

Brixton Recreation Centre



Tower Hamlets 

Denys Lasdun: Keeling House Bethnal Green 

Erno Goldfinger:  Balfron Tower

Alison and Peter Smithon: Robin Hood Gardens. 



Kensington & Chelsea

Erno Goldinger: Trellick Tower and the Cheltenham Estate (1968-72)

Eric Lyons: Worlds End Estate (1969-77)




Borough Architect Robert Rigg 


Moris Walk Estate (1963-66) 

Peillpar Gardens (1972-73)

Thamesmead (1967-74) 


















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