Posted by DanielS on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 22:51.


A 24-storey residential tower block in West London is ablaze in scenes reminiscent of the 9-11 “terrorist attack” in New York, with the building, gutted by fire, expected to collapse.

The fire broke out just after 1am on Wednesday, with many residents in their beds. Some people appear to be trapped and have been attempting to signal the 200 firefighters and rescue workers attending the blaze with torches and lights from their smartphones.

The building in question is Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West Estate. It was built in the 1970s and in recent years has been going through rather chaotic renovation.

In December 2015 the Grenfell Action group reported a number of serious problems caused by renovation work:

- There were big queues for lifts on each floor because the workers were using both of them.

- The condition of the lifts at the start of the day were unacceptable; they were in the state that would be expected by the end of the day.

- Cllr Atkinson stated that he had seen sad notes on front doors asking Rydon workers at least to knock before entering flats.

In 2016 the same group reported a major fire hazard in the building:

“In recent weeks TMO staff allowed a quantity of household ‘bulk’ rubbish to accumulate, including old mattresses, in the temporary entrance foyer of the tower. This accumulation constituted a potential fire risk and a danger to residents. The TMO area manager and her staff were slow to react and no-one had been bothered to organise the clearence of this rubbish.”

It is not yet known if the fire is connected to problems with renovation, or if there is another cause. At present it appears to be linked to the extreme overcrowding in London, combined with neglect by the local Conservative-run council. But, this being London, terrorism must also be considered as a possible cause.



Posted by Guessedworker on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 02:08 | #

Some background to and affectionate memories of the estate here:

This confragration, whatever its cause, should signal the death-knell for London’s remaining modernist blocks of the 1960s and 1970s.  No local authority would build homes this way now, and all should be looking to replace them in the short-to-medium term.

They belong to the internationalistic, humans-as-cyphers vision of the architectural past.


Posted by Guessedworker on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 05:19 | #

I particularly associate Sir Michael Tippett’s visionary modernist Symphony no.2, completed in 1957, with Brutalist architecture, particularly the first movement.  Right from the off its reverberative, stamping chords perfectly model the rebartative official optimism of the coming decade and a half.  It is easy to imagine, while listening to it:

.. the cold, detached mind of the apparatchik, dauntless and without any saving doubt as to his will to make the world.

After the opening chords an adagio of quiet, coping, small humanity is briefly heard on two flutes and clarinet, only to be overtaken by the hectoring, forward-leaning force of authority once again, played on the strings.  It tries again later, stubbornly, but the response is more forceful still.  It is as though the organic is not to be given time to adapt.  The new life will be lived.  The new man will be made.  The official mind is in a hurry, and wants it done now, in a single bound, as inevitable as poured concrete.  By the middle of the piece the flute motif is played on a violin, signalling its subsuming into the generality of the orchestration.

Of the last of the four movements Tippett wrote, “The finale is a fantasia in that its four sections do not relate to each other, like the four sections of the first movement sonata allegro, but go their own way.”  Thus the vision of the official, which I believe Tippett approved of (he was a socialist and a homosexual), is the future of Man.  It’s all a liberal teleology, as effected by the state, from which the organic and human in scale must be expunged.


Posted by Guessedworker on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 05:46 | #

Some surviving examples of “the best” brutalist architecture in London:

The National Theatre, Grade II listed so beyond the wrecking ball.

Brunel University Lecture Theatre

Rear of the Alexandra Road Estate, Swiss Cottage.

Sampson House, Blackfriars

Weston Rise Estate near King’s Cross.  Yes, human beings actually have to live in that.

A staircase in the Barbican Centre - Banking folk pay big money for a flat there.  Don’t know if he is a banker, but there’s one liberal individual, connected to digital humanity via his iphone, if not to flesh and blood.

The Heygate Estate in Walworth, Southwark (now happily demolished - note the single word of existential protest graffitied on the walkway).


Posted by Guessedworker on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 06:15 | #

London’s Hayward Gallery
Pimlico School

Royal College of Physicians ... utterly blind to John Nash’s wonderful neighbouring neo-classical terraces.
Brownfield Estate, East London

Trellick Tower, Erno Goldfingers two-fingers to wealthy and stylish West London.

And so on.  The modernists never really went away, and never entirely accepted the verdict of experience.  As an architectural style modernism has out-lasted postmodernism.  What follows postmodernism, apparently, is not brutal concrete but an avowed modernism that seeks expression in a minimalist, environmentally right-on plan for living in glass and steel.  It is still too thin and bloodless for human being; but it is the regnant architectural fashion and another sign that intellectual ability does not, of itself, count for much in knowing Life and Man.


Posted by DanielS on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 06:48 | #

Modernism is the “intellectualizing” mechanism that spawned these dehumanizing monstrosities.

Post Modernity proper (“White Post Modernity”) is the recognition and appreciation for the necessity of organic correction to that mechanism; by contrast, rather, a respect mostly for our inheritance and needs as people, but along with that, for our history; and the fact that not all tradition is groundless to our well being, not all change necessarily for our better - modernity showed a foible in its logic - that radical pursuit of solid “foundational truth” sometimes destroys the most precious (foundational if you will) things in its very modernist pursuit.

I realize that when it comes to architecture the matter of “post modern” as a definition is tricky - the term has been applied to similar modernist monstrosities with sham historical “gingerbread.”

Architecture suffers for not being able to take advantage of one of the most important aspects of White post modernity, that being process - once completed, a building is not well given to corrective process - it cannot be in two places at one time nor is it given to process once it is built - thus, it is tricky to integrate or shift between modernity and tradition within one building.


Posted by Guessedworker on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 06:49 | #

The Grenfell Tower fire carries modernist echoes:


Posted by Guessedworker on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 06:54 | #

Daniel, you’re probably wrong about postmodernism when the subject is architecture.  You have a point in every other intellectual discipline, but not that one, because postmodernist architecture existed prior to its formal statement by Robert Venturi in 1966.  The French postmodernists drew from it.


Posted by Guessedworker on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 09:25 | #

Before he inflicted Trellick Tower on London he built two other monstrosities, then first and worse of them the 27-storey Balfron Tower in Poplar:

Balfron gave rise to the vainglorious boast of “Streets in the sky”.  This is them.

Goldfinger’s “masterpieces” also included the neighbouring 11-storey Carradale House, built just afterwards, and Glenkerry House, built in the same area in the late-seventies.

The verdict of the demos?


Posted by DanielS on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 09:26 | #

Well, these are the examples of architecture that wikipedia calls “Posmodern”

...exactly what I had in mind and exactly as I described them - modernist, with pseudo traditional “gingerbread” ornamentation.




Posted by Guessedworker on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 09:53 | #

I lived in a postmodern house, built in 1978, for six years.  Quite large detached property on the edge of a Sussex village, in two and a half acres of mostly woodland.  The architect was commissioned by the original land-owner to interpret the environment.  Running across the woods, from left to right, was a small stream that had cut a deep channel.  The drop was vertiginous on one side, but on the other the land reared up like a great and majestic wave.  So the architect built on the edge of the drop ... three feet away .. and, in essence, designed a highly abstract ship of the land, about to plunge downwards and then rise stubbornly up as the wave passed through.  It was a humorous and clever building which, from the rear, was stunning to look at from all angles, with references to the architectural vision everywhere, including an asymetric roof hip on one wing and a railed platform making a bow almost over the drop.

Now, I never saw that as kitsch.  I saw it as a sincere attempt to tell a narrative in brick and tile and concrete that respected the surroundings while eschewing the traditional, detached middle-class dwelling.  As an art-form tied to often uninspiring landscapes, architecture must have a style-consensus which can succeed where there is nothing much in particular to draw from, and that is postmodernist architecture’s weakness, and the reason it dissolves into kitsch in so many circumstances.  It just did not have the self-justification of a brutalism which will plonk itself down FU-style where it wants.


Posted by DanielS on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 10:10 | #

Regarding the fire…

I wonder if large city fire departments might equip helicopters or cherry pickers with the capacity to fire ropes with harnesses into the windows of high rises - the ropes would remain attached to the vehicle and perhaps could whisk people away.

Personally, I live on a third storey and I have a rope near one of the windows. If the stairwell was blocked and I was otherwise alerted quickly enough, I could tie the rope to the window frame quickly and walk-let myself down the side of the building.


Posted by Death toll of 79 expected to rise on Thu, 15 Jun 2017 01:52 | #

Reuters, “Death toll of 12 expected to rise in London tower block fire”, 15 June 2017:

The death toll in a fire disaster that destroyed a 24-storey block of flats in London was expected to rise on Thursday, with many people still missing and firefighters facing hazardous conditions as they searched the charred carcass.

Photo from apparently via BBC stream screenshot


Posted by Guessedworker on Thu, 15 Jun 2017 02:30 | #

At Guido Fawkes blog on the post-election departure of Tim Farron from the LibDem leadership - a Christian conscience thing - the top comment by “best” is about another matter entirely, and it isn’t high-rise fires:

Shadow Warrior • 14 hours ago
I won’t dignify Farron by even passing comment on his passing. So…

... although the tower block fire is an appalling tragedy that no doubt has many and complex causes and responsibilities , you only have to watch the news today to see that part of Kensington has more in common with downtown Mogadishu than it does with the Britain of our parents.

Tom Catesby  Shadow Warrior • 13 hours ago
Tragic certainly and it is awful for people and their families.
I must say how I was shocked to see how far the take over in Londonistan has ‘progressed’. I don’t think I saw a single English person interviewed all day. Nothing to do with the fire of course, but, It really confirmed, if that was necessary how far things have gone.

Abitparky  Tom Catesby • 13 hours ago
Fire and smoke don’t discriminate when it comes to victims.
I did get a bit riled when a local vicar who is obviously “on-message” used the event to point out how diverse the area is, as if we hadn’t noticed. “Blah, blah, diversity. Yadda, yadda, diversity”.

Tom Catesby  Abitparky • 13 hours ago
The over use of the word,‘community’ seemed to be much in evidence.


Posted by Bill on Thu, 15 Jun 2017 10:54 | #

A whole white nation was watching and what did they see?


Posted by Bill on Thu, 15 Jun 2017 12:36 | #

The Great Normalisers.

The BBC are the great normalisers, after watching the last few days there seems little doubt the majority of British folk have submitted. Decades of in your face multiculturalism has worn down the populace, Britain has accepted normalisation.
But on saying that, why did 171/2 million people vote for Brexit.  It doesn’t make sense.


Posted by Somali genius abetted the fire on Fri, 23 Jun 2017 05:00 | #

...turned out be started by an electrical fire in a Somali guy’s apartment. He took time to pack his bags while neglecting to call the fire department, a negligence that led to a death toll of 79 registered at this time.


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