Archive for February, 2014


The Architecture of Poplar

There is a great article in East End Life this week (a rarity I know) on the architecture of Poplar – as part of their walks series.

The article rightly highlights All Saints Church and the more newer icons such as Goldfinger’s wonderful Balfron Tower and, in my view the equally wonderful – but badly managed, Robin Hood Gardens as the places to see in Poplar.

But the question to ask is will any of the architectural developments we are building today in Poplar be in such an article in 60 – 100 years time.

Housing Developers will argue that the economic climate and the housing shortage at the present time means that it is necessary to be functional – so that as many homes can be built as quickly as possible.  These were, of course, the same arguments that were used in the 1950s and 1960s – and and now many of those buildings are demolished as they were totally unloved.

I have long argued that great buildings raise the aspirations of the population of an area and also places a link to the past and an understanding of our place in history – We can say All Saints was built in the 1820s, Poplar Baths was built in the 1930s, Balfron Tower was built in the 1960s and this building we are building today will be equally looked upon by the residents of Poplar in 50 – 60 years time.

Spotlight Centre

There certainly some impressive buildings which have been built in Poplar in recent years.  Such as William Cotton Place, St Paul’s Way Trust School and the Spotlight Centre (above).

Will these buildings be equally impressive in 50 years time. The signs are not good – the new St Paul’s Way school is the third building on the site in my lifetime and none of these buildings have any feeling of permanence.

This may, of course, be my own architectural prejudices coming out.  I am a unashamed traditionalist – but I just cannot see the architecture we are building now having the same emotional affect on us in 50 years time as we do about Balfron.

Let me know what you think.

February 2014

coljax photos