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Icons and Monstrosities: The success and failure of post-war social housing

Part 2 Dissertation 2015
Elizabeth Flower
Kingston University | UK
This dissertation aims to uncover a fair and balanced version of events, during the controversial period of social housing construction that followed the Second World War. The public perception of Brutalist estates built during this time is commonly split between utter hatred and total admiration. While many of these buildings have become listed icons, others have been dubbed ‘monstrosities’ and have succumbed to demolition. Today however, the country is facing a national housing shortage and a new era of house-building has begun. It is therefore vital that we learn from the successes and failures of the past decades, to ensure that the social housing built today will continue to fulfill its role of providing homes to those most in need.

Following close analysis of the post-war period of architectural history, this study examined two case studies; the ‘iconic’ Balfron Tower and the ‘monstrous’ Heygate Estate. Direct comparison of the two schemes revealed numerous historic similarities, despite their polar opposite public perceptions. The study sought to determine the real reasons behind the schemes’ eventual successes and failures and thus defines some valuable lessons to be heeded in the design of future social housing schemes.

Elizabeth Flower

Karin Templin
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