Lasting impression

Goldfinger, Corb and Adventures in Space

I have a very early recollection of the creation of the elevated section of the Westway [1] (1970), which always intrigued me as a prefabricated and prestressed model. In those days, you could wander beneath it and along the tow path of the canal, and suddenly Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower [2] (1972) would emerge as a counterpoint to this marvellous piece of concrete structure, a monument of extraordinary beauty dominating the west London skyline.

When I was a student at the AA, Goldfinger came to give us a lecture. I have a memory of him arriving in the lecture hall carrying Sainsbury’s bags and out of these he brought two models showing Trellick Tower’s overlapping scissor section. I thought, “This dotty old guy up there holding these models, how does that affect my life?” But the more I thought about it, the more I understood the intelligence of this section. I became obsessed by the way that apartments can allow you to use them in volume – that’s something we’ve used a lot in our approach to space.

Later, I was able to see Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles (1952), another piece of concrete wonder. It was a hot afternoon as I approached the building and I heard somebody singing – a single soprano, very beautiful and melodic. This sound poetry made the building even more romantic.

There’s a full-size mock-up of the apartments in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, which reinforced the clever use of the space within this envelope, similar to Goldfinger. Lasdun does the same thing at Keeling House [3] (1955) in east London, which is triangular in plan and made up of duplexes. These experiences convinced me that concrete is not just a wonderful sculptural material, but also allows you to create space inside a building.

A favourite book of mine is on car parks across the world, which comes back to concrete as both a structural and a plastic material – and a heroic material. I was always amazed by the one under Bloomsbury Square
[4] (1972), which is a double interlocking helix so you go down one helix and cross over and go up the other.

Roger Zogolovitch is the founder of Solidspace

Photos: Mark Cocksedge; 1. Joe Dunckley/Alamy Stock Photo; 2.Cinnead/Flickr; 3.RIBApix; 4. Stefan Lange Photography