This is Arlington House, an eighteen-storey residential tower block built in the early 1960s in Margate, Kent. It’s an example of the architectural style known as Brutalism. It’s a style that some regard as ugly and this tower has attracted quite a lot of negative comment over the years.
Thanet District Council’s Conservation Officer writing in 2011 thought differently: “The tower block is a building of considerable merit; arguably ‘listable’ with extremely well considered crisp detailed elevations which add positively to the architectural character of the town.” He went on to say: “The undulating east and west facades of the building imitate the waves breaking on the beach.”
There was an era in the last ’50s and early ’60s when a lot of towns erected tower blocks like this for residential occupation. In most instances they stood out like sore thumbs and looking back now from more enlightened times, one wonders what on earth convinced Town Planners that they were a sensible, or appropriate, addition to the sky line.
Arlington House is certainly an intrusive feature – the tallest building for miles around. It’s only saving grace is the undulating facade.
Last week I saw an inspirational major exhibition by the German Photographer Andreas Gursky (at the Hayward Gallery until 22 April ). Gursky’s work is heroic and monumental in scale, particularly his architectural work. A typical example is Paris, Montparnasse 1993 (see below) – a work that involved merging multiple images in post-processing to create a single image. When I viewed this work it reminded me of the Margate tower block – simply because of the repetitive nature of the content, and for no other reason.Seeing the work of other artists is important. Every exhibition provokes thought, suggests ideas, and facilitates our growth as photographers.