UK tower blocks remembered in new archive project


EDINBURGH COLLEGE OF ART has initiated an ambitious project which will attempt to restore the beleaguered reputation of tower blocks in the UK with a unique visual archive.
The ambitious project- titled “Tower Blocks – Our Blocks!”- will contain images of every single multi-storey public housing project ever constructed in Britain, including ones destroyed more than 30 years ago.


The project, due to be completed in 2017, will be funded by the Heritage Lottery and will bring together 3500 images taken in the 1980s and make them fully searchable as part of the Tower Block Slide Archive.


Multi-storey flats in Edinburgh’s Sighthill area are blown up.


Among images are Glasgow’s iconic Red Road and Gorbals high rise flats as well as famous tower blocks such as Manchester’s Hulme redevelopment and London’s Broadwater Farm.


Professor Miles Glendinning, head of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies at Edinburgh College of Art, is invloved in the project. He said: “We hope this project will help contribute to the ongoing shift in public attitudes towards the post-war Modernist housing heritage, which is fast turning from an object of dislike and alienation into a force for potential community empowerment.


“Council tower blocks were once the most prominent and dramatic legacy of the post-1945 reconstruction drive, but mass demolitions over the past 35 years, still continuing today, have depleted this vast heritage, leaving it obscured or incomprehensible to the public at a time when popular interest in post-war Modernist heritage is sharply increasing.”


Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Without archives, vast segments of our nation’s history would be missing.


“As the high rise towers that have dominated many towns’ and city’s skylines begin to disappear, it is important for us to capture this heritage and give voice to the experiences of those who live in these flats and communities. The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to be able to help make this happen.”


The £52,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will help digitise the photographs and support local outreach initiatives which encourage high-rise residents to tell their stories, and aid them in telling community histories.