Cotton Gardens Estate - Lambeth, London, UK

George Finch
Date Built
Completed 1968
Kennington Lane near Chester Way, SE London
These towers on Kennington Lane are the prominent feature of Lambeth Council's Cotton Gardens Estate.  They were designed by the architect George Finch and constructed by Wates using a pre-fabricated system.  The towers are named Ebenezer, Fairford and Hurley.  In the film 'Utopia London', George Finch reflected on his creation.  He pointed out that the use of engineered, pre-fabricated building systems tied the hands of architects.  The system involved the use of relatively standardized blocks so, as he put it, ".. you think to yourself, OK, let's see what one can do with it.  I did with these blocks.  I pushed it as far as I could."

The conventional wisdom at the time appears to have been that the use of prefabricated systems made it possible to put up buildings faster and cheaper than traditional methods but Finch believes that this wasn't true.  He argues that when they were erecting buildings on a number of sites the use of prefabricated components meant that they were only able to build on one site at a time.  It was true that each block was erected faster with this system but had they used traditional construction methods they could have been working on each site at the same time.  He also feels that the idea that it saved money was illusionary.  "They weren't cheaper.  Although the government gave subsidies for it, which made it cheaper for Local Authorities to put them up, in total cost they weren't getting value for money the same as they would have got with traditional building."

Asked to reflect on the arrangement of the towers he said, "You get this arrangement of them so they're not lined up - you get the sense of dancing around - the movement - every view you take is a different arrangement."

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