Capturing London's Brutalist icon, Balfron Tower 📷
Long-time Wallpaper* contributor, Leandro Farina\u2019s striking experiments with light and photographic techniques have seen him carve out a distinctive reputation in still life photography, with collaborations with the likes of Louis Vuitton and Tom Ford under his belt. Here, for a personal project, he throws the spotlight on something a...
Windows from the bar in the service tower in Balfron Tower. From the series Balfron, Brownfield, Estateby Leandro FarinaLong-time Wallpaper* contributor, Leandro Farina’s striking experiments with light and photographic techniques have seen him carve out a distinctive reputation in still life photography, with collaborations with the likes of
Louis Vuittonand Tom Ford under his belt. Here, for a personal project, he throws the spotlight on something a little different: Ernö Goldfinger’s vertical vision for London, cemented in Balfron Tower. Farina gained access at a rare moment, in the early stages of a regeneration project that has stirred a debate on gentrification. This poignant visual narration, titled
Balfron, Brownfield, Estate,uses an arresting light inversion technique, which, as he explains, felt like an appropriate application for Balfron Tower’s ‘second life’.Wallpaper*: When and how did the idea for the project Balfron, Brownfield, Estate
come about?Leandro Farina:In 2017 and 2018. I had shot an interiors project for the developer and asked if I could get access for my own project. I don’t live too far from the estate – which made it easier to return frequently – and I always regarded it when I walked past.
After my visit, I was struck by how building projects take place. This kind of transformation happens in relative seclusion: a curtain goes up at the beginning and when it’s finished, is taken away again, so you don’t really get to see the process. I liked the idea of taking pictures in a place and creating an archive of it periodically. This meant that every time I returned, lots had changed; I could never take the same picture in the same place twice – a new version of the scene would emerge.
Layered tiles in a Balfron Tower kitchenW*: What do you find so intriguing about the architecture and story of Balfron Tower?LF:I think of Goldfinger and Balfron as interesting London characters and I love how the building has been used in the past. Balfron has been the backdrop to quite a few films and books and I had read J.G. Ballard’s
High-Risein my 20s. Somehow that always sticks in the mind when walking around London especially when it’s grey. But I think my interest in the project was more opportunistic. I stumbled into it and how it looked affected me somehow, so I started to think, ‘why?’.
I think that Brutalism, in general, frightened me as a child growing up in London. To me, the austere and functional design and the incongruousness of the monolithic concrete towers rising from behind rows of two-storey Victorian houses were fascinating and repellent in equal measure.
I’ve always been attracted to interiors because I like to think about the people who lived in those places previously and try to understand the story of a place at a certain time. As the tower stood completely empty in a state of deconstruction, it let me look at these layers of habitation in linear stages going backwards. I saw it as a portal to a kind of different time in an otherworldly landscape.
Close-up of a wall covering of Margaret Thatcher in a living room W*: Can you talk a little about your photographic approach to this? LF:I usually work with tabletop-sized things, but also work on larger projects for Wallpaper*, photographing (set build) interiors, I always try to think about these projects from the point of view of the people who might use them and create the spaces with that in mind. I love architecture, but don’t take pictures of it professionally so I just approached it in the same way I work in the studio. I had an idea of what the pictures should look like and I went looking for them in the building.
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