Are blocks of flats really that ugly?


Everyone’s seen them. Look across the Bristol skyline and you’ll see several of them. Rising obtrusively from the ground.

Tower blocks.


Can you spot it? That ugly mass of concrete right in the centre of the image?

A lot of people dislike them. And understandably so. Built around the 1960’s their aim was to replace the crumbling 19th century buildings and those that were destroyed in the war. They were built to represent britain’s post-war success and in a Brutalistic style – a favourite of architects at the time. So because of that, they stand out as imposing blocks of concrete across the edge of cities.

At the time, they were loved at first. People loved the idea of living in the sky and enjoyed the views it provided! But these futuristic buildings quickly changed from being the images of a utopia, to images of a dystopia.

There were many problems with the buildings themselves as well as the people that lived within them. And quickly, they degraded.

Bristol Barton hill tower blocks

But really, they’re not THAT bad.

Sure, they’re intrusive. Sure, they’ve been associated with worse sides of society. Sure, they weren’t built in the best way.

But they represent a time in our history, that we shouldn’t be so keen to disregard. They are still impressive and certainly dominate skylines. It seems a trend these days that any buildings built in the 1900’s don’t have as much value as those built before. We’re very quick to demolish buildings that were built 20-30 years ago, yet anything from before World War Two becomes part of our history. When actually, those buildings from 20-30 years ago are part of our history too. They represent the style and fashion of the time, and whilst we may not realise it at the time, in the future these are the buildings that would be considered “heritage”.

Now. I’m not saying we should all go out and build our own tower blocks, that wouldn’t end well. What I am saying is that we should celebrate the history behind the ones we already have. Look after the tower blocks we have, and make sure they don’t descend into ruin.

What I love about Bristol is its big graffiti culture. And what I love is that these “ugly” buildings have been transformed thanks to it.

Some of Bristol’s tower blocks have been transformed from these large intrusive buildings into large intrusive canvasses for the people to express themselves. Large buildings in the centre have had murals painted on them, and it has completely changed them. All of a sudden, they are no longer ugly. They are no longer Brustalistic. They are works of art.

And you thought that tower blocks could only be ugly.

Thanks for reading,

2 thoughts on “Are blocks of flats really that ugly?

  1. “And you thought that tower blocks could only be ugly” -well they certainly are now with all that “art” daubed on them…stop vandalising our Mid-Century Modern heritage!

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