Keeling House, Bethnal Green
Photograph: T. Bell (1959)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
Architect: Sir Denys Lasdun (1956-1960)
Keeling House, Bethnal Green, London, is one of the best-known post-war blocks of flats. Designed in 1956 by Denys Lasdun, and built by 1960, it is one of the earliest projects where he had complete control. Already he was keen to find new ways of doing things.
To avoid dingy corridors or long access balconies, Lasdun grouped the flats in four slim towers around the central staircase and lift. He angled the blocks so that each flat had one side that was not overlooked, giving residents privacy. The opposite side faced obliquely towards another block, giving the sense of community which Lasdun felt most other council blocks of the period lacked.
This photograph shows the view up from ground level in between two of the wing blocks. The staircase core is in the centre, and the wooden railings in the middle shelter the communal outdoor spaces. Lasdun provided these to replace the backyards of the East End terraces where the residents had lived before. The dramatic angle, light and shade, and strong shapes of the photo demonstrate Lasdun’s awareness of the importance of producing eye-catching images: architecture is a visual art.