Situated in Poplar next to Jolly’s Green (in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets), Glenkerry House was designed by the Hungarian-born brutalist architect Erno Goldfinger, who infamously inspired Ian Fleming to name a villain in his James Bond books after him. Though Goldfinger’s work was controversial and often derided, it satisfied a need for affordable social housing in London in the years following World War 2, and he rapidly became Britain’s architect of choice.
Glenkerry forms part of a triptych of towers on Poplar’s Brownfield Estate, begun with the 27-storey Balfron Tower in the mid-1960s and followed by the adjacent 11-storey Carradale House. All have now been categorised as Grade II listed buildings as indeed has their immediate environs. After a brief detour to build the celebrated Trellick Tower in North Kensington, Goldfinger’s studio returned to complete Glenkerry House in the late 1970s, but with the GLC having learned all the lessons of earlier high-rise building.
Initially commissioned by the Greater London Council (GLC), Glenkerry was probably the last tower block to be built by the GLC before its dissolution in 1986. Upon completion, the GLC handed it over to the Greater London Secondary Housing Association (GLSHA) who decided to promote a Community Leasehold Housing Co-operative in which the block would be managed, not by an external company, but by the residents themselves. Glenkerry remained empty for some eighteen months before the first Co-operators moved into the block in the spring of 1979. GLSHA managed the scheme until April 1980 when the elected Management Committee took over.
Glenkerry consists of flats owned, not rented, by the leaseholders and is an entirely independent and self-contained Housing Association based solely in Poplar, East London.
Glenkerry House has featured in a number of architectural books, including Brutal London by Simon Phipps.