London tower

Trellick Tower in London

Whitemead House, Duckmoor Road, Bristol 1999

Whitemead House in Bristol


Hutchesontown tower blocks in Gorbals, Glasgow


Tower block in Sighthill, Glasgow

Red Road f

Red Road tower blocks in Glasgow

A tower block is a residential building of 6 storeys or more, usually found in towns and cities. The majority of which were built in the 1960s and are synonymous with that period of construction.


Tower blocks were first built in the UK after the Second World War, in many cases as a "quick-fix" to cure problems caused by crumbling and unsanitary 19th century dwellings or to replace buildings destroyed by German aerial bombing. Initially, they were welcomed, and their excellent views made them popular living places. Later, as the buildings themselves deteriorated, they grew a reputation for being undesirable low cost housing, and many tower blocks saw rising crime levels, increasing their unpopularity. One response to this was the great increase in the number of housing estates built, which in turn brings its own problems. In the UK, tower blocks particularly lost popularity after the explosion and partial collapse of Ronan Point in 1968's

Ronan Point changed the course of attitudes to tower blocks. Before the collapse people saw tower blocks as the solution to high density urban living but afterwards tower blocks started to become unpopular. The problem was compounded when councils failed to maintain tower blocks to high standards and used them for unpopular anti-social tenants. Since the Ronan Point collapse, tower blocks have been safer since older tower blocks are now all electric and newer tower blocks have to be built to higher safety standards and there has been no similar accident since then. Although the accident, was not repeated tower blocks have not as yet in the early 21st century regained popularity until the Grenfell Tower Fire on June 14th 2017.


The city of Glasgow in Scotland contains the highest concentration of tower blocks in the UK - examples include the Hutchensontown C blocks in the Gorbals, the 20-storey blocks in Sighthill, and the 31-storey Red Road flats in the city's north east.

There is no definitive figure for the number of tower blocks constructed in Britain during the postwar period as the definition of what a tower block is, is disputed. However, Twentieth Century Industrial Archaeology by Michael Stratton calculates that a total of 6,535 tower blocks were built, with the most intensive tower block construction period being between 1963 and 1967. Construction of tower blocks following 1972 declined with only 155 being built. This number is of the number of 6 or more storey blocks that were constructed. 42% of these blocks were built in London, 13% in Scotland and 7% in Birmingham.

Demolition and new constructionEdit

In recent years, some council or ex-council high-rises in the United Kingdom, including Trellick Tower and Keeling House have become popular with young professionals due to their excellent views, desirable locations and architectural pedigrees, and now command high prices. Some have even developed to become listed buildings. Other tower blocks built as luxury flats, like those the Barbican Estate, have remained popular and expensive. However, many have also been demolished due to the cheap and poor construction methods used as well as the lack of maintenance. Despite this, many blocks have also been refurbished.

After a gap of around 30 years, new high-rise flats are once again being built in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, and Sheffield however this time for wealthy professionals, and developed by private companies. Their developers market these properties by using the American term 'apartment buildings', perhaps in an effort to distance these newer buildings from the older tower blocks from the 1950s and '60s.

Advantages of tower blocksEdit

Tower blocks can give a few of the advantages of penthouse living, the higher floors are light and airy, the sun rises earlier and sets later than at ground level. In an east facing flat on the 9th floor of a tower block the sun becomes visible easily half an hour earlier than happens at ground level, this has been checked using the lift in the relevant block and similarly the sun sets later during the evening. This is not primarily due to altitude but due to other lower level features not obscuring the sun. [1] On a hot summer day the air feels fresh and relatively cool high up in a tower block. Traffic noise can still be heard on the 9th floor of a tower block but is quieter than it would be at ground level. Some tower blocks have spectacular views comparable to the view from a penthouse, others have views of dingy council estates or mixed views.

Fashions in housingEdit

Different types of housing go in and out of fashion as do other areas of life, in the case of housing people generally have to live with mistakes and fashion changes for at least a generation. Any type of housing that is used for criminal and difficult tenants inevitably becomes unpopular. Public money has possibly been wasted building too many tower blocks. It is also possible that tower blocks are potentially acceptable provided there are security locks at the entrances and features like streets in the sky do not help criminals to escape.

Today tower blocks are partially out of fashion, existing tower blocks are being demolished and many people say that is a good thing. Tower blocks which could provide reasonable accommodation for a long time are poorly maintained, (poorly maintained tower blocks give poor quality of life for the tenants) and poorly maintained tower blocks may later need demolition. At the same time new high rise buildings are being erected and some of the more popular tower blocks like Trellick Tower are sought after. There appears to be waste of public money in this.

Tower blocks that are demolished are frequently replaced with low rise high density accommodation which could in its turn become unpopular especially if unpopular tenants are housed there as used to happen and still happens in tower blocks.

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