The Tower Block UK project is a Heritage-Lottery funded initiative based at the University of Edinburgh. Its initial phase of work and data capture ran from 2014 and 2019, and has now been followed by a legacy phase of updating of data where resources permit. The project emphasises the social and architectural importance of tower blocks and frames multi-storey social housing as a coherent and accessible nationwide heritage. As multi-storey blocks increasingly vanish from our horizons, especially in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, this project has answered the need to document and create an engagement with the history of multi-storey social housing at a local and national level.
In re-evaluating the historical, architectural and social importance of high-rise living, the Tower Blocks project has aimed to provide a forum for the sharing of images, experiences and memories. By providing a searchable image archive of historic 1980s images, supplemented with more recent data, in tandem with various public engagement activities, the project has brought together both tangible and intangible sources for thinking about recent social history.
Through the work of the project and its continuously-updated legacy - the 'Tower Block UK' database and archive - we hope to help form an integral step in banishing the negative assumptions surrounding life in multi-storey social housing. This step is all the more pertinent today in an age where the manifestations of the post-war drive to build affordable high-density housing are increasingly disappearing, irrevocably altering the physical and social fabric of the urban environment.
On this 'Tower Block UK' legacy site, in addition to the database itself, there is a diverse range of links to other websites and partner organisations concerned with post-war mass housing (in particular DOCOMOMO which deals with documentation and conservation of the Modern Movement). We hope this will set the UK experience, including the internationally unique system of ‘council housing’, in a wider global context.