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The eye in the sky snaps Lasdun's tower

Valeria Carullo

Bill Toomey's bird's eye view emphasises the presence of Denys Lasdun's Bethnal Green tower

Keeling House, Bethnal Green, east London, 1958
Keeling House, Bethnal Green, east London, 1958 Credit: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections

Keeling House, Bethnal Green, east London, 1958

The widespread use of aerial photography during World War I introduced a new way of looking at the city and the built environment in general. From the inter-war period onwards, bird’s eye views emphatically expressed the height of tall structures such as skyscrapers, pylons and factory chimneys, while aerial views of groups of buildings highlighted geometry and pattern. This photograph of Keeling House in east London, designed by Denys Lasdun in 1958, emphasises the novelty of the design – four stacks linked along diagonal axes to a central service core – and the difference in scale between the tall building and its surroundings. Also noticeable is the contrast between the pre-existing terraces and pre-war housing blocks, and the long three- and four-storey blocks of the Minerva Estate on the right, built by the LCC between 1946 and 1948. The photographer, Bill Toomey, was a keen flyer and often accompanied critic Ian Nairn in his plane excursions over the British Isles. We owe to him the numerous aerial views, published by the Architectural Press, documenting the changes in post-war British towns and cities.