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Innovative housing block condemned as unsafe

AN INNOVATIVE 16-storey housing block designed by Sir Denys Lasdun, architect of the National Theatre and winner of the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1977, has been declared unsafe.

Surveyors working for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets say that structural faults in the building could lead to the sudden collapse of concrete panels and parapet walls.

Residents are angry that nothing has been done despite the fact that the council has been aware of the problem for at least 15 months. They are to be moved into temporary accommodation described by an unofficial council spokesman as 'like downtown Beirut'.

Keeling House, in Claredale Street, Bethnal Green, was considered an intelligent reworking of the traditional two-up, two-down working class terraced house in the early Fifties. The architect's idea was to recreate the terrace, but in cluster-blocks. The building's distinctive clover-leaf plan was designed to bring sunlight into sky-bound maisonettes.

Ironically, Keeling House has not been an archetypal high-rise horror, but a building much liked by most residents. Len Norton, chief executive of the council's Bow neighbourhood, claims that 'bodged repair work carried out eight or nine years ago was to blame'. One of the surveyors, who refused to be named, said: 'The time factor is something we have no control over. Defects may happen very suddenly; there are sections of concrete that could fall off tomorrow or tonight.'

The block is surrounded with scaffolding to protect passers-by from falling concrete. There are, however, no immediate plans to demolish it despite gaps in stairwells big enough to put a foot through and reinforcing bars rusting through holes.