I am a self confessed fan of brutalist architecture. Not everyone is, I suspect the name puts a few people off, as does the swathes of concrete used to construct brutalist buildings. It’s architectural reputation is, however, benefitting from a renaissance (led, clearly, by this influential blogger). Perhaps, in our world driven by competing ideologies, fake news and a bewildering choice of information, the sight of buildings hewn out of lumps of concrete is refreshingly uncomplicated and instinctively more appealing.
I like that they are anachronistic, symbols of a postwar age where idealist architects envisioned a new utopia, emboldened by the new wonder material – concrete. In fact the term brutalism derives from this new material, taking from the french word for concrete – ‘béton-brut’. That said, the fame of the architectural movement grew partly because of the brashness of this term – it could simultaneously be an insult for the many detractors and badge of honour for its supporters. It remains that way today.
For those interested in a proper explanation of brutalism I defer to more informed sources – click here for more detail.
To remove any illusions that the writer of this blog is a) edgy or b) looking to advance a political/artistic agenda I will now admit that I am mostly posting so that I can show off the paper reconstructions of brutalist buildings that I have recently glued together. For a few hours of furious paper bending and pritt stick application (mostly to your fingers) can I refer you to Brutal London: construct your own concrete capital. It is much recommended.
Of the 8 buildings which the book covers my favourites are The National Theatre, The Barbican and The Balfron Tower. Number 1 for certain is the National Theatre, it really is seriously impressive (and very hard to glue together…so I haven’t made that one yet – apologies fans). I hope that you will be able to come to your own judgements about brutalist architecture and come to admire, as I do, how the very best examples of the movement are uniquely sculptural. I can think of very few buildings which form as unique shapes (like them or hate them) as those seen in the National Theatre or Barbican.
NB. I know that some 60’s and 70’s concrete tower blocks had reputations for being badly built. My buildings are also shoddily constructed and liable to falling over so please don’t inspect the workmanship too closely (or the photography for that matter).
And some real life pictures of these brutalist buildings…
And for those, like me, who have spent time living or working in Preston – the ever controversial bus station… (C’mon admit it’s pretty impressive)
Finally… what do you think of the BBC’s list of the top 10 ‘most beautiful brutalist buildings’? – have a look