Brutalism in the UK

© Andy Spain

is the term coined to describe the raw architecture often made with concrete during the 1950s and 1960s (with a later resurgence). I’m an architectural photographer and my fascination with these concrete buildings has led to me document a number of them across the (an on-going project).

© Andy Spain

When you go into a gallery a painting might cause you to stop and look, it isn’t the spectacle but the aesthetics ability to hold the viewer. Concrete buildings have this ability. They don’t fit into the streets and city centres where they appear (they are by their very nature brutal rather than accommodating) but there strength and power speak of a time when people had a belief in architecture as a force for civic good. These structures were solid spaces to create a solid and strong world emerging from the gloom of the second world war. The buildings represent what was great about building a society, universities, hospitals, local governments as opposed to the steel and glass of contemporary retail and office complexes. These buildings were about real people and real issues and they wore this realism brutally on the outside.

© Andy Spain

But it’s more than that. The form is itself appealing (beyond what that form represents). Simplicity in architecture is rare and to strip back so much of the adornments and leave the bare walls is somehow sensual, the opposite of what so many critics claim. The way lines are created and cut against the sky or interact with other buildings. The regularity of shape and form caused by the shutter process of creating the concrete, the ability to go up to the building and feel the roughness of the concrete matching and creating an indexical link with the way the building was made.

© Andy Spain

Sometimes a book is hard to read or a film is hard to watch but by completing it you know it was something important and worthwhile which deserved your perseverance. These buildings also deserve your perseverance. They are evidence of a modernism, a time when we didn’t dress up architecture but left it cold and honest for all to see.

You can see some more of my photographs in here.

© Andy Spain
© Andy Spain
© Andy Spain
© Andy Spain
© Andy Spain
Cite: Spain, Andy. "Brutalism in the UK" 29 Jul 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=70676>
  • R Goldschmidt

    I never like the brutalism. They distroy everything about the people fillings, life stile. They are like scars in the city or landscape. I don’t like to see concrete everywere. I would like to hear a psihologist opinion about the impact of this style in human, day by day life: work, living, etc. In my contry the concrete wall block distroy the life style and fellings. I live in a ex-comunist country.

    • MIESOSOUP

      OK WELL YOU DONT LIKE BRUTALISM BECAUSE YOU ASSOCIATE IT WITH A POLITICAL IDEOLOGY : COMMUNISM. MAYBE PEOPLE IN BRITAIN DON’T HATE IT BECAUSE THEY NEVER HAD TO EXPERIENCE THE TRAUMA OF COMMUNISM THAT IS ASSOCIATED WITH COMMIE BLOCKS. ON TOP OF WHICH: IN EX-COMMIE COUNTRIES everything WAS “BRUTAL” AND CONCRETE AND HARSH BUT I’M SURE IN ENGLAND THESE BUILDINGS COME IN SMALLER DOSES

      • Suurpepu

        WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING?

  • http://annelennard.tumblr.com/ annelennard

    I have to agree with R Goldschmidt. On one hand it’s OK, but on the other, concrete burnt itself into the history of the people of post-Soviet countries as the default construction material of socialist realism, and therefore long years of Soviet suppression.

  • GH

    Some of these are actually pretty awesome. Others are just plain ugly.

    In Germany, the concrete industry in the 80s and 90s used to advertise with the slogan: “Beton. Es kommt drauf an, was man draus macht.” (“Concrete. It depends on what you do with it.”) After reviewing these photos, I couldn’t agree more.

    • http://www.archialternative.com Albert

      Great remarks indeed.

  • rarespa

    Hey.

    Brutalism is indeed an outdated architectural style… I live in an comunist cuountry and most of the buildings constructed in behalf of the state where made in a very poor brutalist manner, and the style is usualy associated with: dislike of the aristocratic means, poor materials, built after hysorical buildings where forcibly demolished …etc.

    but then again we have to thank the brutalist architects for creating a style that inflicted in younger designers the need of a better architecture: deconstructivism

    also the pictures are quite very nice.. i like the lines. On some, did u use a tilt and shift lens?

    chhers.

  • Benjamin

    Brutalism is a winner.