The Barbican Centre in London is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Widely regarded as the pinnacle of the Brutalist movement, the mixed-use development is home to 4,000 residents, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and the London Symphony Orchestra. Located in the heart of London, the Barbican is just one example of how Brutalist architecture forms a central part of our cities. To celebrate this progressive, modernizing, sometimes controversial style, GoCompare has created an online gallery illustrating Brutalist icons from across the world.
In this second installment of his revamped “Beyond London” column for ArchDaily, Simon Henley of London-based practice Henley Halebrown discusses a potential influence that might help UK architects combat the economic hegemony currently afflicting the country – turning for moral guidance to the Brutalists of the 1960s.
Before Christmas, I finished writing my book entitled Redefining Brutalism. As the title suggests I am seeking to redefine the subject, to detoxify the term and to find relevance in the work, not just a cause for nostalgia. Concrete Brutalism is, to most people, a style that you either love or hate. But Brutalism is far more than just a style; it is way of thinking and making. The historian and critic Reyner Banham argued in his 1955 essay and 1966 book both entitled The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic that the New Brutalism began as an ethical movement only to be hijacked by style. Today, it is a mirror to be held up to the architecture of Neoliberalism, to an architecture that serves capitalism. More than ever, architecture relies on the brand association of the big name architects whose work has little to do with the challenges faced by society, which are today not unlike the ones faced by the post-war generation: to build homes, places in which to learn and work, places for those who are old and infirm, and places to gather. We can learn a lot from this bygone generation.
Russian designer Sergey Lisovsky has created an online illustrative magazine inspired by Brutalist Architecture. Pattern Brutalist’s first issue was published in January 2017, illustrating four Brutalist buildings across Russia, Germany, and Serbia. The buildings, dating between 1968 and 1980, are represented by Lisovsky using a collection of GIFs, photographs, and illustrations.
Pattern Brutalist also hosts a T-shirt printing service, allowing users to publically express their appreciation for an often-criticized architectural style.
Adding to its regular releases of city guide maps, London-based publisher Blue Crow Media has now produced the Brutalist Paris Map, in collaboration with Nigel Green and Robin Wilson of Photolanguage. Having previously covered Washington D.C.’s most prominent Brutalist buildings, the latest map highlights over 40 Parisian examples of Brutalist architecture.
From its hilltop vantage point in the east end of Sheffield, UK, the Park Hill Estate surveys the post-industrial city which sprawls westwards. Its prominent location makes the estate highly visible and it has, over time, become engrained in the popular consciousness – a part of the fabric of the city. Although today it divides opinion, following its completion in 1961 it was hailed as an exemplary model for social housing. Designed by architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith under the supervision of Sheffield’s visionary City Architect John Lewis Womersley, the estate now stands as testament to an era when young British architects were revolutionizing the field of residential architecture with radical housing programs.
The Park Hill Estate was part of Womersley’s strategy to introduce more high-density housing to Sheffield, which he believed would foster a stronger sense of community than the ubiquitous back-to-back terraces. This policy went hand in hand with an urgent need for slum clearance; The Park, a slum so notorious for its high crime rate that it was known locally as ‘Little Chicago,’ was demolished to make way for the estate.
The career of Gottfried Böhm (born January 23, 1920) spans from simple to complex and from sacred to secular, but has always maintained a commitment to understanding its surroundings. In 1986, Böhm was awarded the eighth Pritzker Prize for what the jury described as his "uncanny and exhilarating marriage" of architectural elements from past and present. Böhm's unique use of materials, as well as his rejection of historical emulation, have made him an influential force in Germany and abroad.
Campaigners in the UK have launched a petition to save Durham University's Student Union Building, also known as Dunelm House, after the university announced its intention to demolish and replace the brutalist structure earlier this month. Designed in 1966 by Ove Arup and the Architects' Co-Partnership, the building is perhaps the most important 20th-century edifice in a city that is better-known for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed cathedral and castle.
In 2017, British news magazine The Economist will move to a new home, leaving behind its iconic home of 52 years, Economist Plaza.
The project represents the first major commission by British duo Alison and Peter Smithson, who would go on to have esteemed careers as champions of the Brutalist style. Located at 22 Ryder Street, not far from Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, Economist Plaza marked a significant breakthrough in tall building design, replacing the traditional streetfront of a podium and tower design with stairs and a ramp leading to an elevated plaza from which 3 buildings would rise.
Watch the video above to learn the story behind the project, and read more about the legacy the Economist will leave behind, here.
UK transport minister John Hayes has declared war on Brutalist architecture, The Independent reports. Citing public distaste for the functional, modern designs characterized by exposed concrete and brick masonry, Hayes warned against a revival of the style, referring to it as "aesthetically worthless, simply because it is ugly." Meanwhile, Hayes named Boris Johnson's New Routemaster and the redeveloped St. Pancras, Blackfriars, and King's Cross stations as specimens of exemplary design. At the heart of this ire is a push to rebuild a Doric arch outside Euston station, which was demolished in 1962.
The winning proposal has just been announced for an extension to the Bunkier Sztuki ("Bunker of Arts") contemporary art gallery in Cracow, Poland. Out of 33 entries in the international competition, the underground design by Robert Konieczny - KWK Promes has been selected to be executed in the heart of Cracow's Old Town.
City Guide publisher Blue Crow Media and Deane Madsen, Associate Editor of Design at Architect Magazine, have collaborated to produce the Brutalist Washington Map, which features 40 examples of Brutalist architecture in Washington, D.C. This is Blue Crowe's fourth architectural guide map, following their Brutalist London Map, Art Deco London Map, and Constructivist Moscow Map. One can only expect further releases on the horizon.
This exclusive photo essay by Laurian Ghinitoiu was originally commissioned for the fifth issue of LOBBY. Available later this month, the latest issue of the London-based magazine—published in cooperation with the Bartlett School of Architecture—examines the theme of Faith as "a fervent drive, a dangerous doctrine, a beautifully fragile yet enduring construct, an unapologetic excuse, a desperate call for attention and a timely consideration on architectural responsibility."
In 1986 the Pritzker Architecture Prize announced their first German laureate. In a speech at the ceremony in London’s Goldsmiths’ Hall, the Duke of Gloucester suggested that the prize “may not guarantee immorality,” inferring, perhaps, that not even the most prestigious award in architecture could compete with an œuvre so compact, focussed and enduring as that of Gottfried Böhm – a “son, grandson, husband, and father of architects.”
We are all familiar with the "utopian" towns of the 20th Century. Basildon, Essex, was one of the largest of those New Towns. It was founded in 1949, when Lewis Silkin, the Minister of town and country planning at the time, ambitiously predicted that "Basildon will become a city which people from all over the world will want to visit. It will be a place where all classes of community can meet freely together on equal terms and enjoy common cultural recreational facilities." Nearly seventy years later, Basildon is left with a struggling local economy, splintered communities, and a fraction of the art and culture than what was originally hoped for. "New Town Utopia" is a documentary film that confronts this concrete reality with a question: “What happened when we built Utopia?”
North Korea is one of the few countries still under communist rule, and probably the most isolated and unknown worldwide. This is a result of the philosophy of Juche – a political system based on national self-reliance which was partly influenced by principles of Marxism and Leninism.
In recent years though, the country has loosened its restrictions on tourism, allowing access to a limited number of visitors. With his personal photo series “North Korea – Vintage Socialist Architecture,” French photographer Raphael Olivier reports on Pyongyang’s largely unseen architectural heritage. ArchDaily interviewed Olivier about the project, the architecture he captured, and what he understood of North Korea’s architecture and way of life.
As soon as photographer Harlan Erskine discovered the plans to demolish Paul Rudolph's iconic Orange County Government Center in New York, he knew he needed to bear witness to its demise. Beyond admiring the building's dynamic form, the photographer recognized its continued impact on architecture today, particularly noting its influence on Herzog and de Meuron's "Jenga tower."
Visiting on four separate occasions throughout 2015 and 2016, Erskine captured the dismantling of this iconic Brutalist work with stunning severity. See the building's final seasons below.
In the past few weeks, the fates of two classic Brutalist buildings by architect Marcel Breuer were determined – with differing results. For the Atlanta Central Library, it was good news, as the Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to support the renovation of the building, saving it from the wrecking ball. Meanwhile, the American Press Institute in Reston, Virginia, was not so lucky, as Fairfax County’s board of supervisors voted to tear down the building to make room for a new a townhouse development project.
On the 29th December, 1940, at the height of the Second World War, an air raid by the Luftwaffe razed a 35-acre site in the heart of the City of London to the ground. The site was known as the Barbican (a Middle English word meaning fortification), so-called for the Roman wall which once stood in the area. Following the war, the City of London Corporation—the municipal governing body for the area—started to explore possibilities to bring this historic site into the twentieth century.
For architects, if I may generalize an entire professional community, there are few novelists as cultishly beloved as J.G. Ballard. Borges or Calvino have their fair share of admirers, but to borrow an adjective more frequently applied to buildings, Ballard is the most iconic of literary figures—especially for readers of a concrete-expansion-joint persuasion. Witnessing war as a child, training in medicine, and thereafter writing from a rather bloodless middle-class patch of suburbia, Ballard spun tales of urban life that continue to be uncomfortably visceral.