David Cameron has written an article for the Sunday Times denouncing "brutal" post-war housing estates as part of "an all-out assault on poverty and disadvantage" in the United Kingdom. Recalling time spent campaigning in "bleak, high-rise buildings, where some voters lived behind padlocked and chained-up doors" during the 1980s and since, he declares that "not enough has changed." "Some of them, especially those built just after the war," he writes, "are actually entrenching poverty in Britain – isolating and entrapping many of our families and communities."
British filmmaker Joe Gilbert has created a short tribute film to Alison and Peter Smithson's Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, East London, which—as of August 2015—is set to be demolished. Accompanied by insightful commentary from Timothy Brittain-Catlin, the film charts the buildings' history and recent threats to a backdrop of monochrome shots of the estate, in all of its dilapidated and "pleasantly wild" current state. The 'Streets in the Sky', made famous by the Smithsons and both widely praised and criticised as a response to the collapse of low-density terrace housing, are one of the focuses of the film.
“Ever wanted something more?” asks Robert Laing, the character played by Tom Hiddleston in the new trailer for “High Rise” - an upcoming film based off of the 1975 novel by new wave science fiction author J.G. Ballard. Filmed as a advertisement for the brutalist tower, the complex boasts that with its numerous amenities, “there is almost no reason to leave,” prefiguring the story's unsettling premise.
Befitting the architecturally-inspired tale, the architecture seen in the snapshots shows off a concrete megastructure, with beautiful board-formed concrete walls elegantly highlighting and contrasting with the modernist furniture and shag surfaces of the interiors. Not unlike the real-life brutalist residential megastructure The Barbican, the High Rise features a supermarket, gym, swimming pool, spa, and school. Perhaps that is why Laing describes the film’s setting as “distinctly and definitively British.” Watch the video for a first look at film, to be released in theaters in 2016, and find out more at the tongue-in-cheek website for the building's fictional designer, anthonyroyalarchitecture.co.uk.
A higher percentage of the world’s population lives in cities than in any point in history, and with an ever increasing demand for housing, some of the planet’s older and more condensed cities are struggling to keep up. This crisis is currently front and center in London, where median housing prices 12 times the median income have prompted a large number of radical solutions to quell the storm, but with politicians so far declining to take decisive action a viable answer remains a distant possibility.
In a new video produced by a collaboration between The Architectural Review and the Architecture Foundation, Phineas Harper proposes London take lessons from housing solutions from the past. The example on display here is The Barbican, a massive housing block constructed in the 1960s and 70s, and featuring amenities such as an arts center, music school, restaurants, pub and a cinema, all while providing comfortable, affordable housing for the middle-class professionals at which it was targeted. The video recounts the tale of the project's inception and its design ideals, revealing how this 50-year-old fortress in central London could be an inspiration for the architecture - and the politics - of today.
Inspired by the architecture of the Upper Silesian Industrial Region, Blokowice features modernist and brutalist buildings from the 1960-80s. The collection includes the Spodek and Superjednostka, two iconic buildings from the city center, Osiedle Gwiazdy, a characteristic star-shaped estate, Osiedle Odrodzenia, prefabricated panel blocks from the outskirts of the city, and the controversial Katowice railway station building that was demolished in 2011.
Brutal Utopias: A National Trust Celebration of Brutalist Architecture: Brutalist Britain by Routemaster
A tour of Brutalist architecture in London aboard the National Trust’s 1962 Routemaster Coach. Led by architectural and cultural experts Tom Cordell and Joe Kerr, the tours explore the emergence and development of Brutalism in the city.
Prince Charles once described the structure as a “clever way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting.” Despite the criticisms and the thirteen years it took to realize, Denys Lasdun’s Royal National Theatre may be the most beloved Brutalist building in Britain, thanks to its generous public spaces, thoughtful massing, and respect for the surrounding city.
When it was completed in 1976, the National Theatre actually housed three separate theatre spaces: a so-called “Open Theatre,” a traditional proscenium theatre, and an experimental studio theatre. When Lasdun was hired for the project in 1963, the plan also called for an Opera House, with all four venues combined in a single complex along the Thames River, where the Jubilee Gardens are now located. However, in 1966 a new parliament eliminated funding for the Opera House component, and in 1967 the entire project moved to a new site downstream. The shift in location was pivotal in shaping the final form: at the new site Lasdun drew inspiration from the adjacent Waterloo Bridge, Somerset House across the river, and a view to St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance.
In 2013, following a number of campaigns, a 1969 Brutalist icon in the northern British city of Preston was listed. The future of this bus terminal—one of the largest in the UK and the biggest in Europe when it originally opened—was, until last month, a matter of considerable speculation and debate. This week the results of an international open-call competition for proposals transforming into a new youth centre were revealed, selecting the proposal of New York based practice John Puttick Associates as 'the best of the lot.' The 'lot', however, left something to be desired.
Following the announcement in 2013 that Preston Bus Station, a Brutalist icon designed by BDP in 1969, had been Grade II Listed and therefore saved from the threat of demolition, the results of a recent international ideas competition to consider its future as a youth centre have been revealed. John Puttick Associates, based in New York, have beaten competition from Flanagan Lawrence, Letts Wheeler Architects, Sane Architecture, and local practice Cassidy + Ashton with their proposal to meet "the challenge of sensitively introducing contemporary design to the existing setting." Over 4200 people voted for their favourite design at an exhibition held in the bus station itself and through and online mechanism, and "were taken into account by the judges when making their final decision."
For the latest edition of The Urbanist, Monocle 24's weekly "guide to making better cities," the team travel to Moscow, Portugal and Hong Kong to examine how "architecture has always been the unfortunate sidekick of any dictatorial regime." In the process they ask what these buildings actually stand for, and explore the legacy of the architecture of Fascist, Imperial and Brutalist regimes from around the world today. From the Seven Sisters in Moscow to António de Oliveira Salazar's Ministry of Internal Affairs in Lisbon, this episode asks how colonial, dictatorial and power-obsessed architecture has shaped our cities.
In the latest episode of 99% Invisible, Hard to Love a Brute, Roman Mars and Avery Trufelman take a look at the potted history of the "hulking concrete brutes" of post-war Europe, centring on the UK, and the US east coast. Exploring Ernö Goldfinger's Balfron and Trellick towers, while making a pitstop in Boston, MA, this twenty minute podcast examines why people "love to hate" Brutalism and why, "as harsh as it looks, concrete is an utterly optimistic building material."
The announcement in 2012 that London's Robin Hood Gardens — Alison and Peter Smithson's world-famous Brutalist housing estate — was set to be demolished was, on the whole, met with outrage among the architectural community. Since that time, many called for the profession to act in order to protect "one of Britain’s most important post-war housing projects," which led to a fresh bid to save the scheme in March of this year. Richard Rogers, Simon Smithson (a partner at RSHP and son of Alison and Peter Smithson), and academic Dirk van den Heuvel recently called upon members of the public to voice their concerns to the UK Ministry for Culture, Media and Sport.
In spite of this, it has now been announced that the UK Heritage Minister, Tracey Crouch, "is minded to approve the Certificate of Immunity for Robin Hood Gardens" meaning that the decision not to list the residential complex in Tower Hamlets will be upheld, giving a "legal guarantee that the building or buildings named in the certificate will not be considered for listing for five years." This will be the second certificate of this type to have been issued for this complex. According to Historic England, "a period of 28 days [beginning on the 4th August 2015] is now allowed for review before the certificate is issued."
When it comes to the confluence of music and architecture, maybe the first thing that comes to mind is Goethe's claim that "music is liquid architecture." Goethe, however, was writing before the advent of MTV: music videos have become miniature films, attempting to capture all the tone, undercurrents and context of a particular song and translate them visually. Even better, the way music videos use architecture isn't the same as any documentary or film location; the camera attempts to mimic the way people listen to music by cutting and weaving around, designed for listeners as much as they are designed for viewers. Hence we see protagonists turning to the side, important elements placed away from the center and shots that both explore and disguise spaces in an attempt to fit the songs' acoustics to the setting.
What this means for us is that music videos can relate to architecture and capture its underlying tones in a way that a film might struggle to. For an architect wondering how the public truly understand and interact with a piece of architecture or remember a style, music videos are an untapped goldmine, since every setting location and filming choice show off how our wider culture relates to a building. Read on after the break for seven music videos that tell us a surprising amount about the architecture they feature.
“I always had an affinity for architecture which I attribute to growing up in a neighborhood and town that was constantly under construction. Our house was the first on the block. I think that in a way I was more interested in the abstractness of the foundations and the initial framing then in the completed structures themselves. Things I made back then had that incompleteness about them. As I became more aware of architecture in the wider world Brutalism was one of the styles of the moment. Looking at architecture magazines as a child and seeing hotels in French ski resorts (Marcel Breuer at Flaine) made of concrete suited my sensibility, I was hooked.”
For New York-based Calvin Seibert, sandcastles are more than just a fun summer hobby. Using a paint bucket, homemade plastic trowels, and up to about 150 gallons of water he creates spectacular modernist sandcastles. Read on after the break for an interview with Seibert and to see more photos of his work.
Join us in a day-long celebration of all things play and take over the RIBA headquarters at 66 Portland Place. Participate in free activities, tours and workshops for all the family, inspired by The Brutalist Playground installation.
For the first time in over a half-century, the United States reopened its official diplomatic embassy in Havana earlier today, shining an international spotlight on Harrison and Abramovitz's modernist shoreline classic. Historically maligned by many Cubans as an embodiment of American arrogance and imperialism, the building has played a pronounced symbolic role in the escalation - and now the easement - of political animosities between the two countries.
The Royal Institute of British Architects, together with the Lancashire City Council, has unveiled five proposals seeking to transform the once at-risk Preston Bus Station into a new public space and youth center. Each design was selected from 100 entries submitted via an international design competition focused on preserving the historic structure's Brutalist nature.
The anticipated £13 million plan is a major step forwarded considering the 1960s station, now a Grade II listed building, was recently slated for demolition. The adaptive reuse efforts are a result of a successful, international preservation campaign that secured a second life for the iconic structure.
In 2007, when the late Mayor Thomas Menino announced his intentions to demolish Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles' iconic Boston City Hall, he gave voice to a tragic but all-too-common popular discomfort with midcentury concrete architecture. Concerned that this threat was only the latest symptom of a pervasive misunderstanding of the significance of the concrete tradition, three architects - Mark Pasnik, Chris Grimley, and Michael Kubo - joined forces shortly thereafter to launch "The Heroic Project" and share their appreciation for this unfairly maligned chapter of architectural history. In addition to creating an internet web archive, Pasnik, Grimley, and Kubo jointly authored a forthcoming historical survey, Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston, scheduled to be released by The Monacelli Press in October 2015, which recasts the cultural and political story behind America's concrete heritage.