Author of "ConcreteConcept: Brutalist Buildings Around the World" Christopher Beanland will take us on a journey through some of the most iconic as well as some of the unknown treasures of Brutalist architecture around the world. Why were they built, what do they mean and how are they seen today? Are some of the things we'll get to find out about some of the Brutalist Beasts featured inside Beanland's new book.
Winner of the 1942 Acadamy Award for Best Special Effects, William Pereira (April 25, 1909 – November 13, 1985) also designed some of America's most iconic examples of futurist architecture, with his heavy stripped down functionalism becoming the symbol of many US institutions and cities. Working with his more prolific film-maker brother Hal Pereira, William Pereira's talent as an art director translated into a long and prestigious career creating striking and idiosyncratic buildings across the West Coast of America.
Like many Brutalist buildings in America, the Central Library in Atlanta by Marcel Breuer is facing demolition, reports The Architect's Newspaper. Completed in 1980 with a 300-seat theater, restaurant and 1 million books, the building exemplifies Breuer’s sensibilities, with its bush-hammered concrete panels and Bauhaus-inspired forms. However, over the years the building has fallen into disrepair, with its theater closing in the mid-1990s, and the restaurant closing a few years later. In 2002, the city spent $5 million on restoration. Even so, in 2008, voters approved a $275 million bond referendum, which included a proposal to replace the library by Breuer with another. Despite protests from preservationists, the building’s future is uncertain, with voters clearly calling for a new library building.
This episode of Section D, Monocle 24's weekly review of design, architecture and craft, examines the changing use and role of "one of the most simultaneously decried and admired materials in twentieth century architecture:" concrete. Exploring the "unlikely revival of a polarising product" in the cultural perception of many, this cheap, abundant and energy-hungry resource is studied as one of the most prolific and diverse building materials in history.
Studio Esinam, in collaboration with London-based photographer Rory Gardiner, has released Utopia, a photo series that captures and pays tribute to London’s Brutalist architecture. The series aims to “highlight the subtle beauties hidden beneath the hard surface of some of London’s brutalist buildings.”
Photographed during the early spring of 2016, the project captures some of the city’s best examples of Brutalism: the Barbican Estate, Royal National Theatre, Hayward Gallery, Trellick Tower, and the Robin Hood Gardens.
At last year’s inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, one of the celebrated exhibits was Architecture is Everywhere by Sou Fujimoto Architects, in which the firm used everyday items like staples, boxes, potato chips, rocks, and ping pong balls, coupled with scaled human figures to posit new architectural forms. Operating with the philosophy that “architecture is first found and then made,” the project expresses the firm’s belief that we need not look to typical sources for bold thinking on the formal possibilities of architecture.
Building on this philosophy and using only the white-brick Legos from the company’s Studio Architecture kit, Berlin-based artist Arndt Schlaudraff has created a series of constructions that emulate real-world precedents, but lack their materiality and color. The results are sterilized, scaleless forms restricted by the orthogonality of the interlocking brick forms. These stripped Brutalist and Modernist buildings morph into white-washed facsimiles which allow us to see many recognizable projects with a set of fresh eyes. Posting the completed projects on Instagram, Schlaudraff has reimagined icons like the Tate Modern, Alejandro Aravena’s Innovation Center UC, and the Barcelona Pavilion of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, interspersing them with his own creations and adding another layer of reality distortion to that which is already enabled by the Legos.
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."