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.
Following “Brutal London,” Zupagrafika has released another collection of illustrated paper cut-out models, “Paris Brut," which portrays the Brutalist architecture of Paris from the late-’50s through the 1970s. The set features buildings from the city’s arrondissements and banlieues, the latter of which became a central locality for Habitation à Loyer Modéré, a type of public-private, rent-controlled housing in France.
Paris Brut is made up of six illustrated models to assemble: Orgues de Flandre, Les Choux de Créteil, Cité Curial-Michelet, Cité des 4000, Centre National de la Danse and Plan Voisin interpretation. The whole set is eco-friendly (printed on recycled paper and cardboard), and includes a short technical note on each building’s architect, year of construction, and exact location.
Gillespie, Kidd & Coia's celebrated St Peter's Seminary—once voted Scotland's best modern building—has for too long been a victim of fate, left to decay after it was abandoned just 20 years after its completion. Fortunately, plans are well underway to restore the building. This article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Ruin Revived," explains how even in its ruined state, the dramatic brutalist structure is already showing its value as a cultural destination.
Modernist architecture, it used to be said, was inadequate because the machined materials of modern buildings wouldn’t lend themselves well to picturesque ruination. What, minus the taut skins of glass and plaster, could these stark, boxlike carcasses possibly communicate to future generations?
St. Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, Scotland, is a forceful rejoinder to that jibe. Built in 1966 and abandoned 20 years later, the seminary has settled into a state of pleasing decrepitude. Glass and plaster are long gone. The concrete remains largely intact but stained, spalled, and spoiled. Entire roofs and staircases have caved in. The only fresh signs of life are the aprons of graffiti draped all over the “interiors.” Yet, the sense of the place lingers, its noble forms still remarkably assertive—jutting forth from the dense surrounding forest—and optimistic.
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 ofradical 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.
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.