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A love affair with Britain’s shunned Brutalist buildings.

Edited and designed by Seb Lansdowne

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A love affair with Bristols shunned Buildings

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Produced by Seb Lansdowne University of the West of England BA(Hons) Graphic Design Type and Print Module Tutored by: Marco Ungoli and Gabriel Solomons Printed on: GF Smith Cool Grey 135 GSM, 175 GSM Pebble Emboss, Vermillion 175 GSM, Rust 135 GSM, Taeko Tant Select TS-1 116 GSM, Mohawk Ultra White Smooth 148 GSM Printed by: Taylor Brothers Bristol

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Typefaces: Studio Fixen Sans Edgy DIN 2014

Concrete close up at Art and Social Science Library - Bristol

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3 A love affair with Bristols shunned Buildings


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A love affair with Bristols shunned Buildings

Contents

A note from the author - 7 Chapter One - A brief history - 13 Chapter Two - The hatred - 33 Chapter Three - Components - 49 Chapter Four - The ethic - 93 Chapter Five - Bristol Examined - 133 Chapter Six - What next - 189 Credits - 217 5


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A love affair with Bristols shunned Buildings

A Note From The Author

Brutalism has been dead for over 30 years, the last major project to be completed in the UK was the Barbican Centre in London. Yet I’m still infatuated with the style and I was born 17 years after even that project was completed.

to - modernist art brought to life in architectural form. The general negative opinion doesn’t come unjustified I will admit, those of us that were around during the rise of Brutalism will have also seen the buildings that it replaced. People raising children would have seen mass demolition of great Georgian and Victorian architecture; I’ve been obsessed with concrete ever since I got my first swiftly being replaced by these concrete interpretations camera when I was 16. Studying photography at school of modernism. Modernism was at the time associated I loved doing projects about architecture and in with political corruption, ‘social failure’ and unattainable particular looking at these monolithic buildings that are ‘utopian’ dreams that stem from the USSR. At the height renowned for being ugly. Brutalist architecture is unlike of the cold war this was not the most popular regime any era that came before and anything that has been to be associated with, so many of the general public done since. It is as divisive as Marmite, no one just likes detested the buildings as soon as they were erected. it - you’re either a full blown lover or you hate it and This was passed on to their children, through all things think its ugly, if you ever even think about it at all. big and bad being built out of concrete; from motorway bridges to creepy underpasses It was the dominant building style across the UK and and unfriendly office blocks that soared up in to the sky. much of Europe - spreading to the rest of the world throughout the late 50s in to the early 70s when the Brutalism has also been berated by public figures such hatred it was met with finally won over. But most people as Prince Charles - who spoke out against Brutalism in don’t understand why this great beast reared its head the 80s. Even to as recent as 2016 when David Cameron, in the first place, the rapid redevelopment after the the then Prime Minister, spoke about Brutalist social devastating world war of the 1940s allowed for great housing saying ‘Step outside in the worst estates, and experimentation and this was just one you’re confronted by concrete slabs dropped form on of the results. high, brutal high-rise towers and dark alleyways that are a gift to criminals and drug dealers’ he then went on to The building style is stand alone, bold and strong, blame the 2011 riots on the residents of these estates. deriving it aesthetic from the recently developed modern construction methods and widely available 20th century mod cons, such as passenger lifts and central heating. Taking nothing from past architectural eras which Clearly these attitudes are hard to shift, but were limited by lighting and warmth, these barriers that is what I am going to try to do. were removed for the architects of Brutalism and the pioneers tested the new limits to the max. Creating huge open spaces and irregular shapes these buildings represented a stark change from what people were used 7


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8 Clifton Cathedral’s brutal spire

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A love affair with Bristols shunned Buildings

Brutalism suffers from architectures dual status - it’s present everywhere, used by everyone, but at the same time its the most mystifying of major art subjects. You’d go on holiday to see ancient temples, medieval cathedrals or the irregular designs of Barcelona’s Gaudi. The more recent structures that so many people use every day are perceived as either banal or too complex to even understand. With no architectural teaching in school there is no basic level of understanding so that we can all grasp what archtiects want us to see. Meaning these generalisations and prejudices go unquestioned, allowing them to build and grow. No one style is victimised in the same way that Brutalism is, its blamed for our sins. If you take the time and look closer you really can begin to see the beauty in the simplicity, the subtle choices in concrete texture, the fixings visible on the outside of the building or even the complexity of the shapes produced as a whole. With concrete and steel the possibilities were almost endless yet the creativity has gone unrecognised for far too long. Tastes go and come round again and as Brutalism has gained a little more traction recently I hope to be able to shed some light on why I believe it out does any other form of architecture on the face of the earth. The time it comes from and the things it represents are more than it seems at face value you’ve just got to give it a chance. Oh yeah one last thing, before we get too deep in to the book I should probably try to define exactly what I’m talking about. Brutalism is notoriously difficult to pin down, some hard-line supporters would say its only Brutalist if it is made almost entirely of concrete and steel. But this book is about more than that. The term Brutalism (‘nybrutalism’) was coined by Hans Asplund to describe a house made of brick and steel that was stripped back to the bare essentials, this is what inspired the start of Brutalist movement in the UK. So don’t take the definition too literally, this book contains what I think of Brutalism, something that can be interpreted in many different ways. -Seb Lansdowne 9


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Building that inspired the Smithsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in Sweeden, designed by Bengt Edman and Lennart Holm

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Brristol University - Arts and Social Science Library balcony look out

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11 A love affair with Bristols shunned Buildings


Brutalism: A Definition

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;A style of architecture used especially in the 1950s and 60s that uses large concrete blocks, steel, etc, and is sometimes considered ugly and unpleasant.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;

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Looking at this dictionary definition, clearly there is a deep rooted prejudice against Brutalist design engrained in to society.

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A Brief History

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A quick outline to get us all on the same page about where Brutalism has come from and why it existed in the first place.

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Chapter One


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Chapter Overview: Part One - Architecture and Energy Part Two - The Triumph of Modernism Part Three - Concrete Power Stations Part Four - Where is it Going? 14

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Architecture and Energy

The technological change which brought about the Brutalist boom, which lies in the background of every project of this entire period, was cheap energy. Putting up a building takes an inordinate amount of energy, something which until the industrial revolution, only the very rich and powerful were able to summon the labour to build anything more than modest buildings. Even the awe-inspiring achievements of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Emperors of Rome and the Leaders of the Catholic church were restricted closely by the limitations on their access to energy: as, enough human strength can carry and move the quantities of stone, but cannot heat the furnaces to make the materials required for more sophisticated engineering. The structures erected by the most powerful groups the world had ever seen were restricted to the limited potential of heavy walls or columns of stone, or mud brick: larger interiors were only available through domes or vaults which dictated the forms of the rest of the building, and were testament to the unchangeable physics of the arch. From around 1800 industrialising countries began to change massively, and quickly, soon beyond recognition of the building techniques that dominate human history. Using cheap energy from coal and oil, the flexibility of electricity by the 1960s, in time every British citizen had access to more energy than their predecessors. Architects were freed by unprecedented energy wealth from the bygone era, and therefore also from all of the architectural limitations that flammable, weak wood, or clumsy heavy stone posed. The amount of architectural activity shot up with ordinary working-class people getting, more living space and new mod cons, new

A Brief History

Part One

educational opportunities, and new health facilities. The developments in infrastructure throughout, and as a result of, this almost second Industrial Revolution, allowed working-class citizens to be entitled to less stratified forms of social benefit via the creation of new buildings. Access to travel by upgrading roads, updated railways and new airports, allowed the public to have more leisure time to spend in the increasingly diverse range of buildings that house them. Cheap energy made concrete and steel available in quantity, and the engineersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; understandings of reinforced concrete therefore developed rapidly. For the first time in history, the weight of very large structures did not need to travel down in vertical walls and columns: nor did it have to follow the inflexible lines of arches and vaults. Architects could slide the parts of buildings around however they liked, which massively increased the range of ways they could arrange rooms and routes around a building. They brought the outside closer to any part of their building, escaping restrictions of ground level, opening up totally new shapes of building all together. Cheap energy also reconfigured Brutalist architectsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attitudes to the design of interiors. To be a comfortable temperature in the winter, British buildings always had to be divided into small cellular rooms. This reduced drafts and allowed each room to have a fire to heat it. Daylight was also the cheapest way to light a room, so buildings were thin to allow light to penetrate the whole way through. If lighting was used it came along with gasses and extra heating from incandescent bulbs. 15


Legs of Unité d’Habitatcion

This all changed in the 50s and 60s. With cheap, cool electric lighting, mechanical ventilation, central heating and the versatility of concrete. Rooms could be whatever shape or size; the building could fit around the functions rather than the functions accommodating themselves to the restrictions of buildings.

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So, the energy revolution came as a complete rewriting of the rules, something that is extremely exciting, allowing architects to reconsider all they were taught. Rethinking all the concepts that were taken for granted before allowed architecture in the post war atmosphere to explode in to new shapes and ideas of what buildings could be and should be, even making way for new ideas on how cities and even society could be re-shaped by Brutalism architects did not want to hide this opportunity behind a fake façade of past eras they wanted to show it off to everyone. Some people may say that comparing the architecture of the 1960s with previous eras is greatly unfair: ‘the technologies available made it easy for the Brutalists’. But this is not fully true, its striking just how primitive the circumstances were when building many Brutalist structures up and down the country. Drawings were all produced by hand with set squares and compasses, the main improvement was the advent of photocopiers 16

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allowing for accurate copies of plans to be made rather than having to painstakingly re-draw them with draughts men. All designs in the 60s were ‘bespoke’ there was no catalogue of bits you could pick to make the perfect building you had to design every aspect that goes into it. The engineering had also evolved by the 60s, the collective mathematical knowledge people could draw on was much larger. A vastly improved understanding of physics than in earlier centuries but the technology on an architect and engineers’ desks hardly changed. No computers to aid calculations or help draw. 1960s building sites were also still much less developed than you may think, petrol driven diggers increased productivity but many of the unique moulds made for the buildings had to be hand carved using expert carpenters. So, despite the development these buildings took a huge level of skill from a vast array of different people, from the architects to the, builders to the engineers and the concrete workers. The knowledge and skill you had to have to make the right mix for the right weight and weatherproofness etc puts these workers up there with the skill in stone masonry from years past. Something that also helped to push the Brutalist movement into the best architecture in the world is the speed that this was happening at. There were so many buildings going up at once it was a very competitive market, ambition and achievement making all strive for the best designs. Brutalist architecture infiltrated every walk of life, from council estates, to shopping centres and art galleries the new options open to them fit any brief.


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Roof of Unité d’Habitatcion by Le Courbiser

A Brief History


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The Triumph of Modernism Part Two

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The energy wealth in Britain was always likely to support a major building boom, surprising that it was a modernist one though. Modernism was pretty slow to catch on in the UK during the 20s and 30s, architects here felt uninterested by the influence of Europe and wanted to keep and independent identity for the British Empire, influenced by tradition and history. By the late 30s most architectural schools were speckled with enthusiastic modernists, but the work was limited to the houses of artsy left wingers.

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A Brief History

Pre-fabricated homes produced to help rehouse people after war

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The second world war shook the whole world and allowed modernism to move in and become the dominant paradigm. The wartime mass mechanisation and united effort of soldiers and civilians whet the appetite of the people for a different atmosphere post war. The neglected nature of the slums in cities up and down the country combined with the bombing and lack of any upkeep during the 6 years of war pushed them to breaking point. Plans began before the end of the war to provide replacement housing not only for the bombed also for the ill-housed. Improving road networks and separating housing from industrial areas. Rationing carried on until 54’ when finally, effects of the war were mainly behind us. Modernism came out on top in part because decorating buildings with historical motifs was one of the luxuries that could be left off in the rush to reconstruct the country. Modernism presented itself as being unadorned and utilitarian, making it the clear choice for architects. These architects took projects on that were the most pressing. Many were newly back from front line fighting or engineering roles in the army which introduced a communal sense of pragmatism and the efficiency required of the designs.

The leader of these breakaways was Peter Reyner Banham, who gathered a group of committed young people to help correct the failings of this ‘New Humanist’ style. Parodying their style by calling the new style ‘The New Brutalism’ a name that showed the toughness and primitivism of their architectural expression. Soon one of the leading architects in the was nicknamed ‘Brutus’ from with the French for exposed concrete ‘béton brut’.

Much of Britain’s architecture in the 40s and 50s was about housing and schools to fit in the baby boom that occurred after the troops came home. With resources further squeezed by the huge influx in births this left circumstances almost as pressured as it was in the war itself. Ingenious prefabricated schools were manufactured by former aircraft factories. Cheap simplified houses were built based on the traditional home, giving way to the tag ‘New Humanism’.

Banham and his rebels, most notably Peter ‘Brutus’ and Alison Smithson gave some weight to ‘The New Brutalism’ by harvesting theoretical snippets from a range of intellectual fields, from advanced modernist theory to theoretical maths and sociology even some renaissance ideals of symmetry and proportion. Beneath all the highbrow pretensions the movement served as the creative heart of architecture, giving an alternative to the unnecessarily expensive designs of public sector architects at a time of national shortage.

For the young architects who found this worthy selfrestraint tedious, neither the kit builds schools, nor the council housing were easy to attack each tried to meet self-evidently pressing human needs with as little expenditure as possible. When their rebellion did come it came as an incoherent roar - less like a reasoned rival manifesto and more like bored teenagers smashing up the bus stop.

The Smithson’s and their group stripped back all of their designs aggressively compared to the older generation of ‘economising’ architects. The duo won a competition to design a secondary school in 1950, producing it with utter restraint. Using steel, brick, glass and concrete they left plumbing fixtures proudly exposed, the building looked frighteningly tough and this strength was exciting invigorating the young generation. 21


Alison and Peter Smithson in their studio

A large number of young architects started out in the large Architects Department of the London County Council. Here ‘The New Brutalism’ was debated, and ideas elaborated upon. The name served as a rally point for younger architects that wanted to produce something that was more ambitious than their elders.

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As the 50s went on more and more of these hardlooking buildings started to pop up as council estates or school buildings. And then as the 60s got underway the booming economy led to larger budgets, the lowly beginnings and needs of post war were no longer and Brutalism flourished under increasing wealth and ever cheaper energy of the 1960s. The term ‘Brutalism’ could have died with the discussions of the 1950s as many architects had not time to complete theoretical writing during the building boom of the 1960s. It was the 1966’ book by Reyner Banham ‘The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic’ that secured its continuing life. Not just as a rallying point anymore but a stylistic term for a large concrete building.

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In many ways the meaning of Brutalism is the story of architects daring to come increasingly close to imitating the great Swiss-French Modernist Le Corbusier’s post war work. Having been one of the leaders of the skinny columned white cubism of the 20s and 30s Le Crobusier rebelled against his own influence in the 40s and 50s and turned to concrete. The gloriously messy and primitive looking designs that sometimes looked to not be structurally stable and his block of flats Unité d’ Habitation, stand out from the crowd. British architects seem to have been tentative about imitating Le Corbusier’s outrageous primitivist freedom, playing a kind of grandmother’s footsteps in which those who dared too much too soon were cut down by the criticism that they were being self-indulgent and wasteful. Soon necessary elements of buildings became part of the chunky aesthetic, things such as fire stairs or water tanks became pieces of art. Architects were becoming more and more interested in how buildings made the viewer feel and soon Brutalist architecture was giving a thrilling sense of horror film dominance to the surrounding areas. 22

As Modernist architecture developed in the 60s the range of clients increased. British Brutalism has widely been seen as the architectural style of the new welfare state - a cheap way of building quickly on a large scale for anything from housing to schools or hospitals. Motivations for building exceeded just this, alongside genuine social progressions, there was electoral pressure and scene dressing to disguise a lack of change something that Brutalism was perfect for. Wide disparities in the motivations and budgets were rendered less conspicuous by superficial similarities in the architectural expression. The apparent political consensus was to subdue extravagance in favour of modesty to benefit everyone, making buildings superficially alike and superficially utilitarian, giving off the egalitarian feel despite the difference in budgets between some projects. Some of the things that Brutalism stood for sat well with people such as the egalitarianism it promoted but others didn’t so much. The very permanent and unchangeable concrete - as people wanted to prepare for a changing future both foreseeable and the unforeseeable in a time such as the cold war.


A Brief History Hunstanton School, designed by the Smithsons

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Throughout 1958-69 when Brutalism was booming it gained momentum and spread internationally; architects competed to make the most sublime looking buildings. Once you recognise that it is as self-conscious and confident as high art you can see much more clearly why brutalism was the way it was. You can stop trying to project the material shortages of the 40s on to buildings of the 60s and admire the spectacular outburst of creativity. That is what I want to expose and celebrate, the architecture that celebrated the human triumph, the first conquering of human ills (ill heath, cold, lack of space) since humanity came to Northern Europe. The period of big commissions, intense competition and great technological progress allowed some of the most gifted architects to experiment in a period of unrivalled self-confidence. Brutalist architects were deeply proud of the forward-looking movement and could not imagine anyone not being able to see that. Bringing modernity to every person in Britain, Brutalism improved material circumstances of many, the chances of living longer and better chances of an improved education. How is that not the best architectural movement ever?

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Because it is as delicate as blood' n - Ivan Locke

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A Brief History

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Part Three

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Concrete Power Stations

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A Brief History

The bubble could not last forever, the 1970s oil crisis brought the end of the ever-cheapening energy prices. Bringing to an end nearly two centuries of exponential energy growth. As science has improved, we have also learned that the dependency on oil, gas and coal has been devastating our climate. So, whilst we are still building more than we can afford environmentally, new buildings are build using tight restrictions and regulations, making sure buildings use less energy than ever before. These restrictions may rein in the experimental creativity of today’s architects almost as much as the pre-modern times colleagues. Of all periods in time, Brutalism had massive energy wealth without being haunted by the guilt that we are tethered to today. So, the 1960s building boom was an organic coming together of the perfect conditions for building and creative expression, leading to one of the shortest-lived architectural eras but also one of the furthest reaching in terms of ideology and design combined.

The National Theatre in 1976 - the year it opened

It’s not surprising that the very bold facade and the destruction of familiar cityscapes that the boom required led to a backlash. As the buildings started getting built less and less that optimism of the 60s led to loathing in increasing amounts in the 70s and 80s. The new architecture was suddenly the source of all social evils on an unprecedented scale, never seen before or since. This has been a difficult link for Brutalism to shake. Scathing criticism rolled in, in both factual and fictional writings, even Prince Charles weighing in on the debate describing the newly built National Theatre as ‘a clever way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting.’ However, tastes and trends change and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, more people are interested in British Brutalism again and slowly buildings are receiving the listings and protections they deserve. 27

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Part Four

Where is it Going?

But is it really dead? I’ve said that it was one of the shortest lived architectural movements ever, but that depends on how you define Brutalism. Sure if you’re an architectural purist then Brutalism will always be ‘Béton Brut’ but this is a style that has no one ideology, there are multiple pillars that make it what it is. Brutalism existed in slightly differing forms in the few years before 1950 and there are a few buildings built since. A couple of examples built in 2017 are De Krook in Belgium and the WWII Museum in Poland. Brutalism doesn’t have to mean just concrete, one of the buildings that inspired the Smithson’s and their gang of architects was built mainly of brick so Brutalism can be more than you think.

It’s taken 40 years for public opinion to shift enough to shed any positive light onto Brutalism, this book may become a way to detoxify the term Brutalism. Even most architects at the time of the boom denounced the label wanting to design just for designing. 30

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Today Brutalism is increasingly fetishized, something that once seemed so ugly, aggressive and alienating is now historicised. Time has given the distance for more people to realise this. With tea towels being emblazoned with the most iconic of Brutalist buildings we’re seeing the start of a Brutalist uprising. While the trend may wane the real power and presence of Brutalism and its buildings will show its importance.

Museum of World War II in Poland

But the roots are all the same, born to a world in need of reconstruction, it wasn’t about being the most beautiful, it was about rebuilding cities but not only that - rebuilding values. Progressive in its aims rethinking how we could live and work bring back a sense of permanence to the rubble in the cities of Europe and beyond.


31 A Brief History


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32 Inside the irregular shaped building, mainly concrete on the inside with an interesting brick finish on the outside,

Switch House at the Tate Modern built in 2016

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Exploring why as an architectural form brutalism was so hated, considering an almost state sponsorship of distaste.

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The Hatred

Chapter Two

The Hatred

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Chapter Overview: Part Five - Understanding the opposition 34

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Understanding the Opposition

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The Tricorn Shopping Centre Portsmouth - voted Britain’s ugliest building in 2001, demolished 2004

The Hatred

Part Five

Everyone thinks I’m strange for having such an obsession over a type of architecture that is so ‘ugly’ and universally hated. Whenever I show my friends a picture of a building that I think they just have to see, they mostly just roll their eyes or spit out a ‘Oh yeah that’s nice’. I wonder what they really want to say. I don’t fall in love with every ‘concrete monstrosity’ I see immediately, it takes me some time to properly see the building for what it is. It’s the same as when you listen to someone like Prince for the first time. The first time you’re a bit taken back by how different his voice was, how forward his lyrics are. After a few more listens you’re fully into it and you know he’s one of the greatest artists to ever grace the world of music. Seeing deeper into the concrete than just the imposing silhouette, seeing the years etched into it by the acid rain, sometimes it takes a couple visits; others, like the impeccable National Theatre the love is instant. People throw about the terms ‘concrete jungle’ or similar to describe modern architecture as often as the characters in Harry Potter wave their wands. For these people exposed unadorned concrete is a threat. Maybe they think their boldly expressed dismay can magically transform the towering blocks of flats or city centres into half-timbered thatched cottages or picturesque villages. Certainly, there have been some movements that have been eager to warm to these more conservative contemporary attitudes, New-Vernacular or New classicism for example utilising older styles through new techniques. 35


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The Hatred

Balfron Tower, Before and during its council sanctioned private redevelopment

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> These opponents of Brutalism often seem to think the people who like it are joking, lying to themselves even. They think it’s intellectual posturing, a game played at the expense of the people who actually use these buildings every day. I’m sure there are a few Brutalist ‘supporters’ that this applies to. Just as there are archironists tempting everything even producing mock-Tudor designs. Accusations of elitism hang over the discussion around modern architecture, conjuring up damaging images of thoughtless amateurs condemning the poor and unfortunate to live in modernist housing estates riddled with ‘concrete cancer’, crime and fear; places they wouldn’t themselves dream of living in. Yet that doesn’t explain why there are people queuing up to snatch a refurbished apartment in raw concrete master pieces in London’s Balfron Tower or Keeling House. Even if there are people who evidently like the buildings, this in turn throws up disturbing visions of class cleansing, and the privatisation of council housing. Behind both scenarios, intellectual elitists or incoming apartment occupants, lie the real lives of those who have lived there since they’ve been built. Their voices are usually ignored and selectively edited out of histories of the era. It is undeniable that many thousands of people were delighted to leave insanitary Industrial Revolution slums and loved the new Brutalist homes they were put into. Throughout the 60s and 70s the main role of local councils was to provide housing, it was a services as available to everyone as the NHS or education. If you wanted public housing, you could have it. This is what led the councils to team up with visionary architects building a complex of concrete utopias up and down the country. Then the Thatcher government came along,

introducing the Right to Buy, something that sounded like a good idea – letting those that had lived in their council house buy it at a discounted price. This would let those that had become comfortable in their surroundings to own it, but this also took away council money from looking after these blocks of flats properly. This lack of maintenance led to the decline in the living standards within the complexes. The council also weren’t allowed to use the revenue from the houses being bought to build more public housing so this was causing a tighter squeeze on those remaining properties that more and more people needed as a lifeline. In the wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire of 2017, the reality of modern life in what remains of post-war social housing in Britain has been exposed. There are arm’s length management bodies, complex contracts for their maintenance and refurbishment and decisions made over the wishes of the residents. They have combined to make many in social housing feel as powerless and exploited as the inhabitants of the 19th century slums the buildings had been constructed to replace. These are not the faults of the buildings, but this political and market led undermining of mass housing which effects of millions throughout the nation. There have long been political reasons to undermine Brutalism. These go back to the 1970s and to the rise of free market economics that sought to sweep aside the post-war welfare states across Europe. Brutalism was one of the modern forms of architecture that came to be associated with the rise of council housing after World War II and so it came under decades of sustained ideological attack by free marketeers in both government and the media. 39


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The Hatred Grenfell Tower - burning due to the lack of transparency within social housing since the funding has been cut

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We are still seeing the results of this now, with council houses sold off in Britain and the remaining de-funded social blocks blighted by many maintenance and social problems. Often dismissed as failure and demolished to make way for expensive private housing. The Grenfell Tower fire has to be seen against a political backdrop where regulations that might have helped save the lives of its overwhelmingly working class-tenants have been stifled. Criticism of Brutalism is often tinged with class hatred, a desire for gentrification and a ‘not in my back yard’ wish for these easy symbols of poverty or immigration to be swept away. Classism is cast in concrete in Britain. You might think that with all these social milestones such as gay marriage and trans rights that classism is a thing of the past, but no, it is so engrained into a psyche that we no longer notice it. The great looming shapes of Brutalism has been described by the Smithson’s as a direct engagement with the ‘mass-production society’ it wasn’t meant to redeem society, but rather to create something of value in confrontation with it. This direct comment on the way society is headed creates a hostile environment for those that don’t want to see it – such as the middle class. Leading to the subconscious hatred and misunderstanding of these Brutalist giants and the people that live in them - cementing a class barrier in to the foundations of Brutalist architecture.

More superficial criticism is that modern architecture is ugly. Pick your Brutalist insult: drab grey shitholes, monstrous carbuncles, depressing to look at, grim, joyless, a festival of monotony, a concrete jungle. Such views seem prevalent in local authorities and management boards (even in the editors of the Oxford English dictionary). These boards are often keen to de-fund modern buildings so as to hasten their failure and collapse. Perhaps they have an eye to replacing them with the kind of redbrick invisibles or glass box unknowable’s that developers seem to favour today. 41


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> Robin Hood Gardens, London, 213 flats across two blocks - going through demolition and â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;redevelopmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; approved 2012, still being demolished in 2020

East block of Robin Hood Gardens still standing after watching the western block slowly crumble

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The Hatred

‘The government is set to issue a certificate of immunity from listing something which prevents any further applications to list for five years.’ ‘Catherine Croft, Director of Twentieth Century Society said: “We are deeply disappointed that despite our best endeavours to save the buildings, and to show it had a viable future, and the intervention of Lord Rogers with the support of many eminent architects, the government has once again decided not to list Robin Hood Gardens. This historic development, designed by two of most influential and important twentieth century architects in Britain, should be kept for future generations and imaginatively refurbished – not demolished. Attitudes towards post war housing have changed dramatically since Tower Hamlets first proposed demolishing Robin Hood Gardens. Listing would have allowed fresh analysis in the light of these changes. Not only is the architectural and historic value of buildings like Robin Hood Gardens now better understood, but there is more appreciation of the value of maintaining established communities and better skills for successful upgrading and refurbishment. The backlash against the demolition of the Heygate Estate at Elephant and Castle, and the public revulsion at the bland new high rises going up on that site should have taught us not to repeat the same mistake. We have issued a Freedom of Information Request to understand the decision making process, and to see what expertise they have drawn upon to arrive at this decision.’- 04/08/2015 43


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Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, London - Designed in 1968 by Neave Brown, site including 520 apartments, a school, community centre and park

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Trellick Tower, London, ErnĹ&#x2018; Goldfinger, opened 1972, 31 floors containing apartments for social housing.

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Hermits Castle in remote Scotland surrounded by the effects of extinct volcanoes, soon it’ll be from an extinct race as well

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The material, concrete is the reason most people give for dismissing Brutalist buildings. I don’t even want to bother to mention that concrete appears in many of the most picturesque places in Britain – forming the piers and sea defences along our coast, or the steps through steep terrain – and it is as ancient as the Romans. Maybe in actual fact, these critics don’t hate concrete as much as they hate cities. While fine in a wild landscape, seen in a city this oddly primitive material created from much older particles is dismissed as brash and aggressively modern. Those of us that live in cities appreciate the joy of their diversity – of the people, the districts and the buildings themselves. As time passes, Brutalism becomes integrated as part of our historic fabric. Like the dormant volcanoes that created the dramatic landscapes of Scotland, it is no longer a threat.

The fear, however, is that Brutalism is going extinct, and worryingly fast. 48


Components

Looking in to what actually makes up the buildings, from building materials and the industries that produce them to the human beings inside.

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Chapter Three

Compo nents

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Part Six

Cement, Sand and Gravel

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Steel

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Concrete is made by mixing industrially produced cement (a mixture of clay and limestone cooked at very high temperatures) with water, sand (fine aggregate) and gravel (coarse aggregate). Its chemical composition and its aggregate can be varied to produce different technical properties â&#x20AC;&#x201C; stronger, more weather proof, lighter, or fastersetting according to the job it is doing. This variability has been exploited since concretes early days in ancient Rome, when a volcanic ash found in deposits under Rome itself was employed as a very effective naturally occurring cement. Roman concrete was used extensively in engineering projects including the Pantheon where, to construct the vast forty three meter span of its dome, it was necessary to make the concrete as light as possible , and so light weight brick, tufa stone and , near the top, pumice like volcanic stone filled with air cavities, were used as aggregate.

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In the foundations where strong ballast was required to resist the outward thrust of the dome, the aggregate was robust, heavy travertine. The Pantheons concrete dome has lasted over 1,900 years so far. After the fall of Rome, concrete was neglected as a material for one and a half millennia. Lime mortars similar to cement were used in European construction throughout, and a clear account of concrete survived in the only architectural record to make it form the ancient world to the renaissance and beyond, Vitruvius’ Ten Books on Architecture. Renaissance architects and scholars examined and discussed Vitruvius’ text in considerable detail; meticulously measured and drew the pantheon and other ancient concrete monuments, but they did not themselves build in concrete. The Pantheon remained the world’s largest column-free span until the metal and glass roofs of the 1800s. The reason for this neglect of concrete was almost certainly that it takes a great deal of heat to make limestone and clay in to cement. It could take up to a week of burning lime in a kiln at 1,000 degrees Celsius for

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Concrete’s modern life began in the most unglamorous building sector: cheap, utilitarian rural buildings. If tamped down hard enough between robust vertical boards, some types of soil will produce enough between robust vertical boards, some types of soil will produce quite a serviceable wall if you can keep the rain off it. In the 1800s builder began to add lime to cement to the rammed earth to increase its durability. It could scarcely be further from the architectural world’s highbrow discussions of classical proportion and aesthetics. The English word ‘concrete’ reflects the noble Roman rendition of ‘opus concretum’ but the German and French words for concrete (‘beton’ and ‘béton’) are from humbler roots, the middle French ‘betum’ meaning rubble.

From this agricultural lowliness concrete graduated into a material for fireproofing warehouses and factories – an increasingly prominent preoccupation of the steam-driven and gas -lit industrial revolution. The extraordinary coincidence that, unlike most metals, steel happens to expand and contract almost exactly the same amount as concrete when it changes temperature, meant that concrete could be used to encase steel and prevent it from softening and collapsing in a fire. Concrete on its own is a sludgy liquid with, once set, similar engineering properties to stone: it is very strong in compression but prone to snap or shattered when pulled or twisted. Once building contractors thought to put steel into the concrete, however it became an extraordinarily useful composite material. Reinforced concrete has the strength of steel when twisted or pulled and the strength of stone when compressed. It is considerably more fire-resistant than steel alone and is composed largely of cheap sand, gravel

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one batch of lime, the precursor to cement, with immense qualities of high-energy fuel like nut husks having to be shovelled in ad the ashes raked out. This made concrete and unfeasibly luxurious material until the nineteenth century, when the cheap heat of coal made cement production affordable.

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and water. Add to these virtues the fact that it can be built adequately by unskilled (and therefore cheaply non-unionised) labour and it is unsurprising that by the later twentieth century it became the second most used material on the planet (by weight) only second to water. The ways in which concrete can be used are hugely varied. It needs to be cast in a mould (though there have been some challenging experiments in spraying it on wire mesh reinforcement), but it can be made either in the final location of the building (known as ‘in situ’ concrete) or elsewhere as pieces in a factory (known as ‘pre cast’ concrete). This gets trucked in and craned in to position like a huge Lego kit for adults with money to spend. It can be treated like steel as a structural frame to which cladding, and floors are then added or it can be made entirely structural like an all plastic chair the walls and floors forming a single piece with weight equally distributed through all of it to the ground. If the ground is marshy or difficult to put foundations into concrete enables buildings to be built as self-contained rafts without deep foundations that would not work in these conditions.

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Texture in a blocked up doorway in Clifton Cathedral

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Concrete can be any shape that you can make moulds for, boxy or sculptural, rational-looking or expressionistic. The complexity and rapid development of concrete engineering called in to be the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;consultant engineerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, who worked neither for the architect nor the building contractor and could therefore give disinterested technical advice to both. Yet despite the real sophistication required by concrete engineering, one of the major appeals of concrete to architects post 1945 has been almost the opposite: erring calculations whilst they design. Gothic masons had to design engineering and architects as one, according to the engineering requirements of stone, concrete architects can design the spaces and shapes they want using broad rule of thumb or intuitive bases for their assumptions on what will stand up, secure in the knowledge that if the spans turn out to be demandingly long the engineers will be able to tell the builders to put more steel into the concrete.

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Pre cast edge finished concrete used in a car park

Concrete finished with stone - Clifton Cathedral, Bristol

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Board formed concrete, showing the textures in the wood planks used to create the mould

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Whatever the excitement Modernist architects felt about its engineering possibilities and its aesthetics, concrete is seen by some as having the most generic-looking and interesting of finishes. Words which come up again and again are ‘oppressive’ ‘grey’ ‘streaky’ ‘ugly’, it’s definitely true to say that Brutalists tended to avoid adding colourful pigment into the mixture. Once you get into it though – you can see more in the concrete, variety almost matched by stone.

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This freedom is exploited at every level: architecture students who have not thought through their structure properly would suggest ‘concrete’ when asked how their proposed building would stand up. At the other end of spectrum there were the leading modernist architects liberally playing with composition, columns are moved around like games, not a thought about where the load should logically be falling. Once the outline is achieved then the architect can move on to thinking about the textures and finish of the concrete.

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Trellick from Meanwhile Gardens

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The hidden component that made the whole movement possible. Steel gave concrete the ability to not crumble when under extreme heat, allowing concrete to become the formidable building material that it is today. Changing the properties with the amount of steel added. The industry has been operating in Britain for well over 150 years meaning that there is a rich deep history building upon. But the combination with concrete is the largest leap in the possibilities for the material. Without concrete steel alone can be compressed and bent out of shape when heated so buildings would buckle during a fire.

Dorman Long, Coke oven Tower, Lackenby, nr Redcar

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> In the 60s the British steel industry was brought into public ownership, this along with ÂŁ3,000 million of investment over the next 10 years allowed for the industry to thrive. Moving on from an outdated ill prepared industry to one that was competing with the rest of the world and even leading in the productivity per worker. The investment in the machinery came slightly too late though. As by the mid 1970s the appetite for Brutalism had hugely fallen, despite it being loved by architects the public opinion had swayed the governments and prejudice had built up. This means that throughout the brutal boom steel was not being produced as efficiently as it could have been, the then sudden drop in demand within the UK with the after brutalism fell out of favour would have only increased the problems steel companies were having. The start of the 80s came with a 13-week strike from steel workers over pay, after which British steel reduced its workforce by over half cutting loss making plants and jobs left right and centre.

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This marked the start of the decline in 51 59 British steel production from which it 64 recovered. has never 74


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British Steel production facility in action

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This means that Brutalist buildings could be the last major projects built with entirely British born materials. From the architects drawing up the plans to the concrete and steel making the walls and foundations, to the money and the ideas behind the buildings, brutalist architecture in Britain was entirely British from start to finish. If we do not start to protect these last examples this entire era of history will be eradicated and all the things, we learnt from it will be lost.

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This has cut the legs out of our already dying industry. In early 2020 British steel was bought by a Chinese company essentially ending its British tenure.

People

Peaking at around 27 million tonnes a year in 2015 it was struggling to make 12 million. This industry wide decline is clearly not only due to brutalism not being the main paradigm of architecture, more recently China has been pumping out steel at a hugely subsidised price.

Steel reinforcements exposed in damaged concrete supports

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Part Eight

The Beings Inside

What brings the concrete and the steel that it takes to create these imposing concrete monsters together in such harmony is the people that use them. Often in council owned (or at least they once were) blocks of flats; built in the decades after 1945. Economic growth and the rapid expansion of the welfare state called for new building on an epic scale. Concrete gave architects a whole new palette with which to supply the need. Now buildings could be sculpted into whatever shape suited their function and site, with gardens on roofs open space parking underneath and snaking walkways up in the sky joining the building together like a neighbourhood on the street. Each floor can be stepped back allowing every person to have their own outside terrace space, vastly improving the living situation of hundreds of thousands of people living in public housing across the country.

Those that needed this concrete saviour are often those on the fringes of society, from refugees to people in poverty to those starting a new life in Britain. The prejudice against this section of society from the wider public may have somewhat increased the prejudice against brutalist architecture just through association. But when you look past all the preconceptions and the stories your told and actually ask those who really know, those that live there, a similar story seems to play out to the one that the architects dreamed of when drawing up these buildings many years previous. The huge range of people all in one small space tells a beautiful story of acceptance and even biblical neighbourly love. With Muslim families placed next door to strict Catholicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s people are forced together and they themselves have to see past the judgements of others and really learn who their neighbours are themselves. The friendliness and equality are apparent, people actually say hello to each other, and they actually know who lives around.

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based on valuing

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making it

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architecture and the city

democratise


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a: Robin Hood Gardens

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In this section I want to show the real story of what happens behind the closed doors of two of the most hated Brutalist estates in London. Trellick Tower was completed in 1972 and was for nearing two decades rife with crime and violence, which must have helped contribute at least somewhat towards the baggage that Brutalist architecture carries with it. The other block I’m looking at is the Robin Hood Gardens just the other side of Canary Wharf, one of the last completed major Brutalist estates. Robin Hood Gardens has long been plagued with issues; the residents even being blamed for those that started the 2011 Riots. I want to show here that despite their imposing exterior these buildings provided the perfect place for people to live in harmony. Bringing truth to some of the so called ‘concrete havens’ and ‘utopias’ that the architects wanted to have created. I don’t think they were as off the mark as people first thought.

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Since its completion in 1972, The Robin Hood Gardens estate in east London has garnered much attention, due to its monumental brutalist form and, latterly, its much dilapidated condition. There has been a severe lack of the residents’ views in any coverage of the estate – which now lies partially demolished after English Heritage declared that it ‘fails as a place for humans to live’. The last residents are testament to that not being true. London-based photographer Kois Miah and sociologist Nick Thoburn began a project to capture the views of a selection of it’s final inhabitants. They learnt how many of the residents behind the looming concrete walls were nothing like their reputation and they really didn’t want to leave their beloved, small patch of London. At this monumental moment in the space they have called home - some for as many as 40 years, nearly the entire time the estate has been built, I want to give them some exposure so their voices are properly heard and kept on the record.


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This young boy would happily roam around on the balcony; he loved the space outside of the flat.

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< Photographed in one of the west blockâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lift lobbies, Taurus Miah is still astounded by the size and scale of the buildings. Greeting people as they walk past friendliness is abundant.

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You can see all this fruit and veg being grown in former flower beds but you have to look a bit harder to come across the person behind it â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Abdul. Not one bit was trampled on or destroyed, not what you may expect in an east end estate?


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< An Ariel view of the East Block with the City of London in the background.

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< Del and her daughter Gabby, they loved the space that Robin Hood Gardens provided especially since they are being forced to move somewhere smaller now its being demolished.

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< This was taken at about 3pm. The sun had gone over the block on to the west side. Moyna loved to spend time on the balcony with his grandchildren and look out to the city. Three generations of his family lived on the estate.

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Jimmy was a longtime caretaker on the estate until his retirement, which coincided with the start of ‘decanting’ the east block. He is seen here in the ‘stress free zone’ – an expanse of grass, trees, and shrubbery.

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< Jo, photographed outside of her one-bedroom flat on the ground floor of the east block. It allows her easy access to the green to walk her dogs, but she has been known to take the lift to higher floors so as not to miss out on the walkwaysâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; expansive views.

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< Adrienne saw the estate being

built and later lived on it for over 30 years with her family. She had fond memories of bringing chairs out on to the balcony in summer to eat dinner, sharing with the surrounding flats on their walkways in the sky.

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Also completed in 1972 Trellick tower was plagued with problems for the first nearly two decades. Crime was rife within the tower, people who were supposed to move in felt reluctant to do so. At one-point some vandals set off a fire extinguisher which caused the sprinklers trigger off flooding the lifts and stairs, cutting electricity for the whole of the Christmas period. The saviour of the tower was the residents themselves. Creating a residentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s association to pressure the council in to hiring a concierge, this kept the crime and problems out of the tower allowing the community to form. Finally, the dream of Ernø Goldfinger, the buildings architect, started to materialise. Since the late 80s this sense of community has been growing ever stronger, with the residents association meeting often and recently actually starting to open up parts of the building such as the plant house that has been locked since the building was completed. Here Nicola Muirhead has gone inside the tower and found out some of the stories of residents living in the tower.

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Shan and his daughter Molly

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Shan 20 years resident, 15th floor It had a conscious this building and its presence really drew me, and I loved it without know I would ever be fortunate enough to live in it. And I still enjoy living here, it is my favourite home that I’ve ever been in. I have had 25 years living in the sky and I would hope to continue. There is definitely money moving into this social tower, and as I said, you can tell by the range of cars parked outside the building. There are more affluent tenants and the area has become more popular for people who can’t afford to live in Portobello road. London, it’s a two-sided coin, so it depends on your view and how you value that coin, because without evolution, progress doesn’t happen. So, you know, I am living in the present, stroke, looking at the future, and if I’m living in my village in Ireland, I’d be living in the present with a lot of the past. So here I am on the cusp of change, and that’s what I need in my life; it eases my conscious to be part of something that is changing and the adventure of change appeals to me. The uncertainty doesn’t bother me. I’m willing to take the risk and do something new and different, and living here is just that. 77

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> Eddie 33 years resident, 21th Floor London was like drinking a glass of water for the first time. I brought a newspaper and saw a job to be a nurse. You just have to get on with it â&#x20AC;&#x201C; you just have to get on with itâ&#x20AC;Ś When I came here, I met a lot of friends from the islands. I met them in trellick tower â&#x20AC;&#x201C; I met them inside here.

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My mind might just run and run and run and I have to go, and I just go.

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Eddie, 33 year resident

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‘Dear Carers, Do not forget to give edith the medication that is in the fridge together with her morning medication…..’

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Trellick Tower from the base

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Cameron, resident of trellick tower

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Cameron 30 years resident, 18th floor When I first came to England from Dominca, the people who lived in Trellick Tower were what you would call ordinary working-class people, you know normal folks. And then something happened during the 80s and 90s and Trellick become a place that people loved. Basically a load of people have been buying apartments here and honestly overnight a lot of the original communities were pushed out. The right to buy meant people could sell their apartments for so much more as the property prices were just going up and up. But the people moving in had no idea of the community we had here. It just didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exist in their mind.

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> JP 20 years resident, 15th Floor In 1989, our first chair of the residents association decided to get the building a grade II listing, and we subsequently learn that because its’ such an expensive building to maintain, that people were talking about buying the building and selling it. And what happens in social housing, when somebody buys the building, the do a thing called decant which literally means they can move you anywhere in the borough. But what a lot of Boroughs do is buy place in Peterbrough in Essex.. and will all due respect... I don’t want to live in Essex.

Looking through old photos and in the bridge between the lift shaft

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So these are the things they do, but because its Grade II listed the council can’t sell it. So the fact of the matter is, we can still live here.

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> Sue 33 years resident, 18th floor I originally lived in hackney fore I moved over here, and when we got off the train I was like ‘Oh my god, what’s this!?’

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I don’t remember the bad period in Trellick because I was so young, so I just got on with it.. You know when you are in here by yourself and no one bothers you. I’ve always loved Trellick, the views the bigness of the flats. Everything was just nice, new, big…. It was exciting. And there’s everything here, the library, off-licences, the supermarket, a doctor’s. We’ve got two bus stops right beside us, there’s nothing you have to travel for. There’s a lot of foreigners in the block, Morrocan’s to the Portuguese no one cares where you’re from, you just live here part of the community.

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Trellick goes in and out of fashion, and we’re in now, and a lot of people do buy flats here, then they can rent them out these days.


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â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The city may be looked on as a story, a pattern of relations between human groups, a production and distribution of space, a field of physical force, a set of linked decisions, or an arena of conflict. Values are embedded in these metaphors: historic continuity, stable equilibrium, productive efficiency capable decisions and management, maximum interaction, or the progress of political struggle. We must see any place as a social, biological and physical whole, if we mean to understand it completely.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; n -Kevin Lynch 92


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The Ethic

Delving in to some of the academic writings and higher brow discussions about brutalism to find out its true meaning

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More Than Concrete Slabs From on High

The Ethic

Part Nine

There was a lot of thought put into Brutalism, more than what most people think it takes to put together such minimal stripped back designs. There is reason behind why each feature has been removed, or why the steel structure is still visible. Two individuals in particular, Alison and Peter Smithson; the husband and wife duo â&#x20AC;&#x201C; put together a wealth of writings, books and teachings throughout their careers, despite only having a handful of major projects. They spent years forming the basis of Brutalism that still stands today, along with a number of architects in their group known as Team X (Team 10). Developing ideas and building a name for their aesthetic the discussion around Brutalism hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wavered.

In this chapter I want to dig deeper into Brutalism. I know that its more than just an aesthetic, but I want to be able to show you. Here I have collated a number of essays, conversations and writings about Brutalism and the concepts behind it, exposing the thoughts behind its features, or lack of, showing the stark looking design stands for people and puts those that use it first. It may seem like a bit of a heavy chapter so if you want to skip through most of the reading I am going to try and put together a small summary at the end of each essay to make it a bit more manageable. Then if you want to go back in to get a deeper level of explanation you can always delve into any of the chosen essays. 95


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Essay By Reyner Banham

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a: The New Brutalism Reyner Banham

In his seminal 1955 essay for The Architectural Review critic Reyner Banham attempts to codify the then emerging architectural movement of Brutalism ‘L’Architecture, c’est, avec des matières bruts, ètablir des rapports émouvants’rnouvants.’ Le Corbusier: Vers une Architecture. Introduce an observer into any field of forces, influences or communications and that field becomes distorted. It is common opinion that Das Kapital has played old harry with capitalism, so that Marxists can hardly recognise it when they see it, and the widespread diffusion of Freud’s ideas has wrought such havoc with clinical psychology that any intelligent patient can make a nervous wreck of his analyst. What has been the influence of contemporary architectural historians on the history of contemporary architecture? They have created the idea of a Modern Movement — this was known even before Basil Taylor took up arms against false historicism — and beyond that they have offered a rough classification of the ‘isms’ which are the thumb-print of Modernity into two main types: One, like Cubism, is a label, a recognition tag, applied by critics and historians to a body of work which appears to have certain consistent principles running through it, whatever the relationship of the artists; the other, like Futurism, is a banner, a slogan, a policy consciously adopted by a group of artists, whatever the apparent similarity or dissimilarity of their products. And it is entirely characteristic of the New Brutalism — our first native art-movement since the New Art History arrived here that it should confound these categories and belong to both at once. Is Art-History to blame for this? Not in any obvious way, but in practically every other way. One cannot begin to study the New Brutalism without realising how deeply the New ArtHistory has bitten into progressive English architectural thought, into teaching methods, into the common language of communication between architects and between architectural critics. What is interesting about R. Furneaux Jordan’s parthian footnote on the New Brutlaism — ‘Lubetkin talks across time to the great masters, the Smithsons talk only to each other’ — is not the fact that it is nearly true, and thus ruins his argument, but that its terms of valuation are historical. The New Brutalism has to be seen against the background of the recent history of history, and, in particular, the growing sense of the inner history of the Modern Movement itself.

Monstrous Carbuncle

The history of the phrase itself is revealing. Its form is clearly derived from The Architectural Review’s post-war trouvaille ‘The New Empiricism,’ a term which was intended to describe visible tendencies in Scandinavian architecture to diverge from another historical concept ‘The International Style.’ This usage, like any involving the word new, opens up an historical perspective. It postulates that an old empiricism can be identified by the historian, and that the new one can be distinguished from it by methods of historical comparison, which will also distinguish it from a mere ‘Empirical Revival.’ The ability to deal with such fine shades of historical meaning is in itself a measure of our handiness with the historical method today, and the use of phrases of the form ‘The New X-ism’ –where X equals any adjectival root-became commonplace in the early nineteen-fifties in fourth-year studios and other places where architecture is discussed, rather than practiced. The passion of such discussion has been greatly enhanced by the clarity of its polarization — Communists versus the Rest — and it was somewhere in this vigorous polemic that the term ‘The New Brutalism’ was first coined. It was, in the beginning, a term of Communist abuse, and it was intended to signify the normal vocabulary of Modern Architecture — flat roofs, glass, exposed structure — considered as morally reprehensible deviations from ‘The New Humanism,’ a phrase which means something different in Marxist hands to the meaning which might be expected. The New Humanism meant, in architecture at that time, brickwork, segmental arches, pitched roofs, small windows (or small panes at any rate) — picturesque detailing without picturesque planning. It was, in fact, the so-called ‘William Morris Revival,’ now happily defunct, since Kruschev’s reversal of the Party’s architectural line, though this reversal has, of course, taken the guts out of subsequent polemics. But it will be observed that The New Humanism was again a quasi-historical concept, oriented, however spuriously, toward that midnineteenth century epoch which was Marxism’s Golden Age, when you could recognise a capitalist when you met him.

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However, London architectural circles are a small field in which to conduct a polemic of any kind, and abuse must be directed at specific persons, rather than classes of persons, since there was rarely enough unanimity (except among Marxists) to allow a class to coalesce. The New Brutalists at whom Marxist spite was directed could be named and recognized — and so could their friends in other arts. The term had no sooner got into public circulation than its meaning began to narrow. Among the non-Marxist grouping there was no particular unity of programme or intention, but there was a certain community of interests, a tendency to look toward Le Corbusier, and to be aware of something called ‘le beton brut’, to know the quotation which appears at the head of this article and, in the case of the more sophisticated and the aesthetically literate, to know of the Art Brut of Jean Dubuffet and his connection in Paris. Words and ideas, personalities and discontents chimed together and in a matter of weeks — long before the Third Programme and the monthlies had got hold of the phrase — it had been appropriated as their own, by their own desire and public consent, by two young architects, Alison and Peter Smithson. The Ethic

The phrase had thus changed both its meaning and its usage. Adopted as something between a slogan and a brickbat flung in the public’s face, The New Brutalism ceased to be a label descriptive of a tendency common to most modern architecture, and became instead a programme, a banner, while retaining some-rather restricted-sense as a descriptive label. It is because it is both kinds of -ism at once that The New Brutalism eludes precise description, while remaining a living force in contemporary British architecture. As a descriptive label it has two overlapping, but not identical, senses. Non-architecturally it describes the art of Dubuffet, some aspects of Jackson Pollock and of Appel, and the burlap paintings of Alberto Burri — among foreign artists — and, say, Magda Cordell or Edouardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson among English artists. With these last two, the Smithsons collected and hung the ICA exhibition Parallel of Life and Art, which, though it probably preceded the coining of the phrase, is nevertheless regarded as a locus classicus of the movement. The more instructive aspects of this exhibition will be considered later: for the moment let us observe that many critics (and students at the Architectural Association) complained of the deliberate flouting of the traditional concepts of photographic beauty, of a cult of ugliness, and ‘denying the spiritual in Man.’ The tone of response to The New Brutalism existed even before hostile critics knew what to call it, and there was an awareness that the Smithson’s were headed in a different direction to most other younger architects in London. Alison Smithson first claimed the words in public as her own in a description of a project for a small house in Soho (Architectural Design, November, 1953) designed before the phrase existed, and previously tagged ‘The warehouse aesthetic’ — a very fair description of what The New Brutalism stood for in its first phase. Of this house, she wrote: ‘. . . had this been built, it would have been the first exponent of the New Brutalism in England, as the preamble to the specification shows: “It is our intention in this building to have the structure exposed entirely, without interior finishes wherever practicable. The contractor should aim at a high standard of basic construction, as in a small warehouse”.’ The publication of this project led to an extensive and often hilarious correspondence in various periodicals through the summer of 1954, a correspondence which wandered further and further from its original point because most writers were in fact discussing either the exhibition Parallel of Life and Art, or the (as yet) unpublished school at Hunstanton. When this was finally published (AR, September, 1954) the discussion took a sharper and less humorous tone, for here in three-dimensional and photographic reality, and in the classic Modern Movement materials of concrete, steel and glass, was the Smith-sons’ only completed building. The phrase The New Brutalism was immediately applied to it, though it had been designed in the spring of 1950, long before even the house in Soho, but the Brutalists themselves have accepted this appellation, and it has become the tag for Hunstan-ton wherever the building has been discussed. Hunstanton, and the house in Soho, can serve as the points of architectural reference by which The New Brutalism in architecture may be defined. What are the visible and identifiable characteristics of these two structures? Both have formal, axial plans — Hunstanton, in fact, has something like true bi-axial symmetry, and the small Gymnasium block alongside the school is a kind of exemplar in little of just how formal the complete scheme was to have been — and this formality is immediately legible from without. Both exhibit their basic structure, and both make a point of exhibiting their materials — in fact, this emphasis on basic structure

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is so obsessive that many superficial critics have taken this to be the whole of New Brutalist Architecture. Admittedly, this emphasis on basic structure is important, even if it is not the whole story, and what has caused Hunstanton to lodge in the public’s gullet is the fact that it is almost unique among modern buildings in being made of what it appears to be made of. Whatever has been said about honest use of materials, most modern buildings appear to be made of whitewash or patent glazing, even when they are made of concrete or steel. Hunstanton appears to be made of glass, brick, steel and concrete, and is in fact made of glass, brick, steel and concrete. Water and electricity do not come out of unexplained holes in the wall, but are delivered to the point of use by visible pipes and manifest conduits. One can see what Hunstanton is made of, and how it works, and there is not another thing to see except the play of spaces. This ruthless adherence to one of the basic moral imperatives of the Modern Movement — honesty in structure and material — has precipitated a situation to which only the pen of Ibsen could do justice. The mass of moderate architects, homes, moyens, sensuels, have found their accepted practices for waiving the requirements of the conscience-code suddenly called in question; they have been put rudely on the spot, and they have not liked the experience. Of course, it is not just the building itself which has precipitated this situation, it is the things the Brutalists have said and done as well, but, as with the infected Spa in An Enemy of the People, the play of personalities focuses around a physical object.

Monstrous Carbuncle

The qualities of that object may be summarized as follows: 1, Formal legibility of plan; 2, clear exhibition of structure, and 3, valuation of materials for their inherent qualities ‘as found.’ This summary can be used to answer the question: Are there other New Brutalist buildings besides Hunstanton? It is interesting to note that such a summary of qualities could be made to describe Marseilles, Promontory and Lakeshore apartments, General Motors Technical Centre, much recent Dutch work and several projects by younger English architects affiliated to ClAM. But, with the possible exception of Marseilles, the Brutalists would probably reject most of these buildings from the canon, and so must we, for all of these structures exhibit an excess of suaviter in modo, even if there is plenty of fortiter in re about them. In the last resort what characterises the New Brutalism in architecture as in painting is precisely its brutality, its je-m’ en-foutisme, its bloody-mindedness. Only one other building conspicuously carries these qualities in the way that Hunstanton does, and that is Louis Kahn’s Yale Art Centre. Here is a building which is uncompromisingly frank about its materials, which is inconceivable apart from its boldly exhibited structural method which — being a concrete space-frame — is as revolutionary and unconventional as the use of the Plastic Theory in stressing Hunstanton’s steel H-frames. Furthermore, the plan is very formal in the disposition of its main elements, and makes a kind of symmetry about two clearly defined axes at right angles to one another. And this is a building which some Brutalists can apparently accept as a constituent New Brutalist structure. But, with all due diffidence, the present author submits that it still does not quite answer to the standard set by Hunstanton. For one thing, the Smithsons’ work is characterized by an abstemious under-designing of the details, and much of the impact of the building comes from the ineloquence, but absolute consistency, of such components as the stairs and hand rails. By comparison, Kahn’s detailing is arty, and the stair-rail and balustrading (if that is the word for stainless netting) is jarringly out of key with the rough-shuttered concrete of the main structure. This may be ‘only a matter of detailing’ but there is another short-fall about Yale Art Centre which could not be brushed off so easily. Every Smithson design has been, obviously or subtly, a coherent and apprehensible visual entity, but this Louis Kahn’s design narrowly fails to be. The internal spaces will be cluttered with display screens which, in the nature of his programme and his solution of it, must be susceptible of being moved, so that formal clarity is always threatened. But beyond this the relation of interior to exterior fails to validate the axes which govern the plan. Available viewpoints, the placing of the entrances, the handling of the exterior walls — all tend to lose or play down the presence of planning axes. No doubt there are excellent functional reasons for the doors being where they are, and excellent structural reasons for the walls being treated in the way they are — but if these reasons were so compelling, why bother with an axial plan anyhow? This is a hard thing to have to say about a seriously considered building by a reputable architect of some standing, but contact with Brutalist architecture tends to drive one to hard judgments, and the one thing of which the Smithsons have never been accused is a lack of logic or

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The Ethic Haunston School, various pictures from stages of construction and different times throughout the schools life. It may not appear brutalist but the design principles behind it are clear.

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Yale Art Centre outside and interior, clear use of concrete and Brutalist principles - finished in 1953.

consistency in thinking through a design. In fact it is the ruthless logic more than anything else which most hostile critics find distressing about Hunstanton — or perhaps it is the fact that this logic is worn on the sleeve. One of the reasons for this obtrusive logic is that it contributes to the apprehensibility and coherence of the building as a visual entity, because it contributes to the building as ‘an image.’ An Image — with the utterance of these two words we bridge the gap between the possible use of The New Brutalism as a descriptive label covering, in varying degrees of accuracy, two or more buildings, and The New Brutalism as a slogan, and we also go some way to bridge the gap between the meaning of the term as applied to architecture and its meaning as applied to painting and sculpture. The word image in this sense is one of the most intractable and the most useful terms in contemporary aesthetics, and some attempt to explain it must be made.

Monstrous Carbuncle

A great many things have been called ‘an image’- S. M. della Consolazione at Todi, a painting by Jackson Pollock, the Lever Building, the 1954 Cadillac convertible, the roofscape of the Unite at Marseilles, any of the hundred photographs in Parallel of Life and Art. ‘Image’ seems to be a word that describes anything or nothing. Ultimately, however, it means something which is visually valuable, but not necessarily by the standards of classical aesthetics. Where Thomas Aquinas supposed beauty to be quod visum placet (that which seen, pleases), image may be defined as quod visum perturbat — that which seen, affects the emotions, a situation which could subsume the pleasure caused by beauty, but is not normally taken to do so, for the New Brutalists’ interests in image are commonly regarded, by many of themselves as well as their critics, as being anti-art, or at any rate anti-beauty in the classical aesthetic sense of the word. But what is equally as important as the specific kind of response, is the nature of its cause. What pleased St. Thomas was an abstract quality, beauty — what moves a New Brutalist is the thing itself, in its totality, and with all its overtones of human association. These ideas of course lie close to the general body of anti-Academic aesthetics currently in circulation, though they are not to be identified exactly with Michel Tapie’s concept of un Art Autre, even though that concept covers many Continental Brutalists as well as Eduardo Paolozzi. Nevertheless this concept of Image is common to all aspects of The New Brutalism in England, but the manner in which it works out in architectural practice has some surprising twists to it. Basically, it requires that the building should be an immediately apprehensible visual entity; and that the form grasped by the eye should be confirmed by experience of the building in use. Further, that this form should be entirely proper to the functions and materials of

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the building, in their entirety. Such a relationship between structure, function and form is the basic commonplace of all good building of course, the demand that this form should be apprehensible and memorable is the apical uncommon place which makes good building into great architecture. The fact that this form-giving obligation has been so far forgotten that a great deal of good building can be spoken of as if it were architecture, is a mark of a seriously decayed condition in English architectural standards. It has become too easy to get away with the assumption that if structure and function are served then the result must be architecture — so easy that the meaningless phrase ‘the conceptual building’ has been coined to defend the substandard architectural practices of the routine-functionalists, as if ‘conceptual buildings’ were something new, and something faintly reprehensible in modern architecture.

The Ethic

All great architecture has been ‘conceptual,’ has been image-making — and the idea that any great buildings, such as the Gothic Cathedrals, grew unconsciously through anonymous collaborative attention to structure and function is one of the most insidious myths with which the Modern Movement is saddled. Every great building of the Modern Movement has been a conceptual design, especially those like the Bauhaus, which go out of their way to look as if they were the products of ‘pure’ functionalism, whose aformal compositions are commonly advanced by routine-functionalists in defence of their own abdication of architectural responsibility. But a conceptual building is as likely to be aformal as it is to be formal, as a study of the Smithsons’ post-Hunstanton projects will show. Hunstanton’s formality is unmistakably Miesian, as Philip Johnson pointed out, possibly because IIT was one of the few recent examples of conceptual, form-giving design to which a young architect could turn at the time of its conception, and the formality of their Coventry Cathedral competition entry is equally marked, but here one can safely posit the interference of historical studies again, for, though the exact priority of date as between the Smithsons’ design and the publication of Professor Wittkower’s Architectural Principles of the Age of Humanism is disputed (by the Smithsons) it cannot be denied that they were in touch with Wittkowerian studies at the time, and were as excited by them as anybody. The general impact of Professor Wittkower’s book on a whole generation of post-war architectural students is one of the phenomena of our time. Its exposition of a body of architectural theory in which function and form were significantly linked by the objective laws governing the Cosmos (as Alberti and Palladio understood them) suddenly offered a way out of the doldrum of routine-functionalist abdications, and neo-Palladianism became the order of the day. The effect of Architectural Principles has made it by far the most important contribution — for evil as well as good — by any historian to English Architecture since Pioneers of the Modern Movement, and it precipitated a nice disputation on the proper uses of history. The question became: Humanist principles to be followed? or Humanist principles as an example of the kind of principles to look for? Many students opted for the former alternative, and Routine-Palladians soon became as thick on the ground as Routine-Functionalists. The Brutalists, observing the inherent risk of a return to pure academia more pronounced at Liverpool than at the AA — sheered off abruptly in the other direction and were soon involved in the organization of Parallel of Life and Art. Introducing this exhibition to an AA student debate Peter Smithson declared: ‘We are not going to talk about proportion and symmetry’ and this was his declaration of war on the inherent academicism of the neo-Palladians, and the anti-Brutalist section of the house made it clear how justified was this suspicion of crypto-academicism by taking their stand not only on Palladio and Alberti but also on Plato and the Absolute. The new direction in Brutalist architectural invention showed at once in the Smithsons’ Golden Lane and Sheffield University competition entries. The former, only remembered for having put the idea of the street-deck back in circulation in England, is notable for its determination to create a coherent visual image by non-formal means, emphasizing visible circulation, identifiable units of habitation, and fully validating the presence of human beings as part of the total image-the perspectives had photographs of people pasted on to the drawings, so that the human presence almost overwhelmed the architecture. But the Sheffield design went further even than this-and aformalism becomes as positive a force in its composition as it does in a painting by Burri or Pollock. Composition might seem pretty strong language for so apparently casual a layout, but this is clearly not an ‘unconceptual’ design, and on examination it can be shown to have a composition, but based not on the elementary rule-and-compass geometry which underlies most architectural composition, so much as an intuitive sense of topology. As a discipline of architecture topology has always

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been present in a subordinate and unrecognized way — qualities of penetration, circulation, inside and out, have always been important, but elementary Platonic geometry has been the master discipline. Now, in the Smithsons’ Sheffield project the roles are reversed, topology becomes the dominant and geometry becomes the subordinate discipline. The ‘connectivity’ of the circulation routes is flourished on the exterior and no attempt is made to give a geometrical form to the total scheme; large blocks of topologically similar spaces stand about the site with the same graceless memorability as martello towers or pit-head gear. Such a dominance accorded to topology — in whose classifications a brick is the same ‘shape’ as a billiard ball (unpenetrated solid) and a teacup is the same ‘shape’ as a gramophone record (continuous surface with one hole) is clearly analogous to the displacement of Tomistic ‘beauty’ by Brutalist ‘Image, ’ and Sheffield remains the most consistent and extreme point reached by any Brutalists in their search for Une Architecture Autre. It is not likely to displace Hunstanton in architectural discussions as the prime exemplar of The New Brutalism, but it is the only building — design which fully matches up to the threat and promise of Parallel of Life and Art. And it shows that the formal axiality of Hunstanton is not integral to New Brutalist architecture. Miesian or Wittkowerian geometry was only an ad-hoc device for the realization of ‘Images,’ and when Parallel of Life and Art had enabled Brutalists to define their relationship to the visual world in terms of something other than geometry, then formality was discarded. The definition of a New Brutalist building derived from Hunstanton and Yale Art Centre, above, must be modified so as to exclude formality as a basic quality if it is to cover future developments and should more properly read: 1, Memorability as an Image; 2, Clear exhibition of Structure; and 3, Valuation of Materials ‘as found.’ Remembering that an Image is what affects the emotions, that structure, in its fullest sense, is the relationship of parts, and that materials ‘as found’ are raw materials, we have worked our way back to the quotation which headed this article ‘L’Architecture, c’est, avec des Matieres Bruts, etablir des rapports emouvants,’ but we have worked our way to this point through such an awareness of history and its uses that we see that The New Brutalism, if it is architecture in the grand sense of Le Corbusier’s definition, is also architecture of our time and not of his, nor of Lubetkin’s, nor of the times of the Masters of the past. Even if it were true that the Brutalists speak only to one another, the fact that they have stopped speaking to Mansart, to Palladio and to Alberti would make The New Brutalism, even in its more private sense, a major contribution to the architecture of today.

Monstrous Carbuncle

Architectural drawings of Hunstanton School, showing both ground floor and first floor layouts.

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Banham called The New Brutalism ‘a banner, a slogan, a policy consciously adopted by a group of artists, whatever the apparent similarity or dissimilarity of their products’. Discussing where the term was coined how it was used to signify the ‘deplorable’ deviations from the brick, small windowed ’New Humanist’ era that came about after the war. Banham then explored how the Smithson’s in their un-realised works and the Haunston school redefined this meaning, making it in to ‘something between a slogan and a brickbat flung in the public’s face’. Discussing the response to the new style Banham found the tone was already apparent before people even knew what to call it. There was an awareness that the Smithson’s were heading in a different direction to most young architects. This created a hostile tension and anticipation, people didn’t know what to expect and they did not like that one bit. Alison Smithson first claimed the phrase New Brutalism in 1953, describing their un-realised competition entry for the Soho House. As soon as the Haunston school was complete it was immediately applied, despite being designed in 1950 - long before the phrase was coined. It was clearly a departure from the era that had been built previously as this building looked exactly like what it was made of, not a single attempt to hide material was made. ‘Water and electricity do not come out of unexplained holes

in the wall but are delivered to the point of use by visible pipes and manifest conduits. One can see what Hunstanton is made of, and how it works, and there is not another thing to see except the play of spaces.’ The appreciation for materials as found was inherent to the Brutalist style. Banham remarked that part of what sets Brutalism apart is its brutality, and bloodymindedness, though it is all set in a framework of logic. The ruthless logic is what scares critics the most, something they have not seen before. Exploring how Brutalist buildings form an ‘image’ Banham mentioned that many things have been called ‘an image’ before, saying ‘image’ seemingly describes anything and nothing while also meaning something is visually valuable - but not in the standard aesthetic way. This image concept is also so inherent to Brutalism - the form or the image imprinted should be confirmed by the users experience of the building in use. Noting that ‘it has become too easy to get away with the assumption that if structure and function are served then the result must be architecture’. Discounting many buildings that have been praised before for simply achieving these things in a much lesser way than the way Brutalism manages to embody function in form. Ending the essay by summing up the three core pillars to Brutalism: 1, memorability as an image; 2, clear exhibition of structure; and 3, valuation of materials ‘as found.’ Remembering that an image is what affects the emotions, that structure, in its fullest sense, is the relationship of parts, and that materials ‘as found’ are raw materials. Banham gave these criteria and through writing this essay solidified Brutalism’s place in history as a revolutionary movement in architecture that changed the way we think about buildings and how they can work for us. 105

The Ethic

In this essay Banham defines The New Brutalism, dissecting it and really put it on the map as something that matters and is contributing to the development of British architecture. Before this was published Brutalism was only discussed by those that practices it, but this brought it to the forefront of discussions in architecture.


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The Ethic

Writings By Theo Crosby

Brutalism Re evaluated 107


b: Brutalism Re-evaluated Theo Crosby

‘By 1955, New Brutalism had become a frequent topic of conversation in English architectural circles thanks, in large part, to the construction and publication of the Smithson’s’ school at Hunstanton. Here Theo Crosby frames New Brutalism in terms of a re-evaluation of modernism and an evocation of Japane.se architecture .-A.K’ When I hear the word contemporary, I reach for my revolver X.B. In 1954, a new and long overdue explosion took place in architectural theory. For many years since the war we have continued in our habit of debasing the coinage of M. Le Corbusier and had created a style- “Contemporary” -easily recognizable by its misuse of traditional materials and its veneer of “modern” details, frames, recessed plinths, decorative piloti. The reaction appeared at last in the shape of the Hunstanton School (by Alison and Peter Smithson) an illustration of the “New Brutalism.” The name is new; the method, a re-evaluation of these advanced buildings of the 1920s and ‘30s whose lessons (because of a few plaster cracks) have been forgotten. As well as this, there are certain lessons in the formal use of proportion (from Professor Wittkower) and a respect for the sensuous use of cub material (from the Japanese). Naturally, a theory which takes the props from the generally accepted and easily produced “Contemporary: has generated a lot of opposition. All over the country We have been asked to explain the new message. In the hope of provoking as many readers as possible to think more deeply about the form and purpose of their art, we asked the Smithson’s as the prophets of the new movement, to supply a definition or statement, which, somewhat edited, appears below. ‘Our belief that the New Brutalism is the only possible development for this moment from the Modem Movement, stems not only from the knowledge that Le Corbusier is one of its practitioners (starting with the “béton brut” of the Unite), but because fundamentally both movements have used as their yardstick Japanese architecture—its underlying idea, principles, and spirit. Japanese Architecture seduced the generation spanning 1900, producing in Frank Lloyd Wright, the open plan and an odd sort of constructed decoration; in Le Corbusier, the purist aesthetic— the sliding screens, continuous space, the power of white and earth colours; in Mies, the structure and the screen as absolutes. Through Japanese Architecture, the longings of the generation of Garnier and Behrens found FORM. But for the Japanese their FORM was only part of a general conception of life, a sort of reverence for the natural world and, from that, for the materials of the built world, It is this reverence for materials—a realization of the affinity which can be established between building and man—which is at the root of the so-called New Brutalism. It has been mooted that the Hunstanton School, which probably owes as much to the existence of Japanese Architecture as to Mies, is the first realization of the New Brutalism in England. This particular handling of Materials, not in the craft sense of Frank Lloyd Wright but in intellectual appraisal, has been ever present in the Modern Movement, as indeed familiars of the early German architects have been prompt to remind us.

Monstrous Carbuncle

‘What is new about the New Brutalism among Movements is that it finds its closest affinities, not in a past architectural style, but in peasant dwelling forms. It has nothing to do with craft. We see architecture as the direct result of a way of life.’ 1954 has been a key year. It has seen American advertising equal Dada in its impact of overlaid imagery; that automotive masterpiece, the Cadillac convertible, parallel-with-the-ground (four elevations) classic box on wheels; the start of a new way of thinking by CLAM; the revaluation of the work of Gropius; the repainting of the Villa at Garches? —Architectural Design (January 1955),

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The Ethic Theo Crosby - an architect, editor, writer and sculptor, engaged with major developments in design across four decades. He was also an early vocal critic of modern urbanism.

Crosby here has taken a definition directly from the Smithsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, where they explained their influences coming from Le Courbiser, obviously, but more subtly from Japanese architecture throughout the 1900s. Also detailing the big influence that real life has on their design, showing that British Brutalism has evolved in to its own distinct form. Taking influence from Japanese culture and design is important, helps with respecting the principles and, this gives Brutalism the structure and the rigidity that it needs to support such a different style to design that has been done before. 109


Monstrous Carbuncle

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The Ethic

Writings By Alison and Peter Smithson

Thoughts in progress 111


c: Thoughts in Progress Alison And Peter Smithson

‘This short text was the Smithson’s. contribution to “Thoughts in Progress,” a monthly discussion forum in Architectural Design, the April 1957 issue of which was dedicated to New Brutalism. It contains one of the Smithson’ most famous comments about the movement-that it “tries to face up to a mass-production society, and dreg a rough poetry out of the confused and powerful forces which are at work..” Resisting the easy reduction of New Brutalism to techniques such as poured concrete, the Smithson insist that their project is fundamentally ethical in nature -A.K.’ If Academicism can be defined as yesterday, answers to today, problems, then obviously the objectives and aesthetic techniques of a real architecture (or a real art) must be in constant change. In the immediate post-war period, it seemed important to show that architecture was still possible, and we determined to set against loose planning and form-abdication, a compact disciplined, architecture. Simple objectives once achieved change the situation, and the techniques used to achieve them become useless. So new objectives are established. From individual buildings, disciplined on the whole by classical aesthetic techniques, we moved on to an examination of the whole problem of human associations and the relationship that building, and community has to them. From this study has grown a completely new attitude and non-classical aesthetic. Any discussion of Brutalism will miss the point if it does not take into account Brutalism’s attempt to be objective about “reality” -the cultural objectives of society, its urges, and so on. Brutalism tries to face up to a mass-production society and drag a rough poetry out of the confused and powerful forces which are at work.

Monstrous Carbuncle

Up to now Brutalism has been discussed stylistically, whereas its essence is ethical. Architectural Design 27 (April 1957), p. 113. OCTOBER 136, Spying 2011, p. 37. 0 Alison and Peter Smithson from Architectural Design, Ai. 1957 p. 113.

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The Ethic Alison and Peter Smithson - shown in their design studio for an interview in the mid 1950s.

This short piece clearly shows the Smithson’s distaste for the way Brutalism was received and reviewed by critics. Getting in to how people missed the whole point of Brutalism, how it represented a departure from all architecture up until this point, and now that the after-war objectives of showing the country was back up and running again had been achieved architects no longer needed to conform to old standards. Laying out that any discussion of Brutalism will ‘miss the point if it does not take into account Brutalism’s attempt to be objective about reality’. The trying to solve problems between people and relationships with the spaces around them has not been talked about as ‘Up to now Brutalism has been discussed stylistically, whereas its essence is ethical.’ 113


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The Ethic

A Conversation with A. and P. Smithson, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry

On Brutalism 115


d: A conversation on Brutalism in 1959 with Alison Smithson, Peter Smithson, Jane B. Drew, E. Maxwell Fry

‘In this “Conversation on Brutalism,. first published in the Italian architecture magazine Zodiac, Alison and Peter Smithson talk with British architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry. Of a slightly older generation than the Smithson, Drew and Fry had designed a number of buildings for Le Corbusier’s project at Chandigarh and would later complete other public works in colonial West Africa. In 1958, Drew organized the exhibition Le Corbusier: Architecture Painting Sculpture Tapestries with Theo Crosby at the Building Centre in London. This interview points to cliches that had already attached themselves to New Brutalism-, “as found” materials, cast concrete, and the like-and shows the Smithson insisting again that their project is ethical, not stylistic. Brutalism here (the “New” has been dropped, perhaps as a way of reclaiming the conversation from Banham) appears as an attitude, a way of pushing against a dominant culture, a mandate to be straightforward and bold. “Communication” figures as an important keyword, as it does in Alloway’s text above. In contrast to Eero Saarinen’s approach with his General Motors Technical Centre (1945-56), Peter Smithson maintains that communication should not “become an end in itself.” (This interview is characterized by a number of grammatical omissions, which are retained here.) -A.K.’ Mr. Smithson: The intention of the first period of modern architecture was that buildings should be machine like, and whether machine made or not, they should look machine made. As a reaction to the period of, say, 1936 to 1946, when poetic machine work degenerated into superficial stylistic machine-work (in which the fundamentals were neglected), I think that one of the things which interests one now is that a genuine aesthetic of machine building technology should arise, and in some way this gets one involved in a rather brutal approach. If a thing is really made of pre-cast elements, or concrete block, the building has to reflect the way it was built with pre-cast elements or concrete block, and inevitably the building will not only have a different scale from an architecture that is conceived of as being a single object made by a machine, but it will be built at the scale of the genuine machine with which it was built. If you think hack to the sort of key building of the 1920s like the Garches House or the Savoye House, one feels that Le Corbusier was trying to make the whole building look as if it was being made by machine, as a single object, tamed out on a lathe, coloured-up and so on, and there is a difference of attitude towards the machine involved here. In the first period I think essentially there was poetry in the machine that had manifested itself in industrial objects. That poetry was trying to be translated into architectural terms. Naturally one now wants to make a poetic artefact for if there is no poetic artefact we don’t have any architecture, but not make, as it were, an object in the style of the machines, but made poetically through machines.

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Mrs. Smithson: Therefore, if you considered yourself in the same tradition as the original masters, and in that way reacting upon what we found things were in the 1940s, buildings which were built as if they were not made of real material at all but some sort of processed material such as Kraft Cheese; we turned back to wood, and concrete, glass, and steel, all the materials which you can really get hold of. And with these started working on the field of town buildings because it was obvious that it was no longer possible to break the situation with a few buildings of the calibre of Garches, but one had to be thinking on a much bigger scale somehow than if you only got one house to do (and this would never be as big as Garches), but even if you only had a little house to do it somehow had to imply the whole system of town building by expressing it in itself (by its very smallness perhaps). Mr. Fry: May I say that in the earliest days, an architect like Hans Scharoun represented the kind of weak idea of the slick machine finish-you remember some of his building, and his one revolted against the Einstein Tower in which again the slick idea preceded all ideas of function. People like Le Corbusier represented the idea in its purist form, but it was nevertheless, (and I think it is true of all the people operating in the ‘30s) that their ideas about the industrial world, and machine aesthetic and so on (with which they had still not by any means come to grips) are as yet untested. Though they had concrete, glass, and most of the materials available to play with, their ideas were still largely romantic in form, and what you are talking thinks about town planning it is of some these ideas. [This structure of the original sentence has been left intact] One can talk about feeling much more easily than pure techniques because in the end we are all directed by feelings--through architecture we propound feelings which are picked up again. In the ‘30s that was the way of looking at it.

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The Ethic Villa Savoye, designed by Le Corbusier, built in 1921 using prefabricated concrete.

Mr. Smithson: I am sure that it is relevant. Always one felt in Scharoun, for example, in the pictures that I knew of his work in the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;20s and â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;30s that there was a certain sort of expressionism about the machine. Well, I recently spent two days in his office and he has now driven through that expression, but there is still an element of play involved, based on a much more fundamental thing. He is building an extension to the Siemensstadt Siedlung, which in a funny sort of way is a history of the last forty years. We looked in his offices at a big plan of the Siemensstadt and it has the houses by Gropius in lines, and the space is very anonymous and neutral. It was set up on the right angle-it was hygienic and it had the neat kick of machine architecture, but in terms of external living space (that is the space in which you actually operate outside the buildings) it is strictly anonymous. Well, what I think Scharoun is doing now is something in the sort of way that our minds work in our generation, in that he says that the dwellings are not only dwelling units in themselves, but there is a possibility of putting them together in such a way that they make another extension of dwelling-they have is front and back, a service side and play side, and that the bigger unit with more bedrooms express themselves as bigger units with more bedrooms. The play of the architecture, the play of the spaces linked, creates at the level outside the dwelling as well as inside, the spaces less anonymous and less geometric. This is really only

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Pirelli Tower, completed in 1956 in Milan Italy. 32 storeys high using concrete and glass as main features of the design.

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is footnote on the progress of one man, but I think that the essential ethic of Brutalism is in town building. What one about really is a revulsion of feeling from anonymous administrator laying down a master plan which may be on very good organizational principles, but when it actually comes to building on the ground, it is the way the buildings themselves fit together and interact with each other which creates the actual places in which you move, and have a feeling of identity or lack of identity. In consequence of this sort of way of thinking, in terms of direct responses of building to building, you tend to get buildings which are less (in the Renaissance sense) complete. One puts less value on the thing being symmetrical or cubic and more on the fact that its particular geometry, builds up into a relationship with other geometry not in a Camillo Sitte romantic way, but in a functional way; that you read the building for what it is, and not for some idea that is constructed on it. One thinks in these terms that in a certain situation it might be necessary to be brutally direct to change the tempo of the quarter.

The Ethic

Ms Fry: I think that Gropius is a good man in a sense. I regard him as a George Stevenson (character), full of principles, but a bit like the Rocket, a bit ugly in some ways -I mean in the way the Rocket had the principles although it took fifty more locos before principles were clothed in beauty. Mrs. Smithson: Yes, I think that with Gropius you feel that he talks about prefabrication and module and everything , and yet in the housing schemes that T.A.C. have done for University Professors and Teachers and the like, they’re all polite little English/Swedish sort of things, instead of being these ‘things’ that Gropius talks about. When all some to all, there is an absolute evasion of technique, and a retreat. Well, that is the difference I think between our approach and some of the very first masters, and yet the greatest masters are acting in the same way that we want to act-that is Le Corbusier and Scharoun and the people that one can still learn from, in the business of responsibility, that the building is not just obeying some intellectual law which is as wonderful as the Renaissance idea, but has to downplay these ideas, because it owes a greater responsibility than to the idea itself-the responsibility to the whole of “town building” and that it always has to imply that behind the immediate relationship is the relationship to the rest of the village, or to the rest of the district or the town or the rest of the quarter of the city, and I think the division between brutalism, which lines itself up with the great masters, and the rest of the work that is going on is this one of responsibility. Miss Drew: Alison, I agree with you, but the division that one wants to see is not a division based on history-that could be misinterpreted. The Pirelli building seemed to me to be important because it was a sculptural work of concrete which, nevertheless, was founded on an engineering conception, which broke away from the rigid idea of a frame which has dominated towns every-where, and which as much as Maillart did in his time with bridges, breaks the plastic conception from the solution everyone regards as automatically logical, but which is boring and sculpturally dead and which perhaps is not even the most intelligent answer, but a subject I wish to refer to (and I don’t know whether it is brutalism in conception or not) is that we all have a feeling that the right answer to a town is a general conception of different layers of communication and that communication as well as space around buildings has become the keyword. Mr Smithson: I think the major break away comes from the classical thinking (I am sorry to have to go back half a step to make the point) but if you read any sort of current town planning theories, particularly the English ones, town planning is based on a pictorial concept. Now we regard ourselves as functional, and therefore there is not only space in the town, but that space must signify what is going on, its function, and one of the things that we have to face in the twentieth century is that the space in towns has to indicate that it is a net of communication. People know about things more -therefore there is more feeling of connectedness rather than the feeling of being in villages which is self-contained, and which as you know perfectly well, ideas are communicated by press, television, radio and so on, advertising, which knits practically the whole world into a net of relationships where people understand each other, and in this sort of situation it seems to me that to think of the image of the city as being a series of self-contained communities, or the new town being a self-contained self-generating entity, is that this net of communications we know exists must find expression in the architecture. The word “expression” is a key one, but one tends to shy of it. We are interested in expressing, not ourselves, but what

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is going on and a building which denies what is going on is just the opposite of brutalismit is chi-chi, which is a sort of evasion, in that chi-chi is not just a matter of fashion (because fashion can be a direct communicant), it is the sort of person that cannot be bothered to think out what the situation is, and how to work it out properly, and drops back into a formula of doing it which is a sort of lie -in a way it is a sort of ethical question, a thing being either plastic truth or this sort of evasion, or lie. In the early and late ‘40s we were in a situation in England in which many things got built which you felt were a lie, and a lot of ideas have been carried on in architecture well into the ‘50s, when building programs became strictly a formula without anybody really thinking about whether, for example, the office should be there at all, rather than what shape the office should be. Just to finish this note, it is an interesting experience to compare how we teach at the AA with the way they teach at IIT -undoubtedly the most direct school in America. They have a system. Mies says, “We don’t build well in the twentieth century we must learn how to build well,” and so they say to their students “you must learn to build a house well” whereas we start off by saying “should there be a house there at all?” There seems to me to be a world of difference. (If the answer is “yes, there should be a house there,” then it should bear a certain relationship to other things and we build well in the terms of present-day technology). It is another evasion, just to learn to build, without questioning why one should build and whether it should be there. Mrs. Smithson: Yes, part of our philosophy is that one must be ready to act in any situation that presents itself, and act rightly. I think this ties up with the Pirelli building and what Peter said earlier about acting brutally perhaps in some situations. At some spaces in the city all you can do is to make such a statement that [can] be seen perhaps from a long distance, or something so different from the accepted that even though you can only instinctively feel that it is right, and cannot actually prove it is right, that you hope by doing this that other people will change in relation to it. [...] Mr. Smithson: I think that one always had the idea that the motor car should be allowed everywhere, because it is an extension to oneself, but I noticed on this last trip to America after I had over the excitement of the movement and noise and so on, that in Chicago the noise level is quite unbelievable-on the elevated railway there is one point on a station where the noise level is just about 2 decibels below the pain threshold, and I found this time that one felt desperately in need of a sort of pool which noisy communicants didn’t enter, just for the sake of some mental stability. The whole town has got to be re-geared to the scale of the motor car movement, but there would obviously have to be places where either the car speed is reduced practically to zero, or the car is excluded completely. To take a scattered Garden City and to drive the motor roads through it seems to me to ignore the fact that the car is around at all. I mean you have the conventional housing estate now, a sort of Coventry, which turns its back on the bypass that goes through it, but makes no other gesture towards the motor car other than turning its back on it, you know, is separated by a little green strip and all the backyards with their masses of concrete posts and little tatty huts and so on. I am not saying that one should not have a back yard, but that one is getting the worst worlds, neither a Garden City nor a truly sort of motorized environment at a new scale where one can travel and see at forty miles an hour sweetly, and at another scale sweetly experiencing walking. [...] Mrs. Smithson: It is just that one feels that there should be visible expression in the houses that the motor car has arrived.

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Mr Fry: Although obviously out of the picture in point of the scale, I also felt in Chicago on Lake Shore Drive with the avenues leading in, that this scene, magnificent in its way, and quite overpowering in its extent, nevertheless had an element of triviality in it. Mr. Smithson: It was already Palaeolithic, it was already antiquated—it should be bombarded. Mr. Fry: Yes, but what I am not clear about is with what is this to be replaced. Mrs. Smithson: I think it is falling on the architect to take up the traditional role of the architect urbanist and that planners, in a way, are living in a little dream world somewhere between

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William Morris and Camillo Sitte, and they talk in the conferences they keep having about Coventry and Harlow and they talk again and again about them, unwilling to come out in bright reality and the hard world of these fast motor cars and the styling changes, and how people are really living with their television, and their appliances. Mr. Fry: The Americans deal with their great highways and turnpikes at the scale of the car. At Chicago and New York they seem in one sense to be heroic and then it seems to pass beyond human limits and becomes a kind of antway without sufficient relation to the scale of the human being.

The Ethic

Mrs. Smithson: Yes, well I think there are two different things happening here—that in America they are willing to take these big engineering chances—there is a different kind of man operating, whereas in Europe one is thrown back on the architect having to take up the traditional role of the architect-urbanist because one is mainly a sort of cerebral character, it son of ancient-world man thinking it out. Mr Smithson: I think the interesting thing about the American civil engineer is that he is a son of king, capable of majestic feats, mass earth moving and so on, because the program is well set it is simple. They make it road from A to B and it is not complicated by much high-level thought as to what is happening in the city or the region. But when they do the road they do it beautifully, and it has this heroic scale, but with a sort of irrelevance about it when it connects to other things. At Detroit, for instance, communication has become an end in itself. Now, the European-Mies-van-der-Rohe sort of beauty thing is an intellectual-conceptual system in which all the parts fit together. When you get a building built on such principles, it is a heroic building in terms of human engineering, or whatever you like to call it, but constantly in America you find that when they build they fall back on a sort of antiquated humanism, you know, the Yamasaki sort of thing, which is a sort of ivory object built in concrete, which somehow turns its back on machine environment as if its impossible to come to terms with mechanised environment, we can’t make it nice let’s fall back on the Renaissance or the medieval thing, so that you get from many of the young American architects a total rejection of machine environment. There are in America only two or three architects I know, such as Louis Kahn or Charles Eames, who seriously think in terms of the present, how to build at a machine scale, the aesthetics of pre-cast concrete for instance, or the programming of planning information. Mr Fry: ... but, quite apart from Louis Kahn and Charles Eames, of course, you find in New York and Chicago in quantity, buildings which are in fact built with the machine technique to the end, and that they horrify by their excellence in the thing they set out to be, which is a shining machine product, and some of these places have no colour even-the offices do pursue the machine technique to the end without artistry. Miss Drew: Perhaps the most general blight one could talk about is the blight of the curtain wall, I mean the anonymous curtain wall which is gradually being hung over large areas of London. It is absolute formula without feeling which is perfect as a machine product but which no longer carries any kind of emotional quality. Mr. Fry: What we are concerned with is what should significant building be under our circumstances? Mr. Smithson: Well, one tends to merely contrast the possible thing with the thing that is bad. It is no good restyling a building with curtain walling -you have got to figure out if you have got a street that exists and say you have to redesign the block in it, is the street idea valid? Is the development of the offices in that block to continue in the same way, or should the offices be somewhere else? If they should be there what form of office should it be? You know, it is a different thing to what it was in the nineteenth century for certain. We are using now, tape recorders, information machines and so on, which tend to give a regrouping of the function within offices. Should they be built in a different way since the ways people work in offices is very different to what it was 50 years ago? One does not have an anonymous mass of workers but an egalitarian sort of society with an equal right to work, to walk out in their lunch hour and so on, and a different pattern should result, rather than taking the existing building and restyling it with patent glazing, while inside the patent glazing is a nineteenth century office building with all the disadvantages and a sort of spiritual obsolescence. I am thinking of the big tower

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of offices--if they are not done with very great skill as in the Seagram building, you have a strong feeling of cultural obsolescence -you are going to build a museum for people to live in a way that has already been done away with. Mr Fry: I’d like to just start upon a new line, now, and to say that in arriving at a new morality which is really what has happened—a new morality and a new feeling—for reasons which you very clearly explained, you arrive also at a rejection of certain parts of the vocabulary which you don’t like, i.e. all slick-ness and so on. But there may be values there still because there may be valid materials for use. As immediately translated by younger men it becomes a very fierce morality which will only deal with London stock brick and bush hammered concrete, giving up other means of expression which might be valuable. Mr Smithson: It is a very good point. It is something where the horse, mouth simile comes in useful. There has been an awful lot of writing by people, and construction by other people assuming what we mean. A modern architect does not think of a theory then build it; you assemble your buildings and your theories as you go along. The theory is evolved, a decision made five years ago will be a completely different decision from one made today. The business of materials ‘as found’ does not imply a rejection of marble and plaster and stainless steel. Let, face it, you can get a direct effect out of the most simple material. You can say a lot with simple things, you give even a certain elegance. We didn’t reject elegance per-se but we were stuck, and are still stuck in many ways, with the problem of the brick. I am obsessionally against the brick, you know, we think brick the antithesis of machine building and yet for practical reasons we never have built in anything else. It is a tragedy. When I was 19 I said I would never design or build anything in brick in all my life, and yet one is face to face in England in this northern climate and in the middle belt of Europe with the fact that brick does the job. You cannot argue with it, and therefore you know there is certain sort of common sense in it. If common sense tells you that you have got to make some poetic thing with brick, you make it with brick.

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Mrs. Smithson: But a time is coming now for a further stand against being pushed towards building in bricks, even if it means refusing a job that needs bricks. We are getting mixed up with the problem of the peasant revival, just as we were up against the 1951 Festival world of everything being delicate, what-ever the situation, whatever the building. Now everything is being done in brick, rough concrete, vast sections of this and that, and varnished planks. We have again to say that this is not solution for every possible thing.

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The Ethic

This discussion covered many areas of Brutalism and the concepts behind it but the takeaways for me were that buildings are more than just the building. It is about how it fits in to and works along-side its surroundings, they should reflect their function in their form so that you can really feel the vibe of an area. Whether that is being the business quarter or a town in rural England the buildings and spaces between them need to be in unison. This responsibility goes deeper which is how the Smithson’s link their work to the work of the so called ‘masters’ of architecture. This was summed up well by Peter when he said ‘The word “expression” is a key one, but one tends to shy of it. We are interested in expressing, not ourselves, but what is going on and a building which denies what is going on is just the opposite of Brutalism’. Peter delved in to his work teaching saying his approach is different also, rather than teaching students how to build a nice house he starts off with if there should even be a house built at all, teaching students why things are built

and then going on to show how to build in relation to surroundings. Peter also went on to further explain why there has been this huge shift, or why it was necessary at least, saying that in the previous fifty years people worked (and lived) very differently – with the advent of modern technologies the organisation of buildings and the proximities to each other was no longer needed how it stood at the beginning of the industrial revolution. ‘These days (the late 1950’s) one does not have an anonymous mass of workers but an egalitarian sort of society with an equal right to work, to walk out in their lunch hour and so on, and a different built pattern should result, rather than taking the existing building and restyling it.’ Showing the total overhaul that Brutalism represented was a huge leap forward in more than just style, but something that could re-define the way we all live, work and relax, also claiming that Brutalism could represent this egalitarian and redefined society. 123


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The Ethic

Essay By Hal Foster

Savage Minds 125


e: Savage Minds (A Note on Brutalist Bricolage) Hal Foster (2011)

The following essay looks at the brutalist movement as a whole, including the work in the arts, the concepts and meanings still stand for the architecture and other side of the movement. ‘It would seem that mythological worlds have been built up, only to be shattered again, and that new worlds were built from the fragments. -Franz Boas as quoted by Claude LéviStrauss in La Pensie sauvage, 1962’ The architects Alison and Peter Smithson and the artists Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson developed the notion of New Brutalism in the early 1950s in the context of the Independent Group (IG), which was forged in the crucible of the austerity of post-war Britain, an austerity intensified by the bounty of American consumerism on the horizon. In retrospect from the late 1980s, the Smithson’s defined this ‘as found’ aesthetic as ‘a confronting recognition of what the post-war world actually was like’: Implicitly, the Smithson’s cast Brutalism as a realism against the simulacral aspect of an emergent culture of advertising and marketing, of the becoming-image of things. Yet we know that the IG was also fascinated by this culture, and, with its echo of the objet trouvé, the ‘as found’ advanced its own version of image-making too. However, in this case, the Smithson’s claimed, ‘the image was discovered within the process of making the work’ whether this be a building, a picture, or an object.

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In his influential definition of Brutalism from 1955, Reyner Banham also stressed, along with ‘clear exhibition of structure’ (a modernist value the Smithson’s sought to reclaim), ‘valuation of material’ ‘as found’ and ‘memorability as an image’. Although Barham did not acknowledge it here, a tension existed between these two aims, and it ran through most activities of the IG. We need think only of Parallel of Life and Art, curated by the Smithson’s, Paolozzi, and Henderson at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in the fall (autumn) of 1953, a controversial array of 122 diverse photographs (aerial views, microscopic specimens, X-rays, art works, everyday events, archival images ... ) that insisted, equally and oppositely, on the physical actuality and the imagistic virtuality of the prints. Or consider the much remarked contrast between the two IG exhibits in This Is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery in the summer of 1956: where the Brutalist group of the Smithson’s, Paolozzi, and Henderson constructed Patio & Pavilion, a bare wood shed roofed with corrugated plastic and scattered with symbolic relics (as if ‘excavated after an atomic holocaust: Barham commented), the proto-Pop group of Richard Hamilton, John McHale, and John Voelcker contrived a frantic funhouse on the theme of the new sensorium effected by mass-media culture. This tension between material and image was a generative one, however, for it led Brutalist artists, in search of forms ‘discovered within the process of making,’ to a renewed practice of collage, a tack-board aesthetic of juxtaposition, as advanced not only in most exhibitions produced by IG members, but also in the work of Paolo, Henderson, and others., Collage is ‘my only method,’ remarked Paolozzi (who extended it to the word manipulations of his poetry), and the same is true of Henderson, at least in his image-screens and photograms. Paolozzi and Henderson were familiar with Dadaist and Surrealist collage from their stays in Paris, where (largely through Wyn Henderson, mother of Nigel, who ran the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery in London) they came into contact with key figures in both movements. Indeed, in Collages and Objets, a show curated by Lawrence Alloway at the WA in fall 1954, the two young British artists exhibited alongside Picasso, Schwitters, and Ernst. If Dadaist collage tends to a transgressive montage of high and low reproductions located in the world, Surrealist collage tends to a disruptive montage of found images that, transformed into phantasmatic scenes, are referred to the unconscious. In effect, Surrealist collage is patterned on the enigma of the psychosexual event, or, as Ernst put it in his classic paraphrase of Lautreamont, ‘the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a place which apparently does not suit them’. ‘For me the found fragment, the objet trouve, works like a talisman’. Henderson commented in the idiom of the Surrealist marvelous; it ‘intercept[s] your passage and winks ‘its’ message specifically at & for you....’. ‘That French approach, the need, the passion, to consider and handle things at the same time,’ Paolozzi added with the Surrealist encounter in mind, is ‘very necessary for me.... The concern with different materials, disparate ideas ... becomes almost a description of the creative act-to juggle with these things. 126


The Ethic Photographs and the front of the catalogue from the Independent Group’s ‘Parallel of Life and Art’ exhibition.

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Images of the Smithson’s contribution to the This is Tomorrow exhibition (1956) - Patio and Pavillion

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At the same time, Brutalist collage transvalued Dadaist and Surrealist versions: rather than privilege either the social or the subjective, it explored the intermingling of the two, whether this confusion was prompted by the traumatic effects of the war years or the seductive promises of consumer culture... ‘it’s no longer necessary for us individually to dream’ J. G. Ballard once remarked to Paolozzi; ‘the fiction is all out there, In this light, we might relate Brutalist collage not only to avant-garde precedents in art but also to contemporaneous models in adjacent fields concerned with the interconnection of the social and the subjective. The one I propose is familiar enough: the Lévi Straussian account of the myth as a process of bricolage. The bricoleur, Lévi Strauss writes in a well-known definition of 1962, ‘makes do with ‘whatever is at hand’ which is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite and is also heterogeneous in contradistinction to ‘the engineer (who) questions the universe’, the bricoleur treats ‘a collection of oddments left over from human endeavours’. This posture resonates with the Smithson’s reaching for ‘what there was, previously unthought of things’ and with Paoloui juggling with ‘different materials, disparate ideas. Although the bricoleur is sensitive to the materiality of his odds and ends, he treats them as ‘intermediaries between images and concepts’, which is to say, as signs in which ‘the signified turns into the signifying and vice versa’, even as ‘operators’ that ‘represent a set of actual and possible relations’. Counterintuitive though it is to connect Brutalism, with its stress on substances as found, to structuralism, with its preoccupation with language as system, Brutalist materials are often treated in this manner too. Consider again the example of Parallel of Life and Art. Its play with meaning was not a matter of Dadaist negation (which Paolozzi and the others abjured): rather than is little sense, the panoply of photographs offered too much, a text of imagistic ‘parallels,’ of unexpected pseudo morphisms and unlikely analogies (e.g., a mud flat seen from above is like the structure of a molecule is like a Pollock drip painting). In short, it exhibited an excess of the signifier not unlike that which Levi-Strauss imagined, in his 1950 essay on Marcel Mauss, to have occurred at the birth of language. As its curators wrote, Parallel was intended to form ‘a poetic-lyrical order where images create a series of cross-relationships’; and as though with the axial structure of language in mind, Henderson added, ‘We looked at the material to reveal its own principles of selection.’ Of course, the primary subject of Parallel was the expanded field of vision permitted by new image technologies; in this respect, it took its cue from the ‘new Vision’ of Moholy Nagy (the X-ray image on the catalogue cover was borrowed from Vision in Motion (19471). Yet another key reference here was the musée imaginaire of Malraux; Henderson noted how the curators exchanged ‘images from (their) own private Imaginary museums,’‘ and Bonham also alluded to this notion in his review. ‘In our cases, however,’ Henderson continued, ‘the contents of these museums extended beyond the normal teens of art to include photographs 128


produced for technical purposes (e.g., of cell structures, geological formations), or for their news value, their importance as permanent records of transient events, and so forth, Greatly extended as the Malrauxian museum was, it was still a museum of art, its heterogeneous works affined by an elastic sense of styles, and it subsumed all creations under a humanist conception of a unitary mankind. Parallel forswore the control of both art and style and threatened the transcendental signified of man. To adapt Derrida on Levi-Strauss, it suggested a different condition, one in which, ‘in the absence of a centre or origin, everything became discourse,’ and in principle its bracketing of transcendental signified’s —not only of art and style but also of subject and author—did extend ‘the domain and play of signification indefinitely.’

The Ethic

Although Levi-Strauss and Derrida modelled this field of substitutions on language, it can be a matter of images too, as it was in Parallel and some other exhibitions related to the IG. For example, at least two shows curated by Hamilton, Growth and Form (1951) and Man, Machine & Motion (1955), were presented as grids of image-texts without words, as if in a proto-structuralist transformation of this quintessential device of modernist display. It was this structure that distinguished these exhibitions from ICA shows such as 40,000 Years of Modern Art (1948), which only extended the historical scheme of the conventional survey, and so did not challenge the transcendental signifieds of art and man—indeed it exalted them all the more. Paolozzi often reached for linguistic analogies for his own work (in lecture notes from 1958 alone he mentions ‘directory of masks,’ ‘alphabet of elements,’ ‘grammar of forms,’ ‘encyclopedia,’ and ‘dictionary’), yet, like Henderson, he favoured one trope in particular, that of ‘the atlas,’ which effectively mediates between words and images-18 Today we might substitute ‘archive,’ and Brutalist bricolage can be understood as an act of collage performed on select materials from personal archives. Levi-Strauss turned to language in order to model cultural productions, such as myth, which are collective and objective, ye not entirely conscious. This was also the nature of the world of Parallel proposed by its curators: The exhibition will present material belonging intimately to the back-ground of everyone today. Much of it has been so completely taken for granted as to have sunk beneath the threshold of conscious perception.... The exhibition will provide a key-a kind of Rosetta stone-by which the discoveries of the sciences and the arts can be seen as aspects of the same whole.. Might we consider Parallel, then, as a mythopoeic enterprise in a Levi-Strauss in sense, one that suggests, as one reviewer put it, “a set of basic patterns for the universe”?. This hypothesis could be extended to other Brutalise projects as well. “Brutalism tries to face up to a mass production society,” the Smithson’s declared famously in April 1957, ‘and drag a rough poetry out of the confused and powerful forces which are at work’. What is myth for Levi-Strauss if not a working over of confused forces, an attempt to resolve real contradictions in a symbolic register? Again, formed in the interregnum between old and new orders, the IG was driven by contradictions-not only the conflict between an old notion of a hierarchical “great tradition” of art and literature a la E R. Leavis and a new notion of culture as a “pop-art continuum” a la Alloway and others, but also the divide between the worlds of art and science, the “two culture” thesis posed by C. P. Snow in 1959, which the Parallel curators seemed to anticipate when they pitched the show, optimistically, as a demonstration that “the discoveries of the sciences and the arts can be seen as aspects of the same whole. Above all, the IG faced the contradiction between a socioeconomic order based on industrial production (to which much modernist art and architecture had responded) and one based on mass consumption (which much post-war art and architecture scrambled to address). This is the primary reason that the mythopoeic aspect of Brutalism was Janus-faced. Some of its projects looked to the immediate past: thus, for example, the survivalist updating of the primitive but in Patio & Pavilion represented “the fundamental necessities of the human habitat in a series of symbols” for a period devastated by world war and threatened by nuclear annihilation.2, Meanwhile, the funhouse display of Hamilton and company looked ahead to the imminent future, which is where most IG members also looked as the IG dissolved: it was equally a “necessity” to propose symbols-myths-for this order too. “Today we are being edged out of our traditional role by the new phenomenon of the popular arts-advertising,” the Smithson’s declared already in November 1956. “We must somehow get the measure 129


of this intervention if we are to match its powerful and exciting impulses with our own, “Popular culture [has) abstracted from Fine Art its As of mythmaker,” Hamilton agreed in a text from 1961. “If the artist is not to lose much of his ancient purpose he may have to plunder the popular arts to recover the imagery which is his rightful inheritance, For his part, Paolozzi dotted his notebooks of the early to middle 1960s with such cues as -historical images re-interpreted to modern requirements” and iconological analysis keeping pace with our century. For Levi-Strauss, ‘the savage mind’ is mythographic as well as mythopoeic. The IG was also both, a “cargo cult” of canny native-informants, making myths by unmaking myths, proposing icons through analysing icons”, For its incipient practice of cultural studies, the IG had local precedents in Mass-Observation, a sociology of everyday British life produced by Humphrey Jennings and others through various documentary means. There was also the example of such idiosyncratic texts as Mechanization Takes Command (1948), in which Siegfried Giedion attempted an -anonymous history” of .the slow shaping of daily life” through “humble things” like locks and keys.28 More immediately, contemporaries had begun to address consumer culture in mythographic terms, as did Marshall McLuhan in Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951), and Roland Barthes in Mythologies, the short texts of which were written between 1954 and 1956. The IG knew the McLuhan but not the Barthes, yet his ideology-critique of consumer-culture myth as an ‘appropriation’ of signs that calls out for counter appropriation if myth robs language ...why not rob myth?”) is not unlike the approach of some of these artists, even if their posture was often less sceptical than seduced. Yet Lévi-Strauss remains the most suggestive analogue, not only for his resonant reading of myth as both “science of the concrete” and “memory bank,” but also for his account of a “savage mind” that seeks parallels where they are least to be expected, parallels that might also be turned into connections: The real question is not whether the touch of a woodpecker’s beak does in fact cure toothache. It is rather whether there is a point of view from which a woodpecker’s beak and a man’s tooth can be seen as ‘going together’... and whether some initial order can be introduced in the universe by means of these groupings.

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The Brutalists were also motivated by a search for correspondences in the world, which they undertook less as subjects overwhelmed by the expanded repertoire of images around them than as mythographers curious as to how these images might “go together”-and what groupings might begin to order the post-war universe.

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The Ethic

In this essay Foster discussed Brutalism after the movement had ended and the time since has allowed reconsidering of what Brutalism meant and stood for, allowing him to refer to a wider range of sources and later writings than the previous writings and conversations which have all happened during the Brutalist period. Foster discussed the retrospective definition of the ‘as found’ side to the movement that the Smithson’s made in the 80s. Quoting the Smithson’s saying ‘In a society that had nothing. You reached for what there was, previously unthought of things... We were concerned with the seeing of materials for what they were: the woodiness of wood, the sandiness of sand. With this came a distaste of the simulated.’ Saying that it came about from the lack of new materials after the war - a continuity of the ‘make do’ attitude almost. I think that this re-evaluation after the fact, by the Smithson’s looking at their own work from a distance, strengthens this aim which Banham listed last to becoming the key pillar of Brutalism as a whole ethic rather than style.

Foster also considered some of the arguments put forward in Banham’s essay, finding some tension between two of the three identified main ‘aims. How you want the materials to not be hidden in the ‘as found’ aim yet also want to produce something with ‘memorability as an image’ clearly meaning the materials would then look like something else, it is this tension that makes the difference between successful Brutalist buildings and those that go unrecognised. Make it too hard to see the materials for what they are, and you get an image yet lose the main aim of Brutalism to use what you have and to show it off. The image aim is a much less vital to the Brutalist status of a building. Honesty comes centrally to the whole movement. Continuing the discussion surrounding the exhibitions etc that the IG put on and how they and the movement explored intermingling of the social and subjective though ‘making do with whatever is at hand’. Meaning people resonate with previously unconsidered things. 131


Part Ten Piecing

it Together

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After going through these essays, I have got an even deeper knowledge of why I feel so drawn to Brutalism. The simplicity of the designs stems from deep thought and reflection on all design work to date and reacts to the ever-changing needs of society years ahead of its time. People weren’t ready to listen, think of when Banham discussed the hostility before Brutalism even had a name. This age of huge leaps forward developing a structure and ideal way of design that could redefine everything we do and how we do it is backed up by learning and real life. The egalitarian style and raw materials un-hidden allow the people inside to shine through. Also, I found it poignant the way that architects allowed people to see what they were designing just from the form, or the ‘image’ created. The buildings were made around their function rather than fitting the function to the restrictions of the building so that everything worked seamlessly and flowed naturally. If you cannot see the clear rationale now, then I don’t think you ever will. Brutalism is the most progressive era of architecture ever and it needs protection before the lessons we learnt from it are lost in the same way the library of Alexandria burned and we lost half the knowledge in the world and took 10 steps backwards. I can’t stand by and let another tragedy happen. 132


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A love affair with Bristols shunned Buildings

Taking a deeper look in to Bristols Brutalist structures, how the ethic shines through and why theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re important.

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Chapter Five


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Chapter Overview: Part Eleven - Bristols Last Few Map of Bristol a: UOB Arts and Social Sicence Library b: Baptist Church c: St Michaels Hospital d: Clifton Cathedral e: Car Parks 134

135 136 139 149 155 163 177


Bristols Last Few

Bristol Examined

Part Eleven

This chapter will be a bit lighter on the reading front than the last! In this one I want to use what I have learnt from those essays and my general appreciation for Brutalism to look at the buildings we have left in Bristol. I want to examine why they were built in a Brutalist style and what makes it important. Mainly though this chapter will be about looking at the nice pictures Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve taken of the structures. This without any writing will be able to show that these Brutalist buildings have achieved one of the keys aims of the style. Being memorable as an image. Rather than boring you with more talk about buildings without seeing them; here are some of Bristolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best bits of Brutalism. (Not a full list by any stretch of the imagination) 135


Brutalist Map of Bristol N

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Hotwells Southville

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City Centre Bedminster

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Bristol Examined

I’ve simplified Bristol down a bit to a few of the key neighbourhoods highlighted by the large squares over the map. Each of the buildings included in the chapter are marked on with their letter so you can go visit them if you’re ever in Bristol in the future. I’ve also included a few that aren’t included in the book as there are just some really nice examples here.

Key: a: University of Bristol Arts and Social Science Library (pg 141) b: Broadmead Baptist Church (pg 151) c: St Michaels Hosptial (pg 157) d: Clifton Cathedral (pg 165) e: Prince Street, Rupert Street and Eugene Street Car Parks (pg 179) f: Cheese Lane Shot Tower g: The Downs Water Tower h: Temple Gate Car Park

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Kingsdown

University of Bristol

Arts and Social Science Library


Underneath a glass lookout the shadows created by the irregular shape are encapsulating.

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The view looking down the west side of the library with the building towering above you.


141 Bristol Examined


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Lead lining left exposed and unhidden around the small angled windows.

More interesting shadows created by the shape of the building, this is something that helps it to stick in your head as an image.

The effect of the weather and acid rain on concrete, staining the building with black marks of city smog.

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143 Bristol Examined


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Irregular shapes made by the inclined walls and angled hooded windows. (image is reflected)

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Broadmead

Baptist Church


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Metal clouds float above the layers of glass and concrete making for quite a spectacle above the city centre Tesco Metro.


149 Bristol Examined


Kingsdown

St Mi- chaels Hosp- ital


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The tallest point in the building making a point of the antenna and technology involved in the build.

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Overhanging first floor supported by pillars over a service area for air conditioning units etc keeping all elements of the building on show.

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A section of the pre-cast concrete used for the structure, given slight texture from the mould it was poured in.

Raw and simple fixings that are not stylised, they serve the purpose they look like they do.

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People going to and from the hospital entrance, waiting for loved ones or going to visit.


155 Bristol Examined


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Clifton Village

Clifton Cathe- dral


Detailing the design even goes down to the shapes of the bins, triangular to fit with the hexagonal design.

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View of the spires and main building from Pembroke Road, silhouette against bright sky.


159 Bristol Examined


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West Door entrance, and concrete porch; left open when the church is unoccupied

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Portal of St Paul entrance

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Turret next to the Portal of St Peter entrance


161 Bristol Examined


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Following the hexagonal theme originating from the shape of the base of the spire, this candle holder is strung on a chain at the back of the nave

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Looking up from the baptisery the light highlights these paintings hung up


163 Bristol Examined


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Looking up through the windows in the roof above the sanctuary

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Stained glass runs along the back walls of the church to give some nod towards a more traditional church.

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Looking across the altar pit and sanctuary towards the organ in the shadows.

Some of the hidden ceiling windows within the complex concrete design help to give this angelic soft light.

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Hexagonal cut-outs to help the sound baffles above the light airy sanctuary.

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Everywhere

Car Parks


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Supporting column of Eugene Street Car Park. Reversing mirrors in Eugene Street Car Park, an NHS Car Park by the BRI.

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A large chunk of concrete missing from a supporting pillar, exposing some of the steel reinforcements, at Eugene Street.

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A â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Vâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; motif at the base of the car park further helps this gem stand out, it has faced demolition a few times over the years but has sine been Grade II listed.

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Using diamond shapes on all sides of the building as a technique to disguise the building but not hide its purpose

Rupert Street Car Park, the supports here are away from the edges of each floor giving the appearance that each floor is floating

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Air-conditioning units with exposed cabling, makes repairs much easier

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What now...

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Bristol Examined

Where to go, who to follow and people to watch out for in the ever growing brutalist sphere.

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Chapter Six


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Chapter Overview: Part Twelve - Where to Find More 191 Part Thirteen - #brutalism 192 Part Fourteen - Organisations and Exhibitions 198 Part Fifteen - Books and Longer Reads 202 Part Sixteen - Picking up the Gauntlet 206 Credits - 217 176


Part Twelve

Where to Find More

What now...

Wow, we’ve got here - it’s probably taken you less time to read this than it took me to write, but that’s past the point. Over the last nearly 200 pages I hope to have imparted at least a little knowledge and insight about Brutalism. I set out at the start of writing that I would at least try to change some of the opinions on Brutalism that seem to be so cast in concrete. I’ve explained why it came about in the first chapter, explored why it’s hated in the second, looked at what and who makes Brutalism so great in the third chapter and then got in to the writings behind it by some of the biggest brains in the Brutalist movement. In the journey of research and writing this book I have learnt more about Brutalism than I thought I ever would and my love for it has only deepened. Reading conversations that the architects who brought Brutalism to Britain had felt like a privilege. Thinking about the stories that some of the buildings in this book tell - concrete may have been the ‘go to’ because it’s cheap; it may have been chosen by architects to help persuade clients to go for it because of its price but its meaning still shines through. The meaning behind the movement can be seen in many of the buildings that are still standing in Bristol today. Unfortunately there have been so many casualties of the critics of Brutalism, Bristol’s old court house has been

demolished - a place that stood for justice and the values of the nation, represented in the acts that went on inside but amplified through the design of the building, now bulldozed and all but forgotten about. This is why we need to protect our last few examples in every city and town up and down the nation, before we forget the lessons we have learnt from the architects that put brutalism together from the ground up. To do that I want to now be able to provide a springboard of places to go. With this knowledge under your belt you can tell others about the ethic of Brutalism as often as I do. You can go follow Instagram accounts, support organisations and just generally keep the hype up around it because if people are talking about Brutalism we won’t lose more prime examples and we won’t forget the things we can learn from such a forward thinking architectural movement. I am also going to take a quick look at current Brutalism - seeing what architects are picking up the gauntlet and trying to restart the fire of Brutalism. In 2020 the most prestigious prize in architecture was won by a Brutalist design, a young architectural practice trying to revive a style that has as much relevance now as it did when it originated first originated nearly 70 years ago. 177


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Manchester Airport T3 Car Park, shown on @brutal_architecture

Palace of Assembly, Chandigarh, built 1951-62â&#x20AC;&#x2122;, shown on @thisbrutallife

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Part Thirteen

#brutalism


Mill Owners Association Building, India, shown on @barbican_city_ of_london

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Instagram is where my love for Brualism really began, seeing pictures of these grey buildings that surrounded me glorifying something I’d never even considered to look at. I was hooked instantly, black and white made everything so dramatic and I wanted to be able to take my own photos, so I bought a camera and started posting photos. Here are some of my favourite accounts with some of their best photos along side.

@barbican_city_of_london ‘Informative, passionate and dedicated, this account is a visual feast that celebrates the various aspects of brutalist architecture. A variety of impressive images spanning brutalism’s roots in modernism to its manifestations in the 70s and 80s.’ @brutal_architecture ‘Showcasing the beauty, menace and raw power of brutalist architecture around the world’ @thisbrutallife ‘A documentary style that captures several aspects of some of the UK’s best and lesser known examples. Mainly colour shots of brutalist architecture in the UK and sometimes Europe.’ 179


Part Fourteen

Organisations and Exhibitions

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The main organisation about Brutalism that I support, and follow is #sosbrutalism they have an archive of over 1800 buildings from across the world, they have put on exhibitions in Venice, Amsterdam and much of Europe. They campaign for protection of Brutalist buildings and help to spread awareness of the cause. On their website they provide a platform for people to see rutalist architecture from around the world allowing users to post their own examples and get them added to their list, colour coding each example with the status either - Saved, Endangered, Least Concerned and Unknown. sosbrutalism.org @sosbrutalism

Images that form part of the exhibition at the Southbank Centre in London

#sosbrutalism


Books and Longer Reads

What now...

Part Fifteen

There are four books I would recommend going out to get or borrow from a library, these helped me to write this book but also helped me to figure out my own position on Brutalism. A couple of them are more photo books but with a small amount of writing then the other two are meatier and you can really get your teeth in to.

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Atlas of Brutalist Architecture - Phaidon

This book is huge but it documents nearly 900 buildings across the globe doing this in a easy to understand way it categorises each building as to what condition it is in and is helping to spread awareness of the rate we are losing key brutalist examples. The back of the book lists the buildings by year so you can really see the resurgence beginning. The opening to the book is also personal which is a nice touch - overall great coffee table book to get lost in for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.

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) This Brutal World - Peter Chadwick

Another coffee table style book that brings together a wealth of brutalist design, this is not as wide reaching as the Atlas of Brutalist Architecture but it does pull on key quotes that are good to think about and actually apply to life in general. Nice to have on the bookshelf.

) How to Love Brutalism - John Grindrod

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A great take on the beast, exploring every side to brutalism you can think of and more! This really gets deep in to what Brutalism can be, exploring the art realms and how it has been exploited by capitalism, can get in a digital copy for ease of reading, means your friends don’t know you’ve bought another book on brutalism as well.

) Raw Concrete - Barnabas Calder

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A very personal journey about a man’s love of concrete and the forms it can take, exploring individual buildings that are personal highlights for him, Calder imparts knowledge and feeling. The book includes QR codes to scan which take you to digital pages with additional photos of the buildings he talks about in each chapter. The book feels friendly like you’ve received a letter from a friend, a real deep exploration of what the style means and how it can look at its best. 181


Picking up the Gauntlet

In the last 15 years there have already been more Brutalist buildings built than the full two decades before that. This shows a clear resurgence in popularity, despite some Architects denouncing that they work in a Brutalist style, their work and principles match up well to the ethics and aesthetics of classic, even traditional, Brutalism. In 2020 the Pritzker Architecture Prize, what is considered the most prestigious award internationally, was even awarded to Grafton Architects a firm decorated in accolades that often works with exposed concrete in and what I would call a modern Brutalist style.

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In this final section of the book I want to show you that Brutalism is not dead - the style might have been on the back burner for a few years but now we have had enough time to process it and what it stands for. These are a few of the groups that I think you need to watch out for over the coming years as opinions change and Brutalism in any form works its way back in to a more mainstream form of building design.

View from School Building in Rodeneck Italy, using concrete for the outside walls

Part Sixteen

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Their most iconic brutalist design being a Fire station in rural Italy. This is how they describe the project on their website: “The project captivates with its clear, compact structure. The red color is a symbol of the function and underlines the independence of the new building. Of course, the narrow bar takes up the existing buildings and binds them with the street Front faces face the place confidently, creating an upper place and a lower place, with the upper (saloon) and lower rooms (vehicle hall) being aligned accordingly.

Founded in 2005 by the brothers Armin and Alexander Pedevilla in Bruneck, Pedevilla is all about sustainable building, means not only the technical measurability of energy efficiency, but above all a conscious handling of social, cultural, economic and ecological components of everyday life. The integration of a building into existing local structures plays a role, as does the consideration of the respective temperature and climate influences or the selection of ecological building materials.

The functions are well arranged, the application paths reduced to a minimum internal stair also make the building a link between the street and the parking lot. Particular attention was paid to a robust and simple construction. Structural lightweight concrete was therefore used as the material. A special feature of this project is the high level of skill of the shell, which means that only a few finishing works were necessary to complete the construction.”

“We build with local materials, with local artisans and the characters of the people who live here. It is not an intellectual, but an emotional matter: we want to give our projects the opportunity to age with dignity. We are concerned with the cycles of the materials used, their durability and lifespan, but also with traditional methods of traditional craftsmanship, with knowledge believed to be lost, but above all with the fact that materials live.” A & A Pedevilla.

Clear references to Brutalism from the lack of ‘finishing works’ and the pigment being added. Despite this being non-traditional of Brutalism, the thought behind this clearly denotes the station for what it does from the outside. Their work is always clean and minimal even if they don’t use concrete - keeping the materials they use on show and using as local materials as possible. This really sticks in the egalitarian side of Brutalism putting the people first through supporting the planet.

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Building viewed from across the valley

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The simple form of the building and colour link easily in to its purpose

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Firestation stairs creating easy access to the outside

The metal features such as doors, railings and window frames are also all a shade of pinky red that works in unison with the slight pigment To the concrete

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The room for the trucks is flooded with light from the shutters


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Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara co-founded Grafton Architects in 1978 having graduated from University College Dublin in 1974. The practice has won numerous awards for their work. In 2016, Grafton were honoured by being awarded the inaugural RIBA International Prize for the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) in Lima, Peru. It has recently been announced that they have won the 2020 RIBA Royal Gold Medal. Shelley and Yvonne have been selected as the 2020 Pritzker Prize Laureates, the award that is known internationally as architecture’s highest honour.

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Graftons Pritzker Prize winning design, UTEC building in Lima, posts and the columns and supporting joists create amazing shadows

‘The unique condition of Lima and its relationship to the Pacific, with cliffs defining the boundary between the city and the sea, was a starting point in the conception of this project. A green valley connects the site with the sea. The UTEC campus project is conceived as a ‘new cliff’, continuing the sea edge, clearly stating and defining the University on its new ground’. Grafton here are showing clear reference to Brutalism’s direct reflection on society, I think this project is the perfect ‘rough poetry’ to be drawn from this scene as Peter Smithson might say. Their design relates so well to the surroundings while also standing for future and learning of the people that use it. Other projects from Grafton are often working in this same style for university campuses across the globe. Clearly promoting the same values and ethics that original Brutalism stood for. Taking these and promoting them in this modern world continuing on the story. Using minimal fixtures to keep functionality and materials ‘as found’ visibly up on the agenda. The memorability as an image is also definitely a key part of Grafton’s designs, striking shape and interesting use of levels making shapes that stick in your brain. They really are a front runner championing Brutalism for the generations to come. 187

What now...

II Grafton Architects


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Initial sketches of the design, planning the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;man made cliffâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;

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Institut Mines-TĂŠlĂŠcom, Paris-Saclay, agian using a sort of exo-skeleton to the building

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The side profile of the building really shows the different layering of the sections

Formed of five architects this small studio started in 2009 has put together several interesting nontraditional Brutalist projects. Mainly using wood in their designs, the clad buildings don’t hide the structures used to hold them up making features of supporting poles etc. They have also produced one stunning building of pure concrete, stand alone and bold their designs don’t shy away from being different. In this building of the control tower a lot of thought went into layout, functionality and perceptions from the outside of the design. On their website this is what they had to say: ‘Materiality: Materiality and colouring of the building structure are closely related to known and used materials in hydraulic engineering. Concrete as a technically perfect building material. The dark, brown colouring with reference to the dynamic components of the power generation. The pressure line, turbines and transformers are made of metallic materials that are extracted from ores.

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Function and Form: The basic functional idea is the vertical stacking of the individual functional areas. Each functional unit is organized on one level. This clear hierarchy also simplifies the administration of the access and security areas.’ Despite not being traditional in all their builds and realisations their work fits in to a wider perception of Brutalism and supports the ethics and ideas. Keep an eye out for their work developing on. 190

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Steel stairs just bolted on to the concrete no hiding how they are attached

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The windows set back in the concrete walls

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Credits: Villa Goth - Bengt Edman, Lennart Holm (1950) //Raw Concrete - Barnabas Calder (2016) Penguin House // Atlas of Brutalist Architecture - Phaidon Editors (2018) Phaidon Press // Sebastian //Archdaily (2014) Website // Le Corbusier (1958) Unité d’Habitation //Norwich New Housing Estates (1950s) Image // How To Love Brutalism - John Grindrod (2018) // The Guardian - British governments used to cough up for social housing. Not this one - Jonn Elledge (2018) // Current Affairs - Why you hate contemporary Architecture (2017) // Concrete and council housing - Nicholas Thoburn (2018) // Balfron Tower - Ernő Goldfinger (1967) // Grenfell Tower - Nigel Whitbread (1972) // Robin Hood Gardens - Alison and Peter Smithson (1972) // Alexandra Road Estate - Neave Brown (1968) // Trellick Tower - Ernő Goldfinger (1972) // This Brutal World - Phaidon (2016 ) // What went wrong at British Steel? - Rob Davies (2019) // Office for National Statistics (2016) // Wiki How - Step By Step to make your own concrete (2018) // British Steel Histroy (2020) // Trellick Tower portaits & interviews - Nicola Muirhead (2017) // Broken concrete - The constructor (2015) // Quote, Good City Form Kevin Lynch (1981) // The New Brutalism - Reyner Banham (1955) // Wikipedia Team 10 - Unknown (2020) // The New Brutalism - Theo Crosby (1955) // The New Brutalism - Alison and Peter Smithson (1957) // A conversation about Brutalism - Alison and Peter Smithson, Jane Drew, Maxwell Fry (1959) // Architectural Review - Philip Johnson (1954) //Architectural Drawings - Alison and Peter Smithson (1950) // Theo Crosby Picture - White Chapel/ Pentagram // Villa Savoye - Le Courbiser (1921) // Architectural Design (1957) // TheSpoonsterSpouts (2020) // Wills Memorial Building Wiki (2019) // Mainstudio (2020) // Concrete and Council Housing - N Thoburn (2018) // Eshgruppa (2019) // Clifton Cathedral (1973) // Prince Charles // Villa Savoye - Arch 1201 : Design Studio 3 (2012) // 13 Accounts to Follow - 20 Bedford way (unknown) // brutal_architecture - Instagram // barbican_city_of_london - Instagram // thisbrutallife - instagram // notreallyobsessive - instagram // #sosbrutalism - campaign to present // Concrete Dreams - Southbank Centre (2018) // Rewiring brutalism - Barbican (2018) // Pedevilla - Architects // Grafton Architects // Bechter Zaffigani Architekten //

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What now...

Gokah (2016) Guardian article // Quote - Sebastian Goka (2014)


Monstrous Carbuncle

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What now... Monstrous Carbuncle Seb Lansdowne Š 2020 University of The West of England Graphic Design

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Monstrous Carbuncle

SOS BRU T A L I S M

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Profile for Seb Lansdowne

Monstrous Carbuncle  

Monstrous Carbuncle - A book exploring brutalism the most misunderstood architectural era ever seen. A student book designed for my final m...

Monstrous Carbuncle  

Monstrous Carbuncle - A book exploring brutalism the most misunderstood architectural era ever seen. A student book designed for my final m...

Profile for seblan
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