“Suspended between life and death, these buildings remind us of the power that architecture can possess upon its inception, but also of the forces that conspire against it once it is judged to have become old, out-of-shape, obsolete or ugly."
Concrete monstrosity, the architecture we love to hate – that’s how people used to describe brutalist architecture. There was probably not a single architectural style (and whether it is a style or not is yet to be discussed) that was demonized and hated as much as Brutalism, especially during the 70’s, the 80’s and even in the 90’s as well.
Suspended between life and death, these buildings remind us of the power that architecture can possess upon its inception, but also of the forces that conspire against it once it is judged to have become old, out-of-shape, obsolete or ugly.”
Others simply rely on the universal canons of beauty, and apparently, raw concrete was not exactly the prettiest sight back in the day.However, since the society continued progressing and changing its perspective, a strange phenomenon struck us in the 2010s – Brutalism became popular.
So here we are in 2018, watching the style finally reaching its long overdue recognition, even being fetishized and replicated through collectible vinyl toys and similar consumerist products. So how did the ultimate villain become a hero all of a sudden?
Stylistically, Brutalism probably came from the prominent Modernist architect Le Corbusier and his project for Unité d’Habitation in 1952. The style was quite quickly embraced by British architects in particular Alison and Peter Smithson are believed to have coined the term “Brutalism”, and it gradually became easily relatable to the capital itself. This was moderately strange, given that Modern architecture came to Britain quite late, and it was then soon sort of “replaced” by Brutalism. Although it was (probably unintentionally) inaugurated by Le Corbusier, Brutalism cannot be fully assimilated with Modernism. Perhaps we could describe it as some kind of an alternation – Modern architecture with a livelier character, maybe.
Some would even argue that Brutalism comes as a crossover between Modernism and Postmodernism in architecture history.
Words Henry Blair
Photograph Jonathan Wood