Post war and brutalist architecture

The term Brutalism was derived from the French ‘Béton brut’, or raw concrete, and the expression became associated with a movement emerging in postwar British architectural offices. 

Post war and brutalist architecture

The British public shares a love-hate relationship with this strong architectural language. The monumental Preston bus station by BDP is the most recent dispute on the value of Brutalist architecture.

Significant buildings such as Robin Hood Gardens and Birmingham City Library await demolition. Others such as the ‘Get Carter car park’ by the Owen Luder Partnership have already been eradicated.

Read below some further information by Simon Phipps whose new blog dedicated to post-war and brutalist buildings can be accessed from here.

Brutalism’s properties were characterised by the critic Reyner Banham in the Architectural Review, December 1955:

1. Formal legibility of plan;
2. Clear exhibition of structure,
3. Valuation of materials for their inherent qualities “as found”.

Banham further argued that great architecture derives from the correct interaction of structure, function and form whilst also requiring a necessary conceptual element in order to have ‘memorability of image’.

Although the brutalist tendency in post-war British Architecture has been assailed both by derision and real antipathy, Brutalist Architecture as realised by such practitioners as Erno Goldfinger, Sir Denys Lasdun and Rodney Gordon is now universally recognised for it’s expressed structure and exposed materials of concrete, block and brick. These qualities sitting alongside a-formality and anti-geometric plans allow for the necessary conceptual content that makes some of these building ‘great’ and provides ‘memorability of image’.

Simon Phipps photographed a number of buildings that sit within a loose Brutalist principle and rather than present them as photographic prints have produced them as monochrome images printed directly onto an aluminium substrate. I felt this would capture the idea of ‘valuation of materials “as found”, whilst aluminium also resonates with concrete as a material in its visual neutralness.

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