Throw Back Thursday - Are you a Brutalist?

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Concrete buildings, fireplaces, furniture, lighting, sculpture and jewellery – once you start looking, Brutalism can be found just about everywhere!

But what exactly is Brutalism? The Brutalist label can be applied to the work of a number of architects working in the 1950s, 60s and 70s – such as British couple Alison and Peter Smithson, Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, and Miles Warren from New Zealand. They all used contemporary materials and techniques to create buildings that sat comfortably with the geography.

Characteristics of Brutalist buildings were to leave the concrete unfinished and use repeating patterns in a modular or grid-based way. They tend to show their construction materials rather than attempting to conceal them. The absence of decoration – some- thing that Brutalism inherited from the earlier Bauhaus School – allows Brutalist designs to focus on the building’s purpose.

So, where did this approach to architecture come from? Europe had just emerged from the most destructive war in history, with widespread devastation to housing and commercial buildings. So architecture that could be designed and executed quickly and efficiently, with a minimum of unnecessary decoration was attractive! However, the style declined in popularity after the 1970s, and as we know, many Brutalist buildings were sadly demolished.

But over the past decade or so, affection for Brutalism has been on the rise, spurred on by campaigns against demolition, which has generated greater public awareness. There’s even a Facebook group, the British Brutalism Appreciation Society, where members share images of Brutalist buildings across the UK – it’s utterly fascinating!

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Woo Gilchrist