world’s finest examples of Brutalist architecture.

Atlas of brutalist architecture

When British architecture critic Rayner Banham first popularised the idea of a ‘Atlas of brutalist architecture’ in his well-known 1955 essay, he described these cumbersome and infrequently colossal concrete buildings as an ‘ethic’ fairly than an aesthetic. Quick ahead 70 years and Brutalism – to most – has appeared boiled right down to nothing however an aesthetic, albeit a remarkably stark one in its plenty of sculptural, lumpen and trendy concrete, rearing over the parklands and cityscapes of northern Europe. However on selecting up Phaidon’s new (and appropriately dense) Atlas of Brutalist Structure, this aesthetic turns into more and more arduous to pin down.

The atlas is international – from the tropical warmth of São Paulo to the uncovered outcrops of Sheffield, it reminds us that Brutalism isn’t simply the Barbican, and matches into the mould of no matter local weather it’s poured into. Within the aftermath of the Second World Warfare (with cities carpet-bombed, machine-gunned and pulled aside), there was a have to construct new housing and services, and to do it shortly. On the identical time, architects and the governments who supported them started to reject the apolitical cleanliness of pre-war Modernist structure. The Smithsons, who led this cost with a youthful antagonism within the UK, rejected the gentle and trendy mannerism that had preceded them. It was an structure autre – consciously troublesome, hardy, and deeply materialistic. Brutalism wasn’t pretending to be something it wasn’t; they knew {that a} good building is tough to maintain down.

Flip by the pages of the atlas, and Brutalism impresses with its hugeness: making use of low-cost supplies and functionally poetic designs. And even whereas the Smithsons have been extra involved with “stream” than “measure” (they weren’t the most important followers of impolite geometric buildings), the model that quickly accelerated throughout the globe got here to outpace them. What we all know – and love and hate – at this time of Brutalism is wildly various, tending each towards the plumply spherical to the savagely sharp. Le Corbusier’s Unite d’habitation (Marseilles, 1952) sits on one finish of the spectrum; its delicate concrete pilotis supporting a surprisingly mild concrete quantity with painted façades, all conceived as homes for the folks.

On the opposite aspect of the spectrum now we have London’s Southbank Centre, a daring, experimental collection of stacked volumes which create, nonetheless you stroll throughout the location, constantly contemporary and shocking views. The 2 buildings don’t look a lot alike, however they each share a dedication to imagining (or, because it have been, actually constructing) a brand new type of world. On the identical time, the editors, of their introductory textual content, communicate brazenly about getting previous the ‘canon’ of what Brutalism is, mentioning Goldfinger and Corbusier alongside modern practitioners Peter Zumthor and Tadao Ando. We will additionally see vital designers comparable to Brazilian Lina bo Bardi (who constructed the large and enjoyable SESC Pompeia) talked about alongside designers comparable to Eric Owen Moss, whose newer Brutalism has been dragged into the formally convoluted period of Zaha Hadid.

The cavernous and hulking Brutalist shapes we all know within the UK share guide area with surprisingly sinuous and surprising designs in Brazil, Japan, and Australia, which emerge as vital centres for Brutalist experimentation. Joao Filgueiras Lima’s 1974 Exhibition Centre of the Administrative Centre of Bahia in Brazil seems to be like one thing between a spaceship and a bridge, floating above the plush greenery of its surrounding parkland. Equally outstanding is James Birrell’s Townsville Campus Library in Australia, courting from 1976, solely two years later. It is a modern collection of fats panels resting on a curving base which has the looks of river-rounded stone. They’re each Brutalist so far as the editors are involved, however extensively, wildly totally different. Atlas of brutalist architecture This takes us far past the picture of concrete cubes rising from English metropolis centres (which have their very own dramatic magnificence).

After all, Phaidon’s launch of this tectonic index comes not lengthy after the tragic demolition of London’s Robin Hood Gardens, which was the Smithsons’ first main Brutalist design. What would possibly go up instead can be clad in plastic, and lightweight as air – nevertheless it gained’t be as memorable. On this means, the atlas acknowledges the paradoxically fragile standing of many Brutalist buildings, commenting on their situation and utilization, resulting in a type of ‘endangered species’ label for at-risk buildings. A worry, then, lingers over the pages that the moral impulse that kickstarted Brutalism is changing into more and more distant – at which level the atlas might simply develop into a guide of the useless.