BRUTE & BEAUTY – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT BRUTALISM
Disappear Here is a project aimed around (re-)exploring the Modernist/Brutalist culture of Coventry architecture, particularly its ringroad – so what exactly is Brutalism?
At its heart, Brutalism refers to a style and form of architecture that became prevalent throughout Europe- and the rest of the world – in the 1960s and 70s.
A natural evolution from the trim, clipped but ultimately very safe structures that defined the post-war movement of Modernism, Brutalism took building design to the level of sculpture – perhaps the strongest instantiation of architecture as art.
One of the most important thing to say about the movement, is to define its terms. The cliché runs that many of its buildings and structures appear BRUTAL; concrete, harsh, imposing – and this tied to the image of the defensive outpost housing estate or tower block.
In truth, the name derives simply from a French term – beton brut – meaning raw or exposed concrete – whereas brick is often rough and craft; stone blocks serene and classical – brutalism is noted for its use of concrete, fitting with its main era of 60s-70s as a visceral and highly tactile aspect that has evolved over time into pure, flush smooth skins and weathered and aged, neo-classical lumps. In fact, where other materials are basic, elementally defined – concrete is complex – the rock version of steel - and it is this near fluidity, frozen music, indeed, that makes it so inventive a medium. It carves its own space, it is not contrived by place.
The key argument against it, the documentary below goes into much greater depth on this – is the idea of the “concrete monstrosity” coined by the pseudo-everything (definitely not architect) The Prince of Wales – whose saccharin and oh-so sympathetic faux community of Poundbury in Dorset was established as the most intellectually effete and ineffectual volte face to Brutalism – and the modern world the rest of live in outside of Kensington and Chelsea that has been “created” before or since – in short – society shifted its ills from governments, councils and people to the buildings around them – the white elephant as highly visible and vulnerable scapegoat.
Want to find out more?
Jonathan Meades :: Bunkers Brutalism and Bloodymindedness Concrete Poetry
The natural evolution of Brutalism? Concrete poetry – the harshest, most direct mode of poetic form that made bold new shapes from often minimalist use of words – ideas writ large – but that’s another blog post…