8
Oct 04

I like Brutalist architecture.

The Brown Wedge1 comment • 208 views

I like Brutalist architecture. I like the colour of rained-on concrete and I love big, blocky geometricality. I’m always attracted to creative movements which name themselves by reclaiming the insults which defined them in the first place. Am I weird?

I understand it’s been fashionable for some time amongst some nebulous urban elite to like brutalism, (cf Trellick Tower) so I don’t feel too strange. Still, it seems my taste is out of step with that of the public, at least the public as represented by Man of the People Pete B, who has a pop at Birmingham’s old Bull Ring. Which I loved.

One of the obvious problems with much of the best brutalist public architecture is that of maintenance: often these buildings were badly mistreated and felt depressesd and depressing. It may be that the one brutalist masterpiece which the GBP seems to like, or at least to tolerate, is the glorious South Bank Centre, Southwark’s wonderful two fingers to Westminster and lively gateway to London’s golden quarter. It’s been much better looked-after these past few years and its popularity seems to have grown simultaneously.

But this aesthetic battle is lost, at least for now. The phrase “sixties monstrosities” has entered language and the idea behind it seems to be fairly well-embedded also. People hate it all, even (so I heard on the radio this morning) the good old Telecom Tower, which I thought everyone loved. There seems to be a blind hatred of concrete, and a horror of unadorned buildings.

Which is why (he says, getting to the point) I was so pleased to see Justin Hibbs‘s show of paintings of Portsmouth’s recently-demolished Tricorn Centre at One In The Other. (OITO’s website hasn’t been updated to deal with this show, and sadly doesn’t show these paintings, but it has some of JT’s others, to give you an idea).

I enjoyed them tremendously. They feel glowering, threatening and mildly melancholic, like the Tricorn itself in its distressed later years. Steve noted that the blank skies lent themselves to a feeling of out-of-contextness, abandoned utopias sitting in nowhere. These pictures seemed to have the same relationship to picturesque Victorian goth ruinism as the Tricorn itself had to Victorian gothic. They’re bare and say, in their shades of grey way: “why shouldn’t this be beautiful, too?” There’s no reason that I can see, no reason at all.

Comments

  1. 1
    E. Abraben on 1 Nov 2008 #

    In 1960 architects broke the rules,
    and designed many jewels.
    They called them brutal and ugly too,
    because they were done by a gifted few.

    The forms led to the newest wave,
    So free, soaring, designed so brave.
    I am delighted my life has extended into these wonderous years,
    So I can join without any fears.

    The horrors of the mundane that line our streets,
    cannot compete with the beauty of our feats.

    An Architect with passion

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