A BRIEF HISTORY
From the 1950’s until the mid-1970’s, concrete structures ruled architectural design. This architectural style became known as ‘Brutalist’ for its starkness and angular buildings. Brutalist originated from the French word for ‘raw’, used by French architect, Le Corbusier, to describe his choice of material, béton brut (literally, raw concrete).
Brutalism became popular with governmental and institutional clients, with numerous examples in Britain, France, Germany, Japan, the United States, Canada, Brazil, the Philippines, Israel and Australia. Many of the buildings were constructed for educational establishments, most notably universities, but there was very little commercial use of the Brutalist style. In Great Britain, Brutalist architecture was used for high-rise homes, shopping centres and Government projects. Many of the architects of the era took it upon themselves to plagiarise plans and ideas, resulting in copycat buildings with perhaps a hint of the architect’s own style.
There was considerable dislike of the Brutalist movement amongst architecture critics and, in Britain, from Prince Charles, who’s opposition to the style produced many a tongue lashing for the hapless architect, often in the public domain! But there are those who, with the passage of time, have come to love Brutalist architecture. A goodly number of remaining Brutalist buildings have achieved listed protection through English Heritage and other such bodies. Yet other iconic buildings such as the recently demolished Birmingham Library have been passed over when really, they should have been saved.
All of the photographs in this project have been made to give some credibility to the buildings in one way or another; perhaps some reflections as in the first image or a splash of colour here and there. There are only four colour images, the last two of which may be a little off topic but, for me personally, rather exciting!
I am, perhaps, more than a little sympathetic towards Brutalism and I hope that you’ll see a little of that sympathy in my photographs.
THE CITIES OF LIVERPOOL, MANCHESTER & NOTTINGHAM
Brutalism isn’t just huge monoliths; small structures were built too. A disused Police Station at Bebington on the Wirral Peninsular and Colwyn Bay Fire Station illustrate smaller scale buildings.
BRIDGES AND FLYOVERS
Concrete and the Brutalist style was also used to construct bridges, walkways and flyovers. The flyover featured below carries The Mancunian Way across the south of the city. The two walkways are both on Merseyside, Churchill Way in Liverpool and at Prenton on the outskirts of Birkenhead. Someone must have loved the Prenton walkway for it featured in a TV commercial advertising “Cathedral City” cheese!
And someone equally loved the Churchill Way complex and the flyover in Manchester for both received awards from The Concrete Society, the former in 1971, the latter in 1968.
I suspect that there are many art installations, which are constructed in concrete. One such feature in Shrewsbury weighs in excess of 110 tonnes and is dedicated to Charles Darwin, who was born in the town in 1809. One wonders if he turned in his grave!
THE “NEW” BRUTALISM?
Modern architecture is a joy, for me anyway. The beautiful curves, the angles, glass reflecting neighbouring buildings, their towering heights and luxurious interiors are pure seduction. But what about those utilitarian structures used on the modern railway? Who thought of constructing something like this…
An electricity sub-station and the facade on the multi-storey car park built by Network Rail. Both structures are metal, probably iron. But what lovely structures they are. I was drawn instantly by the colours and spent quite some time getting just the shots I wanted.
If this is to be the future… well, there’s one chap who’ll enjoy photographing such colourful New Brutalist structures!
All images © Tony Harratt & ƒ50 Collective 2016 – All rights reserved