Brutalist architecture is a movement in architecture that flourished in popularity from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. The term originates from the French word for “raw” as béton brut (raw concrete) is primarily used in the construction. One of the finest examples of brutalist architecture can be found by visiting the Barbican Estate in central London. Designed in the 1950s by three young architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the complex houses over 4,000 residents and is Grade II listed as a whole.
Barbican Estate, London
Brutalist buildings don’t lend themselves at all well to the grey British weather which dampens their appearance. Le Corbusier who is considered the Godfather of Brutalism constructed a lot of his buildings in the south of France for this exact reason. In the UK however brutalism started to become synonymous with urban decay because maintenance of housing estates was way down everyones list of priorities.
It’s not all doom and gloom though as for me the Barbican is one of the more interesting places London has to offer. As you’re enveloped by the brutal architecture, the complex takes on a life of its own. You can climb up high for a spot of people watching, get lost in the network of walkways within the estate or visit the Barbican Art Gallery which usually has some interesting exhibitions on show.
During my visit Ragnar Kjartansson’s ‘Second Movement’ was displayed at the Barbican Lakeside. The work featured two women in quintessential Edwardian costume rowing a boat and embracing in a never-ending kiss. It was quite a surreal sight considering the location but an interview with one of the women summarised the piece with this amazing quote:
“Sexual orientation, politics, social status, race, none of that mattered. We just kissed.”
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It wouldn’t be a Style Division post without a lookbook so for my latest outing I played it simple with some Converse hi tops, sweatshirt from River Island, headphones from Master & Dynamic and a backpack from côte&ciel.
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I honestly have no idea why out of all the different architectural styles Brutalism is becoming one of my favourites. Maybe I just like the word ‘brutal’ or maybe I like simplicity. Brutalism is a style with an emphasis on textures and unusual shapes but structural simplicity remains a key ingredient.
Scale is also extremely important as the style is characterised by massive concrete shapes colliding abruptly. Although the prominent Lauderdale Tower is a frequent winner of London’s ugliest building award, a case can be made that the new apartment blocks built around the city lack the soul and stature of their predecessors.
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