SoLocations: London Can Be So Brutal

5

Brutalism's aficionados are few and far between, so this is a lomowalk I prefer to do alone, taking my time appreciating the various sites. Here is my route through some of the best Brutalist architecture London has to offer!

Credits: twizzer88

Architecture often looks to the past for inspiration — the Neo Gothic, Neo Classical, Romanesque Revival, etc. Brutalism, whose name derives from the French for ‘raw concrete’ (béton brut), cannot be accused of this; Its buildings, often mere council flats or bus stations, are weird and wonderful monuments to the future.

An offshoot of the Modernist Movement popular between the ‘50s and ’70s, Brutalism was once associated with utopian socialist ideals and the belief that better houses would lead to better people. Now, it is symbolic of urban decay — the concrete doesn’t weather to well in Britain’s soggy climate. Moreover, its buildings are criticised for being unsympathetic to their surroundings, but this is what makes them special for me. They constitute an imaginative and creative break with the past, both in terms of style and in terms of who was seen as deserving of ‘good’ architecture.

What better place to start the tour than the Barbican Estate in the City. Due to its uniform Brutalist style, it appears like a large alien growth in the centre of London. Rising from the wreckage of the Blitz during the ‘60s, it is probably the the UK’s most prominent example of Brutalism — thoroughly deserving of its Grade II listed status. The self-contained area houses residential towers above and an arts’ centre, a museum, a concert hall and a school below, all connected by a maze of walkways in the sky.

Credits: twizzer88

There is also a sunken garden with waterfalls, fountains and trailing plants — a ‘concrete jungle’ if there ever was one.

Credits: twizzer88

Next stop is Trellick Tower in North Kensington, a 31-story, Grade II* listed block of flats, most of which are still social housing. Following the ‘form follows function’ shibboleth of Modernism, the lift shaft is easily identifiable from the rest of the building.

Credits: twizzer88

The Tower is now somewhat of a cult London landmark, featuring in various music videos, such as The Verve’s This is Music:

Carrying the typically English terrace house into the future is the Alexandra Road Estate in Camden, a series of 520 apartments, including a school, community centre, youth club, heating complex, and parkland. Backing onto a railway line, its ingenious zigzag structure acts as a sound barrier. Admittedly, it is in need of some TLC, but its Grade II* listed status should hopeful ensure its presence for future generations to wonder at.

Credits: twizzer88

The Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury is a similar design, and shows how Alexandra Road could look with a lick of paint. It is a mixture of social housing, cafes, shops and a cinema.

Credits: twizzer88

Last, but not least, on this architectural tour is the South Bank Centre on the River Thames. Like many of the other Brutalist buildings on this tour, it has a social use as a cultural centre. It was designed as the stage for the ‘Festival of Britain’ (1951), which aimed to give Britain a sense of recovery after WWII. However, perhaps due to its prime location, it has not received listed status.

Credits: twizzer88

That concludes our brief roundup of some of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture. Though you still might not find it attractive, I hope to have at least highlighted how interesting and innovative these buildings are. Their continued use for social housing and cultural projects and their often listed status is cause for optimism. However, in today’s economic climate, many Brutalist buildings outside of the capital are facing an uncertain future; Preston Bus Station and Birmingham Central Library (both unlisted) are due for demolition soon.

It is the 30th anniversary of English Heritage, so there is much talk of conservation in the media. Just as the Victorians were unappreciative of our ancient monuments and the post-war generation critical of Victorian architecture, today it is our recent Modernist architecture that is increasingly regarded as disposable. There is talk of retrieving the Victorian stones of the Euston Arch to reconstruct it, will we see a future campaign for the rebuilding of Preston Bus Station, designed by the same engineers as the Sydney Opera House? Sign the petition here to save it.

written by twizzer88 on 2013-04-25 in #world #locations #locations #solocations #brutalism #urban-adventures #london #england #lomography #architecture #city #lomowalk

5 Comments

  1. math0165
    math0165 ·

    Awesome, really interesting!

  2. emilios
    emilios ·

    I really like your pictures. Absolutely love London!

  3. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    great article

  4. bisilala
    bisilala ·

    wicked! great pics and great article!

  5. phoenix1206
    phoenix1206 ·

    A great article!

More Interesting Articles

  • Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-04-06 in #gear #reviews
    Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    There are quite a few perks that come with working for a film photography company, and the best perk of all is testing out the latest cameras. I can remember buying my LC-A back in 2009 and being really inspired to shoot film again. When the LC-A 120 came along, I couldn't wait to try it out around London. Join me as I test out this super medium format beauty.

  • My Lomo’Instant Quick Tips

    written by tomas_bates on 2014-11-12 in #gear #tipster
    My Lomo’Instant Quick Tips

    I backed the Kickstarter project for the Lomo’Instant earlier this year and was thrilled to receive it last week. I love how the camera naturally encourages you to experiment with its different features, whether it’s through flashing your multiple exposures with different colors or trying different creative techniques after your shots has been ejected. Here are a few tips from what I’ve discovered from playing with the camera so far (and a couple of tips I want to try out in future)!

  • Nat Geo Photographer Cory Richards Shares his Insights on 'A Tribute to Discomfort'

    written by chooolss on 2014-06-06 in #lifestyle
    Nat Geo Photographer Cory Richards Shares his Insights on 'A Tribute to Discomfort'

    We've often heard how going beyond our comfort zones can be so rewarding, yet not many of us aren't ready yet to do it. But photographer and athlete Cory Richards is one of those brave few who has constantly gone out of theirs not only to take awe-inspiring photographs, but to communicate the human experience itself to the rest of the world.

    1
  • Shop News

    Lubitel & film bundle

    Lubitel & film bundle

    This beautiful camera features such ability to let users choose and switch between 35mm or 120 formats! Shoot more, save more! Get this Lubitel camera and get 15% discounts with Lomography Films!

  • The World, According to Herr Willie: The Amazon

    written by wil6ka on 2015-04-09 in #world #locations
    The World, According to Herr Willie: The Amazon

    It was the Amazon which I had longed for my whole life. And when it was finally a set deal that I will travel to Brazil with two of my best friends for the Copa do Mundo (World Cup), we really had to start our adventure in the Amazon. I had known about this magical place deep in the rainforest. There was a lodge run by local people of indigenous background, with wooden houses that float on the water and a limited number of visitors. It was eco-tourism as how it should be. To preserve and to celebrate one of the most impressive locations I have seen so far.

    6
  • The Imagery of Modern Times

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-04-19 in #world #lifestyle
    The Imagery of Modern Times

    A book chronicles the chameleon-like history of photography as art, personal diary and popular consciousness.

    1
  • Black and White Urban Scenes by Berenice Abbott

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-04-19 in #world #lifestyle
    Black and White Urban Scenes by Berenice Abbott

    Berenice Abbott documented the sped-up pulse, concrete towers, and busy crowds of New York. These black and white images, as well as her pioneering work in science photography, appear in a thicker reissue of a classic Aperture book.

    1
  • Shop News

    Sit, Stash & Fold

    Sit, Stash & Fold

    Get both appealing LomoDices for your home! These cardboard cubes can be used for different things – they make great, stylish seats but you can also stash small items inside and fold them for storing!

  • The Lomo LC-A Visits Los Angeles

    written by givesmehell on 2015-04-19 in #world #locations
    The Lomo LC-A Visits Los Angeles

    Los Angeles—the second largest city in the U.S.A. after New York City and the most populous city in the state of California. L.A. is vibrant and phenomenal. With the nickname "City of Angels," we are sure to find some gems here.

    1
  • Fresh LC-Wide Snaps from the Community

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-04-19 in #people
    Fresh LC-Wide Snaps from the Community

    Make way for some of the latest additions to the LC-Wide collection in the community (also, find out how you can earn piggies and have your very own snaps featured on the Online Shop)!

    3
  • The Youth of Ukraine in Pictures

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-04-19 in #world #lifestyle
    The Youth of Ukraine in Pictures

    Photographer Daniel King followed a group of Ukrainian youth at a time of grave political unrest. These lads and misses had what King discovered to be curiously normal lives, a stark contrast to hawkish protests in the news.

    1
  • Shop News

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Whatever kind of film development you're after, you'll find it here! Now you can confidently shoot from the hip without having to worry where to develop those film rolls!

  • FotoFilmic Second Call Winners, Get Ready for the Third One!

    written by givesmehell on 2015-04-19 in #world #competitions
    FotoFilmic Second Call Winners, Get Ready for the Third One!

    This is the third and last call for entries for FotoFilmic's photography contest! Submit your entries for FotoFilmic'15 until June 14, 2015 and stand a chance to win prizes from Lomography!

  • Photo of the Day by kierselinsky

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-04-19 in #world #news
    Photo of the Day by kierselinsky

    A table for two by this stunning view, please.

    1
  • Aikosmile is our LomoHome of the Day!

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-04-19 in #world #news
    Aikosmile is our LomoHome of the Day!

    From everyone here in Lomography, congratulations to aikosmile for winning Home of the Day!