Art Archie..

Pinterest Button[Standard/None]

Brutalist architecture

Brutal­ism was a style that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, adapting from the modernist architectural movement. Its monolithic concrete buildings composed of blunt rectangular forms, devoid of colour, decoration or symbolism, with cavernous interiors that complement the exterior’s hulking, inhuman scale. It may have been described as oppressive, yet architects, preservationists and his­tor­ians have embarked on numerous campaigns over the past decade to save extant Brutalist buildings from oblivion.

In the 1920s, my French architect Le Corbusier popularised an arch­itecture that celebrated simple cubic forms of raw concrete as the epitome of modernism. Did he start the modernist fondness for raw concrete? The idea of natural finishes meant that the concrete was intentionally left raw.

After WW2, architects and engineers looked to con­crete as the material that would help with mass hous­ing and urban renewal. Unrefined concrete was an honest expres­sion of their eth­ical goals, while plain forms and exposed structures were just as ethical. With the arrival of metal reinforcing, concrete came into its own with greater expanses and stronger structures. From Soviet housing complexes to Western European community projects, Brutalism became a modern, efficient and cheap solution for mass services. Brutalism had an era of popularity with professionals until the mid 1970s, but probably not with the general public.

So Brutalism was not just a style; it aimed to respond to a mass-production society. Up to now Brutalism has been discussed stylistically, whereas its essence was ethical.

It was functional, economical and progressive. It was essential to consider Brutalism’s ethics and politics. Firstly, Brutalism evokes an era of optimism and belief in the permanence of public instit­ut­ions – government as well as public housing, educational and health facilities. Furthermore who wants more private developments destroying and replacing community-owned facilities?

High Court Building, Canberra
Opened by Her Majesty the Queen, 1980.

Inevitably Brutalism became popular for public institutions, esp government buildings, cultural complexes, schools, universities and hospitals eg Canberra’s High Court Building and National Gallery of Australia, and Sydney’s University of Technology’s Tower.

Fans of concrete noted that it was a very beautiful and sculptural material when it was well looked after. But then all buildings re­qu­ired regular maintenance because all materials deteriorated, including concrete. This became very obvious in the 1960s when Brutalism went global.

Aesthetics provided a cover for this move, especially in inner cities where Brutalist institutions sat on valuable land. But restoration and renovation, rather than demolition and rebuilding, were often more sustainable solutions.

The idea of drama was central to Brutalism. The buildings were designed to celebrate the community wanting to make public space central! So these buildings were built with the idea of public good in mind.

I am examining two examples of Melbourne’s Brutalist architecture. One such example was the very grey Harold Holt Swimming Centre in Malvern. Designed by Daryl Jackson and Kevin Borland in 1967, the complex was one of Melbourne’s first to be built in the Brutalist style and was probab­ly one of the state’s most important instances.

Harold Holt Swimming Centre, Malvern

The swimming complex originally consisted of two indoor pools and an outdoor Olympic-sized pool, diving pool with dive tower, wading pool and changing rooms. The indoor centre was a glass and concrete structure distinguished by its unpainted concrete block and off-form concrete construction in which the patterns created by the timber form-work were clearly seen. The principal components of the building's functional and structural system were emphasised as pos­itive elements, in particular the circulat­ion elements including concrete pedestrian ramps and semi-circular stair. There was a transparency through the entire site and natural light was maximised by glass walls on the indoor pool complex, enab­l­ing a clear sight line from the diving pool on the northern boundary through the pool complex to High St to the south.

The City of Ston­nington has been trying to refurbish the building for some time, however the Heritage Council intervened and planned to give it heritage protection.

Harold Holt Swimming Centre does not represent the city’s first attempt to protect a Brutalist structure. In 1997, there was much controversy surrounding the alterations to the National Gallery of Victoria and in 1999, a section of the Waverly Park Stadium was heritage listed when the venue was closed down.

By 1863 the Free St Kilda Public Library and Mechanics’ Institute was operating in the old Town Hall (now gone). But before WW1 the library was in decline and after transferring to the present Town Hall, closed down.

Sweeping lines of wide overhanging eaves and sloping wall surfaces that appear to float over the ground. St Kilda Library fits happily into its environment, 1973.
Photo Credit enricotaglietti 

In Dec 1971 a tender was accepted to construct Enrico Taglietti’s design and the new St Kilda library was opened by the Victorian Governor in May 1973. Its building referenced St Kilda’s waterfront setting: a sleek grey ocean-going cruiser its 10 metre high smoke-stack towers over saloon windows and portholes piercing its battleship grey flanks. The library was a deceptively large building, it covered c50 metres square from Carlisle to Duke Sts. This Brutalist design, with its stained rough timbers and exposed raw concrete, was a clear nod to Le Corbusier.

In 1994, Ashton Raggatt McDougall’s design for a major addition to the library was under construction, along with their major addition and reconstruction of the Town Hall complex opposite.

Note that Perth Brutal: Dreaming in Concrete will be at the Art Gallery in Perth from Sept 2019–Feb 2020, celebrating the gallery’s 40th anniversary.


No comments:

Post a comment


Popular Posts

Powered by Blogger.

Random Posts

Recent Posts

Recent in Sports

Header Ads


Stay Connected

Subscribe for New Post Notifications

About Me

Contact Form


Email *

Message *


My Instagram

About Author


This season, the American designer will showcase a series of historic objects from the New York museum's.

Stay Connected

Sidebar Ads

My Instagram

Category Background[Hex Color Code]

Recent Posts

Unordered List

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.
  • Aliquam tincidunt mauris eu risus.
  • Vestibulum auctor dapibus neque.

Sample Text

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.


Theme Support

Need our help to upload or customize this blogger template? Contact me with details about the theme customization you need.