Why we must learn to love brutalist architecture

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Why we must learn to love brutalist architecture
La cite radieuse, Le Corbusier

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Why we must learn to love brutalist architecture
La cite radieuse, Le Corbusier

Are you mad about concrete? Does you heart skip a beat when you walk through the foyer of the National Theatre? Do you plan day trips to Coventry Cathedral (with its hammered-concrete high altar) or Leeds University, where students look politely puzzled as you exclaim over their magnificent brutalist halls of residence?

I admit I am a late convert. Growing up in the 1970s in the West Midlands, concrete was the stuff of flyovers and walkways, badly designed shopping arcades and piazzas, and brutalism – the bold but divisive architectural movement which lasted from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s – was fast falling out of favour.

What began as a utopian project to design new schools, libraries, hospitals, housing estates, city halls, using the most cutting-edge building techniques, was deemed to have failed; resulting in ugly, inhuman buildings, unfit for purpose.

Birmingham (and, in particular, Spaghetti Junction with its giant concrete columns) was a byword for mockery. I blushed when anyone mentioned I came from there. […]

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