Posts tagged with "Brutalism":

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Brutalist Building Revival: The National Arts Centre Reopens in Ottawa

All too often, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reports the demolition of yet another Brutalist structure—the perpetual bane of the public eye for reasons architects only half-pretend to care about. So it was refreshing to celebrate the reopening of the National Arts Centre (NAC) by Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects. The $110 million overhaul retained the original architectural motifs, while opening it up to the public with large spans of glass and warm wood interiors. The existing one-million-square-foot NAC by Canadian architect Fred Lebensold was on the public’s blacklist from the start. Intended for the Canadian centennial in 1967, it wasn’t finished until 1969 and went over its $35.4 million budget by over $10 million. Critics immediately jumped on the excess budget and delayed opening as well as its style—a reporter for the Toronto Star dubbed it “the Alcatraz on the Rideau.” Beyond matters of taste, there were serious issues with the building. “When it was built in the 1960s, it was assumed that the only way you would go to the [NAC] was by car,” architect Donald Schmitt told AN. “So the building wasn’t really accessible to pedestrians, and the road down [to the entrance] meant that the building’s back faced the city.” Inside, natural lighting was limited and the thick concrete walls made Wi-Fi connection difficult, much to the frustration of its modern users. Thus, in 2011, the NAC hired Diamond Schmitt to renew the building for Canada’s sesquicentennial. The first phase was complete in time for Canada Day this past Saturday with the remaining two phases slated for completion by early 2018. Schmitt’s design for the new wing builds out from the original terraces, now enclosed in large part by a 28,300-square-foot glazed curtain wall system, creating an airy effect amidst the weighty frame. Echoing the original concrete facade fins, which encase the stage house, audience chambers, lobby, and public spaces, Diamond Schmitt installed five new vertical fins that serve as window mullion caps. The shallowest fin is used on support spaces; intermediate fins are applied to public lobbies; and the deepest cap is located in the north atrium, to frame the newly created views to Parliament Hill. A broad, white oak staircase leads the public deeper into the building and doubles as stadium seating, reminiscent of the stairs the firm designed at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto. In all, the addition creates six major new spaces to accommodate various audiences and programming, including an expanded “Panorama Room” that looks over the Rideau Canal. “We wanted to reveal views that just weren’t possible with the old structure,” Schmitt said. In keeping with Lebensold’s original geometry, hexagonal prefabricated Douglas Fir coffers in the ceiling double as structural support and Ontario limestone was used for the floors. “We cut [the limestone] on the flat for a curvilinear shape—a fleury cut—that creates a unique pattern,” added Schmitt. Above the new entrance on Elgin Street, a glass tower the NAC dubbed “the Lantern” rises 68 feet tall, intending to create a new landmark aligned with Ottawa's iconic Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. The Lantern is the opposite of the former inscrutable main entrance that faced the canal, where a never realized public plaza and lagoon were to have been situated, virtually inaccessible from the street. The new light-filled entrance is digitally enabled to screen performances on four sides of its hexagonal facade, a flashy upgrade amidst Elgin Street and Parliament Hill’s gothic revival architecture. With an on-time completion (even with a tight 18-month construction schedule) and praise from local officials and media, it seems that the building’s latest iteration is already off to a solid start. And for Diamond Schmitt Architects, it is a promising warm-up to its renovation of Ottawa’s 1912 Union Station, another heritage site (and architectural dupe to New York’s original Penn Station), which is currently under construction and set to reopen and house the Senate in 2018.
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Fire may have wiped out archive of Skopje’s design by Tange, Isozaki, Doxiadis, and others

The Institute for Town Planning and Architecture in Skopje, Macedonia has vanished in a fire on April 21, 2017. The Institute housed an archive of one of the largest post-earthquake reconstructions orchestrated after World War II. This urban reconstruction was led by Kenzo Tange with Arata Isozaki and involved scores of international architects and planners. They included Doxiadis, Van der Broek, Bakema, Polish architects, as well as domestic Yugoslav planners mainly coming from Croatia. The archive housed documents of the rebuilding: plans, memos, reports, booklets, books, and models. Many of them have been lost. This fire has largely been reported in local media. Artists, architects, and the public created a series of postings on social media. It is not clear what the scale of the damage has been. The planning institute was housed in a construction barrack ever since the earthquake. It is not clear why the Institute did not move to a more permanent location. However, and under lesser known circumstances, a few years ago, the barrack that housed the Institute was foreclosed and became an occasional squat for homeless. The records on the internet, social media, and personal mail show books, stacks, and flat files covered in black ash. According to these records, the site is still left uncleared although this may have been changed. Tange's reconstruction plan was a response to the 1963 earthquake that leveled large parts of Skopje. As a rapid response, Yugoslav socialist leader Josip Broz Tito initiated a solidarity campaign to invite the world experts to lead the reconstruction. As the aid started to come into Skopje, including construction material, prefabricated homes, and machines, it was quickly dubbed as the "City of Solidarity." The United Nations ran a competition for the reconstruction. The First Prize went to Kenzo Tange whose team proposed a mixture of brutalist and Metabolist urbanism. Several revisions were made. As a result, other teams including Croatians, Dutch, Greeks, and Slovenians joined the planning and design efforts. Several masterpieces got built, including infrastructure, housing, and cultural projects. The brutalist aesthetic almost overnight became Macedonia's new identity. In 2010 Abitare magazine carried my article about heightening tensions in Skopje with photographs by Armin Linke. The tension between left and right wing politics focused on brutalist architecture as a key culprit in the conflict. The younger architects in Skopje were already preparing for the worst, while still organizing opposition to a nationalist re-branding of their city in clever ways. Unfortunately, the government proceeded with the plan called Skopje 2014. This ongoing plan involves about two dozen government buildings and hundreds of monuments in a kitsch neo-classical style. The reason goes deep into state identity politics and Macedonia's disputed use of its own country name led by Greece. The center of the dispute is the claim that Alexander the Great is allegedly from Macedonia. According to Skopje 2014, Macedonia must assert its "true" national identity by building fake classical architecture. We predicted that "Skopje will disappear" because of this bold, nationalist pseudo-classical proposal to hide anything Tange did. The article can be found here. Later on, we moved to publish two books documenting socialist architecture in Yugoslavia. They included Skopje's planning institute and records of Tange's legacy within a larger context. The planning institute we visited was indeed housed in a construction barrack. The dark wooden corridors displayed the architectural successes of Tange's master plan via black and white photography. The conference room had a wooden model of the master plan displayed on the large table in the center. On the walls were original plans for zoning, traffic circulation, and all that usually fits into a master plan. Rolls of rolled paper were in plastic buckets designed in the 1960s. There were pencils next to the model. All was authentic, except for a cheerful: "Happy New 2009" colored paper arrangement on the front wall. I realized that I did not just enter the Institute for Planning and Architecture, but a memorial for the plan itself. The reconstruction of Skopje, an icon of a brutalist phoenix, was on display as a permanent exhibit. This is not the first fire of brutalist architecture in Skopje. The last fire occurred in 2013 when a brutalist post-office, again designed by the Yale graduate, was partly damaged. Then we can mention the fire at Yale in 1968... or fires caused by the traumatic memory of loss in films by Andrei Tarkovski (Mirror) and by Wim Wenders (Paris Texas). Each house on fire is a testament of erasure or conflict rather than resolution. In Skopje, an ongoing clash between the left and the right makes anti-fascist and nationalist positions binaries in war. Thus the right in power labeled Tange's urbanism as socialist and tried everything to hide it. This includes the plan called Skopje 2014. This plan, still ongoing, is a series of Las Vegas style pseudo-classical sculptures and government institutions built to hide socialism. Fingerpointing is relatively easy, but prone to manipulation.
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Iconic Kenneth Treister–designed modernist Miami tower threatened

Miami has a reputation as a place that is supportive of adventurous architecture. It is home to several firms building internationally and its property developers understand the branding value of affixing design stars' names to buildings. It has, of course, been known for its winter holiday architecture going back to the 1920s and architects, for their part, seem more than willing to still build there and take a whack at a glass tower channeling South Florida’s blue sky’s, aqua water, and relaxed lifestyle. However, there was a time in the post-WWII period when Miami was less internationally focused on selling to international buyers and had a small group of local designers who tried to create another architectural aesthetic that the architectural historian Jean-François Lejeune calls ‘Tropical Brutalism.’ There is a building—known as Office in the Grove—that represents this earlier Miami aesthetic and, with its fate is uncertain, Docomomo US/Florida is asking for it to be designated as a historic architectural resource. It's is an eight-story hexagonal, concrete tower floating over a three-level, grass-landscaped pedestal and it's an example of that homegrown Miami style. It was designed in 1973 by the important Florida modernist Kenneth Treister, whose buildings are important in the urban landscape of South Florida, particularly in Miami and Miami Beach. Lejeune argues that the concrete style (arguably refined to its finest expression by Paul Rudolph on the west coast of Florida) intended to create openness in public buildings while responding architecturally to the climate, and is part of a larger argument about the style known as Brutalism. There quite a few of these public projects still in existence scattered around Florida. However, they are increasingly under attack as no longer relevant and are being reconfigured.Lejeune points, in particular, to The Miami Dade College campuses (1961) by Pancoast-Ferendino-Grafton-Burnham (with Hilario Candela as primary designer) as well as William Morgan’s Police Memorial Building (1971-75), both of which are in excellent condition. The explanation of how Brutalism was meant to be an expression of the notion of the public may be hard to understand today but was based on notions like patios, open air-circulation, monumental public entrances, and sheltered loggia "assertively conveying a nobility of public service in behalf of the law" as architect William Morgan wrote about his Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale (1976-79), now threatened. Lejeune points, in particular, to The Miami Dade College campuses (1961) by Pancoast-Ferendino-Grafton-Burnham (with Hilario Candela as primary designer) as well as William Morgan’s Police Memorial Building (1971-75), both of which are in excellent condition. The explanation of how Brutalism was meant to be an expression of the notion of the public may be hard to understand today but was based on notions like patios, open air-circulation, monumental public entrances, and sheltered loggia "assertively conveying a nobility of public service in behalf of the law" as architect William Morgan wrote about his Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale (1976-79), now threatened. As a commercial office tower, Office in the Grove is not a public building, yet it is significant for its conveyance of ‘publicness.’ This, along with many other respects, qualifies it for designation as a landmark. Besides its substantial street presence (at 2699 S. Bayshore Drive) it is among the first buildings to be constructed of post-tensioned concrete slabs and a completely prefabricated concrete facade. It features an important integration of architecture and landscape and is a building that integrated art into its concrete surface with styled period images of the Everglades. According to Docomomo US/Florida, "this was Miami's first office building to give the community an eye-level, landscaped grass berm as its facade." Office in the Grove also is one of Triester's best buildings and it would be a tragedy if it is left to the fate of developers. The hearing is September 5 and we will report on the application to preserve this important work of architecture. It will be held at the City of Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board's hearing at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr., Miami, FL 33133.
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Update: Renovation of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center nears completion

UPDATE 8/8/2017: A new image of the Orange County Government Center surfaced on Twitter and sparked quite a discussion. That tweet has been embedded below; the original article begins after the break.
Since early 2016, when images surfaced showing the skeletal condition of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, construction has continued at a fast pace in the Village of Goshen, New York to renovate and expand the iconic Brutalist building. New pictures reveal the scope and scale of the renovations. This saga began in 2011 when the municipal occupants vacated the complex citing damages from Hurricane Irene and began the process of planning its remodeling. After Boston-based designLAB withdrew its proposal because of ethical concerns over the project’s scope, Rochester, New York–based Clark Patterson Lee took on the renovations. Against the almost united outcry of architects and preservationists, the county government ultimately decided to demolish roughly one-third of the complex and replace it with a new architectural appendage. The new wing cuts off access to the central courtyard from the outermost corners of the site and leveled much of the exterior site design, dramatically changing the building's relationship to the ground. Additionally, the corrugated concrete blocks from the facade were stripped from the reinforced concrete frame and replaced only after the interior walls and windows were gutted. The video below, from early April, shows construction in progress: In a meeting with the Orange County Building Committee in March of this year, Clark Patterson Lee presented a full set of floor plans. They show an extensive revision of the interior organization of space, favoring conventional double loaded hallways instead of Rudolph's more organic layout. The plans also indicate a subdued sectional profile that eliminates many of the dynamic elevational changes found in Rudolph's seminal sectional perspective drawing of the building. County officials were not immediately available for comment regarding their motivations for the interior refiguring or decision to demolish part of the historic structure. However, a recent report from The Warwick Advertiser does cite a county official who stated that the project would be done “on time and on budget.” For others though, discontent with the project persists. Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo US, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture, recently visited the site, calling the renovations a “cultural crime.” She also highlighted the precarious future for Rudolph's other buildings around the country, including Government Civic Center in Boston. As construction comes to an end, loyal disciples of the Brutalist style may elegize the Orange County Government Center such as Rudolph designed it; however, architects may yet find value in the final building as a cautionary case study for how to strategize future preservation efforts.
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The birthplace of Brutalism in the U.K. is at risk of losing its most outstanding concrete building

Dunelm House in Durham, U.K., more commonly known as the Durham Students' Union, is facing an ominous future. The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, "is minded to issue a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI).” A campaign, though, is trying to save the building. Durham University applied for a COI in April last year and then launched a competition calling for a redesign of the concrete structure. In December, Bradley neglected calls from Historic England to award the Brutalist, 51-year-old building Grade II listing status. The university argues that adapting Dunelm House would be too expensive, costing an estimated $18 million. For many, however, news of what appears to be the building's impending demise will be sad news. Brutalism has roots in Durham—Peter and Alison Smithson met there while studying architecture at Durham University. Aside from that quirk, Dunelm House has won significant praise. In its year of opening, the building won the 1966 RIBA Bronze Medal and the Civic Trust award. In their statement, however, the DCMS said: "Having considered advice, it has been decided that Dunelm House does not meet the special architectural or historic interest requirements for listing." Designed by the Architects’ Co-Partnership, Dunelm House was engineered by Ove Arup. In material and form, it compliments Arup's Grade I listed Kingsgate Bridge–a structure which was completed in 1966 also. Kinky detailings, such as the arrangement of chains found attached to the concrete are unique and fun (words not always associated with Brutalism). They are also a visual joke–way before postmodernism came along–of tying the building down. Slopes which make for great section drawings are in response to the topography of the site which dramatically veers down to the River Wear's banks. They also maintain views of the impressive 937-year-old Durham Cathedral which rises above the trees forming a landscape coalesced by the Kingsgate Bridge. Speaking to AN, post-war British architecture historian and author of Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism, Barnabas Calder reacted to the DCMS's statement:
This is very clearly a building which, as Historic England recommended, should be listed: It is a superb example of 1960s university architecture, in which Britain led the world. Even the university's own argument that it is too expensive to repair falls down on the fact that it will cost a good deal more to replace it with anything worth having. I can't understand why the DCMS has decided to overturn the advice of the experts at Historic England, and their statement does nothing to answer the question. Dunelm House is an exceptional piece of Modern architecture—sensitive yet bold, original yet full of rich references to the great architecture of its period... If the university thinks it can get half so good a new building on the same site for less than the cost of repairing Dunelm House it's living in a dream.
Christopher Beanland, author of Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings Around the World, also gave his thoughts on Dunelm House:
Clearly, it's a significant building that works in its surroundings. You look at it and initially think - yes it's aggressive, yes it's attention seeking, yet that part of the River Wear is a very peaceful place and the more time you spend there watching the students on bikes or in boats the more it seems friendly.
A petition to help save the building is available online here and naturally, there is a "Save Dunelm House" Twitter page.
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Brutalist Manhattan tower may be secret N.S.A. listening post

Local news sources, including The New York Times, are reporting that a 550-foot-tall windowless tower in Tribeca is being used as a "listening post code-named Titanpointe by the National Security Agency." The article was inspired by short film—dubbed Project X and first reported on by The Intercept_—that says Titanpointe was one of the facilities used to collect communications (with permission granted by judges) from international entities that have at least some operations in New York, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, as well as 38 countries. Construction began in 1969, and by 1974, the skyscraper was completed. Today, it can be found in the heart of lower Manhattan as 33 Thomas Street, a vast gray tower of concrete and granite. The brutalist structure, still used by AT&T and, according to the New York Department of Finance, owned by the company, is like no other in the vicinity.
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There’s a ton of Brutalist architecture in Washington: Here’s how to find it

The love for Brutalism is on the rise in the U.S., especially on the East Coast. In late 2015, the book Heroic compiled buildings in Boston built between 1960 and 1977. This was based on an exhibition of Boston’s concrete buildings at pinkcomma gallery, itself born from the city's architectural community move to save Boston City Hall. As more concrete looks destined for demolition, interest in Brutalism has swelled: Cue #SOSBrutalism and the like. Boston, of course, isn't the only Brutalist haven. Washington D.C. too is home to many post-war relics/icons (the choice is yours) and now a map is out to help you find them. When Blue Crow Media published their Brutalist London Map, they didn't disappoint. Now the British publishing firm has released another Brutalist map, "Brutalist Washington"—their fourth to date after their Art Deco London and Constructivist Moscow maps. Founder of BrutalistDC Deane Madsen was also on hand to help with the map, which features 40 examples of "concretopia" ranging from Harry Weese's Gallery Place Chinatown Metro Station to the Hirshhorn Museum and the Sculpture Garden by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). “As more and more examples of classic Brutalism face demolition by neglect, we hope that putting these examples of D.C.'s Brutalist architecture on the map will foster public appreciation that ensures their longevity," said Madsen in a press release. In post-war America, Washington D.C. witnessed a plethora of Brutalist architecture rise up in wake of the 1945 Redevelopment Act. Nathaniel Owings (of SOM) and Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei were the forebearers of the master planning process of the city, notably for the National Mall vicinity and Weese's subway station in the 1970s. The Brutalist Washington Map is available for $10.00.
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McKeldin Fountain is the latest Brutalist work to be pulverized in Baltimore

In Baltimore, contractors have begun demolishing a symbol of the city’s renaissance and the mayor who sparked it, the McKeldin Fountain at Pratt and Light streets. The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore has led the effort to tear down the fountain, named after former Mayor Theodore McKeldin, and replace it with a landscaped plaza that members argue would be a more welcoming gateway to the city. The fountain and adjacent plaza were designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas Todd, a founding partner of WRT, as part of the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor renewal area in the early 1980s. An example of Brutalist architecture made with a series of concrete prisms and walkways, the fountain is owned by the city and listed in the city’s official inventory of public art. It is dedicated to the former mayor who first proposed in 1963 the idea of rejuvenating Baltimore’s Inner Harbor waterfront. Members of Baltimore’s public art commission have questioned the demolition, saying they never agreed to de-accession the city-owned work, much less let it be torn down. But the city’s law department overrode them, saying the art commission serves only in an advisory capacity to the mayor, who supports the partnership and its demolition plans. Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation has not gotten involved in the controversy, saying the 1982 structure is not old enough to be considered for landmark designation or protection. Two pedestrian skybridges that were connected to the fountain were taken down more than a month ago. Last Saturday, crews with a spike-wielding excavator chipped away at the concrete piers on the fountain’s perimeter, reducing them to rubble. By the end of the day, the fountain appeared to be past the point of saving. Demolition activity is expected to continue on the triangular parcel through the month of November. After that, the Downtown Partnership plans to create a temporary park, which is expected to remain in place until funds can be raised for a permanent replacement. There has been talk about the city’s planning commission holding a design competition for the site, but no details have been disclosed. For now, Philadelphia landscape architect David Rubin has designed a temporary plaza after Ziger/Snead Architects and Mahan Rykiel Associates bowed out of the project. The Downtown Partnership is a private group supported by local businesses and its board meetings are not open to the public. Its president, Kirby Fowler, has said that some of the immediate corporate neighbors of the fountain believe it is an eyesore and should be replaced with a more attractive gateway to downtown. Fowler several years ago led the effort to tear down another work of Brutalist architecture in downtown Baltimore, John Johansen’s 1967 Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. Board members of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects have said they believe the McKeldin Fountain shouldn’t be razed until the city has approved a design for its permanent replacement and funds are in hand to complete construction. Fowler has said he wants the fountain gone as soon as possible, even if the partnership doesn’t have funds for a permanent replacement. The timing is also affected by the pending departure of the current mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is leaving office in December after deciding not to run for reelection. Voters will determine her replacement next week. The way the project has been handled has drawn criticism from members of the arts and design community, who contend the general public never had any real say in the demolition or what will  replace the fountain. “This is a victory for false nostalgia, fear of the future of the public realm, and the expanding mandate of government and design by nonprofit corporations instead of people,” lamented Fred Scharmen, a Baltimore architect and educator who has questioned the demolition and the lack of transparency in the decision-making process.
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Brutalist housing project, Europe’s largest protected building, to be renovated within five years

The Park Hill housing project in Sheffield, U.K. has suffered a turbulent, roller-coaster ride since its completion in 1961. Now a listed building—the largest protected building in Europe in fact—Park Hill has been subject to scorn and adoration from politicians, architects, artists, musicians and residents. Park Hill is currently being renovated by developers, Urban Splash, who this month, announced that the project will finally be completed by 2022.

In 1945, British architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith began designing Park Hill; they drew from on Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation and Peter and Alison Smithson's unbuilt 'streets in the sky' concepts. Upon completion, Park Hill had a warm reception, receiving praise from the likes of Reyner Banham along with positive articles in national newspapers such as The Telegraph, The Times and The Economist.

Writing for the Architectural Review in December, 1961, Banham said:

Park Hill seems to represent one of those rare occasions when the intention to create a certain kind of architecture happens to encounter a programme and a site that can hardly be dealt ‘with in any other way, and the result has the clarity that only arises when - as in the Villa Rotonda - aesthetic programme and functional opportunity meet and are instantly fused. But what Park Hill abundantly demonstrates is that there are other kinds of architectural clarity besides the Classical.

By the 1980s, however, the area had become notorious for attracting trouble. Flats had become rundown and Park Hill was synonymous with drugs and crime with this being down to a number of complex reasons including "poor management, deindustrialisation and better council housing stock in other areas of the city." Sheffield City Council then decided to award the estate—as public housing projects are known in the U.K.—protective Grade II Listing status in 1997. The move proved controversial among locals and the general public alike.

Four years later, a bridge within the complex was infamously vandalized by a man only known as Jason (not this author.) His painted message of "I LOVE YOU WILL U MARRY ME,"* scrawled in white and visible for miles, stirred journalist Frances Byrnes to eulogize it as "love yelling at the top of its voice in an estate thought to be desolate." Upon first sight of the message in 2001, estate caretaker Grenville Squires remarked: "How are we going to get that off?" Squires never found a way. Unbeknown to Jason, his work was later showcased at the 2006 Venice Biennale. Now, the vandalism-cum-artwork has found permanency through British architecture firms Hawkins\Brown and Studio Egret West. They're working with Urban Splash to trace and illuminate the text with neon lighting.

Cut to today: Urban Splash said that, after agreeing on a timeline with city officials, their ongoing work on Park Hill is due for completion in 2022. The work will continue with the gutting of the concrete structure and with the installation of new apartments. "This is great news for us and for Sheffield, we can now fulfill our ambitions for the project," said Simon Gawthorpe, managing director of Urban Splash, who later added how the recession had caused delays to the project.

In 2013, work on Park Hill was one of six projects up for the RIBA Stirling Prize. Approximately 600 people now live and work in renovated Park Hill units and, by the project's conclusion, the it will contain 210 apartments and 330 student housing units. Also funding the scheme are the Sheffield City Council, Great Places Housing Group, and national conservancy group Heritage England.

Despite Park Hill's success, the Robin Hood Gardens estate in south east London has not enjoyed a similar fate. Designed by the Smithsons and built in 1972, the project saw the realization of the Smithson's streets in the sky project (on their own terms). The building, however, even after campaign work from Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers, is due for demolition having been refused Listed status by Heritage England.

*For the record: Jason's then lover, Clare Middleton, said yes but the couple didn't marry, splitting a month later. More on the story can be found here

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A new documentary—now being crowdfunded—explores the fate of a British “New Town” utopia

The word "Basildon" does little to conjure  thoughts of paradise. For those who know it as a town in Essex, England, this association could only seem ridiculous. Fifty years ago, however, Basildon—a state-built "new town"—was synonymous with the utopian dreams among planner and architects. "Are we a product of our environment... or is it a product of us?" Christopher Ian Smith asks in a preview of his documentary film. Titled New Town Utopia, his exploration of Basildon's fate—four years in the making—now needs $21,000 for post-production, marketing, and distribution requirements. The feature film aims to examine British social history through the lens of Basildon's architecture, planning, and its creative residents. By way of some background, "New towns" were the product of the U.K. government, which aimed to fix a nationwide housing shortage after WWII. In 1946, the "New towns act" was passed to create ten new towns. Eighth in-line was Basildon, being officially designated as such on January 4th, 1949. "Here is a journey through populated ruins," narrates Smith, who's been filmmaking for some years. "It's the story of the grand dreams of the new town... compared to harsh concrete realities." Smith spoke to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) about his motivations for the film and his experiences while shooting Basildon. Now living in London, Smith said how growing up in the town was an inspiration. "It felt different," he explained. "I enjoyed the art, architecture, sculpture, and especially the high street. I've succumbed to loving the aesthetic of midcentury brutalism and the ambitions behind it. The utopian ideals behind planning and architecture at the time were considered progressive. In the 1950s and 60s, risks were taken. The spirit of '45, with nationalization and the National Health Service, lived on."
However, Smith acknowledged that these radical ideas—when attempted on an architectural and planning scale in Basildon—have wilted significantly over time. "The place has a terrible reputation, both locally and nationally," he said. Local civic pride, according to Smith, appears to be dwindling. With his film, Smith hopes to spark a "debate of the state of our towns" and "not just new towns." When filming parts of the high street and Basil Spence's Brooke House—both architecturally-prominent landmarks within Basildon—Smith recalled being asked: "Why are you filming that? Are you going to knock it down?" No one even goes to Basildon on holiday. In the 1970s, Basildon was dubbed as "little Moscow-on-Thames," Smith described. A decade later, the phrase "Basildon Man" had surfaced. That image was of the well-to-do working-class Conservative voter—a far cry of the leftist ideologies of the past and its architecture. This was cemented when Tory MP David Amess won the Basildon constituency seat in 1983 and was able to hold it for 14 years. In his conversation with AN, Smith concluded that in the end, "top-down planning" was endemic to its failure. In the process of collating more than 400 hours of footage of the town, Smith goes so far as to argue that few—if any—would ever visit Basildon for fun.  His Kickstarter campaign has until September 26 this year to have funding finalized. The film, if realized, will be complete by March 2017.
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Brutalist library by Ralph Rapson to be saved and renovated in Minneapolis

Another brutalist building is being saved, this time in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the library staff of Hennepin County has recommended that the jurisdiction’s Southeast library, a 1963 building designed by Ralph Rapson in the brutalist style, be renovated rather than replaced. The work is scheduled for completion by spring of 2019. The building at 1222 4th Street SE opened as the home of a credit union and was converted in 1967 to a library branch, making in an early adaptive reuse of a Brutalist building. According to the Star Tribune, the recommendation to save and modernize the building came from Library Director Lois Langer Thompson and still must be approved by the Hennepin County Board. The decision drew praise from County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. "We have a chance to get more space, save a historic building and get this building in shape for the 21st century," he told area residents at a recent community meeting, according to the newspaper.
The building contains about 13,000 square feet of space on a roughly half-acre site. Experts who evaluated the structure found it to be in relatively good condition but in need of underground stormwater tanks, new mechanical systems, and new skylights. One advantage to reusing the current site, officials said, is that it’s central to the library’s service area and served by mass transit. Born in Alma, Michigan, Rapson practiced architecture in Minneapolis from 1954 to 2008, when he died at 93, and for many years headed the architecture program at the University of Minnesota. As head of Ralph Rapson and Associates, he designed the Guthrie Theater, which has been demolished, the University of Minnesota’s Raring Center, and a wide range of churches and residences, including a Case Study house for Arts and Architecture magazine. Much of his work, like the Southeast library, involved exposed concrete. With the library director’s recommendation, the county must next select an architect to prepare a schematic design for the renovation. The County Board has allocated $12 million to the project. Hennepin County is responsible for decisions involving Minneapolis libraries because it absorbed the city library system in 2007. Visit here to see more of our recent coverage on the preservation of brutalist buildings, including those in Lawrence, Kansas, Reston, Virginia, and Boston.
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You can now download Reyner Banham’s Brutalism polemic

The arts, media, and humanities-focused wiki Monoskop has published a scanned PDF of Reyner Banham’s 1966 tome, The New Brutalism. The 100-page book, long out of print, is impossible to find in stores. Recent years have seen Brutalism jump to the fore of several important preservation and development battles. Structures as diverse as Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens, Marcel Breuer’s American Press Institute headquarters, and Paul Rudolph’s Buffalo Shoreline Apartments have all been threatened with the wrecking ball. Over these years, as brutalist buildings and their admirers have made the case for preserving the complicated historical legacy these buildings embody, discourse on Banham’s text has been conspicuously absent, leaving a critical void in public debate. Monoskop’s recent publication of The New Brutalism could remedy that deficit. The book began as an essay in 1955 that Banham refined and expanded over the following 11 years, as his observations regarding the coalescence of the New Brutalist style took shape. Banham’s analysis begins with a political-historical discussion regarding the origins of the term “Brutalism.” He also chronicles the style’s historical underpinnings, chalking up the movement’s origins to a confluence between Nikita Khrushchev’s Soviet building program, Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation, Mies van der Rohe’s Illinois Institute of Technology building, and Alison and Peter Smithson’s Secondary School complex. The remaining four-fifths of the book is dedicated to chronicling New Brutalism’s manifestations in the built environment while discussing the political, philosophical, and tectonic underpinnings of the featured structures. Banham’s The New Brutalism is available for download at the Monoskop site here.