Postwar Britain was a fervent breeding ground for brutalist architecture. That period enabled notable work from architects like the Smithsons, Goldfinger, Chamberlin, Powell, and Bon to dominate the British skyline. Many of these buildings have since been demolished. However, a few—mostly in London—remain as icons of that era. Now, thanks to Polish firm Zupagrafika, fans can construct these famed structures from card in their own home. As part of a series called "Brutal London," these cut-outs feature simple recreations of buildings such as Trellick Tower and the Barbican. Assembly is easy: simply by cut out the facades and fold the building together. All you need are scissors and glue. Richard Seifert & Partners' cylindrical Space House is perhaps a less-brutal example from the collection. The London series features six buildings; Robin Hood Gardens and the Aylesbury and Ledbury Estate are available alongside the aforementioned buildings. Additionally, each cut-out comes with an information pack outlining the technical information about the building, the year built, architects, and exact location. In case that wasn't enough, Zupagrafika also offers other cut-out architecture sets. "Blokoshka" is a series of Eastern Block dwellings of which can be connected and placed within each other in a Russian doll-like fashion. Large prints of the cut-out facades (in each series) can also be purchased, although these are slightly more costly. A 27 x 40 inch print (on 200g satin paper) is priced at $30. The paper used is 100% recycled and each cut out only costs just over $5. At such a bargain, fans of brutalism may be tempted to send a pack (or ten) to Prince Charles, the man who famously lambasted the structures and architectural style in the 1970s dubbing them "monstrous carbuncles."
Posts tagged with "Brutalism":
Concrete socialist relics in Eastern Europe usually enjoy hit-or-miss celebrity: they strike fame online or fade into derelict obscurity. One unfinished building, named the Dom Revolucije (Home of Revolution) in Nikšic, Montenegro, may be getting a new lease on life after years of disuse. Slovenian firm SADAR+VUGA, working in collaboration with Swiss practice HHF Architekten and local consultant Archicon, are re-imaging the building with cafes, park space, and more. The brutalist relic, designed by Slovenian architect Marko Mušic in the 1970s and abandoned in 1989, will be transformed into an lively urban hub containing cafés, an underground car park, pedestrian walkways, playgrounds, and a park. Initially, the building was intended to serve as a memorial to fallen freedom fighters and the socialist revolution. After 27 years of neglect, SADAR+VUGA, HHF Architekten, and Archicon were awarded the commission after their proposal won the "Competition for the Adaptation and Reconstruction for the Home of Revolution." Initially, the group contemplated completing the structure true to its original plans. However, they found that such a building would be grossly disproportional in size compared to its urban context: it would befit a city more than "ten times Nikšić's size." Instead, this design is meant to symbolize the progress the city of Nikšic has made from being a former minor Yugoslav town to Montenegro's second largest city. In the architect's words, this project will "serve the city and its residents" while being a "social activator that would represent today's changing conditions." In balancing old and new, the design will keep the original brutalist structure while adding more modern contemporary features. A new underground parking lot will keep the building pedestrian-friendly at street level. In regards to the building's program, only 10% of the interior will be climate controlled year-round. Other areas such as the promenade will be exposed to the elements, remaining open and flexible for future uses such as special events.
LEGO is quickly becoming an increasingly popular medium among the artisan community, with the likes of Adam Reed Tucker, Tom Alphin and others using LEGO blocks to form landmark works of architecture. Now, Arndt Schlaudraff has entered the fray with a selection of Brutalist LEGO buildings set make Modernists drool. Surprisingly, there are only 11 official LEGO Certified Professionals in the world but that hasn't stopped Berlin-based "MOC" (a popular phrase in the LEGO lexicon meaning "my own creation") artist, Arndt Schlaudraff (who hails from advertising, not architecture) from building. Schlaudraff, it seems, has a taste for Brutalist-style blocks as he has created numerous replicas of Modernist masterpieces, most notably Louis Kahn's Salk Institute (above). Using only white bricks (unlike fellow creator Tom Alphin) and aided by their orthogonal nature, Schlaudraff is able to perfect the clean finishes, crisp lines, and massing often found in Brutalist architecture. While his work (or rather, hobby) is predominantly LEGO-based, other slightly more realistic elements do enter the fray. This can be seen in the form of model motorcars and scale people being included in the photographs; however, few LEGO aficionados are likely to approve of this. That said, it could also be argued that the models intentionally detract from the LEGO-style and at times it can be very easy to forget you are looking at a LEGO building because of this. If you fancy getting your hands on a copy, think again. The shelf-life of Schlaudraff's creations is virtually non-existent as he only takes the time to photograph the models before dismantling them and starting from scratch on a new design. Despite not having an architectural background, the Berlin resident commented on how his city was once used as a playground for Modernists, something which has fed his imagination. "Someone once said that Berlin is the city where the best architects of the world build their worst buildings, which I think is really funny and also a bit true," he said in a recent interview. Speaking of architecture, Schlaudraff went on to say how Mies van der Rohe's rejuvenated National Gallery in Berlin was one of his favorite buildings. "I recently followed Bjarke Ingels on Instagram. I think his projects are super interesting," he said, adding, that Herzog and de Meuron were his "all-time favorites." Speaking of his admiration of Brutalism, Schlaudraff said he enjoyed the "sculptural aspect of Brutalist architecture." "If it’s a good Brutalist building it’s like a piece of art, a big sculpture. You can walk around and always see new views and sights which look like art. Many people just see an ugly piece of rotten concrete, but it’s so much more," he continued. "As for Modernist architecture, I like that it’s so clean. The ideas of Modernist architecture are over 80 years old, but still look recent." More examples of Schlaudraff's work can be found on his Instagram feed at @lego_tonic.
Aggregate knowledge: Scientists at MIT discover how concrete behaves on a molecular level, could spur material advances
Suffice to say, we certainly know how concrete behaves at structural level—the material has been dominating cities and skylines since Joseph Monier invented a reinforced concrete in 1889. But until now, how the material works on a microscopic level has eluded scientists. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have unearthed concrete's molecular properties, claiming their findings could lead to structural advances in the future. Traditionally, concrete uses a mixture of gravel, sand, cement, and water. In this case, a compound known as calcium-silicate-hydrate (CSH or cement hydrate) forms when the cement powder mixes with water. It essentially causes all the ingredients to solidify and become one. The phenomenon that has been baffling researchers many for years is whether concrete's molecular structure is comprised of continual bonds as found in stone and metal, or rather, as a sea of aggregate particle clumps bonded by (in the case of concrete) CSH. Researchers from MIT discovered in 2012 that during the first hour of the concrete mixing process, when CSH particles form, the size at which they form is apparently random and "not in homogenous spheres." As a result, such "diversity in the size of the nanoscale units leads to a denser, disorderly packing of the particles, which corresponds to stronger cement paste." However, the question regarding whether concrete was "considered a continuous matrix or an assembly of discrete particles" still remained. Predictably, the answer was "a bit of both." In a press release, Roland Pellenq, a senior research scientist in MIT’s department of civil and environmental engineering explained that the particle distribution facilitated almost every gap in the molecular structure to be filled by even smaller grains. This seemingly iterative process continued to the extent that Pellenq and his peers could approximate the material as a continuous solid. “Those grains are in a very strong interaction at the mesoscale,” said Pollenq. “You can always find a smaller grain to fit in between [the larger grains, hence] you can see it as a continuous material.” Pollenq did however, conclude his findings by stating that concrete could never be considered a true continuous material. This is due to the fact that grains within the CSH, unlike those in metal or stone, cannot reach a resting state of minimum energy. In other words, larger molecules can cause solid concrete to "creep" which makes the material susceptible to cracking and degradation over time. "Both views are correct, in some sense,” Pellenq concluded.
Based in Montreal, architect and sculptor David Umemoto has created a number of Brutalist cubic volumes and sculptures. The forms, which derive from Brutalist principles, have been amalgamated in one work as part of a three-dimensional tessellating cube. When disassembled, the forms clearly resemble architectural elements and spaces. They can then be rearranged in any manner of compositions to create a series of both additive and subtractive volumes. Subsequently, Umemoto has repeated this process in some cases to generate modular city-scapes. Speaking of his work, Umemoto said: "This scalable modular building system is based on the theory that there is a universal order. Molecules, cycles, ecosystems, the order is the norm and chaos an accident." "Everything is connected, organized and structured; it is only a matter of place, time and scale. Thus, we can speak of a cellular system rather than modular elements that not only can be interchanged but also transformed. They obey rules in a rigid frame but with an organic development." In terms of process, the forms were created by Umemoto as reliefs using styrofoam as a placeholder for the concrete. Here the concrete, when wet, inhibits the space left within the styrofoam and once dry, can simply be removed to reveal the negative of the styrofoam form. Umemoto hasn't just used this technique for volumetric purposes, either. In one instance, a pattern using a more complex array of curves was carved onto a styrofoam sheet and impressed onto the concrete. "The work is an exploration of the patterns and codes, sometimes obvious, sometimes obscure, that govern our environment," said Umemoto.
A long-standing fortress of state secrecy is under siege. The federal government is selling Washington, D.C.'s J. Edgar Hoover Building to a developer who, citizens hope, will turn the FBI's headquarters into a mixed use development. Designed by Charles F. Murphy and completed in 1975, the 2.8 million square foot Brutalist building is praised and reviled for all the reasons Brutalist buildings are praised and reviled. Despite its historical significance and because of $80 million in deferred maintenance, the building will likely be replaced with development that creates a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape. There are, however, massive bureaucratic hurdles to clear before the property can be developed. First, the congressionally-approved 1974 master plan must be revised s0 the site can be developed as a non-office building. However, the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, the entity that created the plan, folded in 1996. Its responsibilities are now shared by the National Park Service, the General Services Administration (GSA), and National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). The three agencies must agree on every step of the plan for it to move forward. When and if these master plan revisions are approved, the agencies can develop design guidelines for the site. The design guidelines must be adopted before developers can bid on the property because of a particular arrangement the federal government requires of this site. The GSA, the federal office responsible for securing land for a new complex, must offload underperforming assets (like the J. Edgar Hoover Building) before acquiring new ones. The developer will take a risk in buying this property because the exchange must occur before what can be built on the property is absolutely final. Finally, the developer's plans will go though the city's design review boards. Developers willing to endure a potentially Kafka-esque wait will be rewarded with prime land on the capital's most prestigious avenue.
In London's high-end Mayfair neighborhood, the Brutalist United States embassy, originally designed by Eero Saarinen, has been keeping watch over Grosvenor Square for 55 years. Diplomats will soon be exiting the building, however, as developers prepare for a hotel conversion by David Chipperfield Architects. The Architects Journal reports that Chipperfield bested Foster+Partners and U.S. firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) for the job. However, there is some uncertainty as to whether Chipperfield has actually been commissioned or not. A spokesman for Qatari Diar, the company that now owns the site, refused to confirm that Chipperfield won the competition, stating: "A range of options on the best use of this important site are currently being considered." Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment has secured the remaining 939 years on the Mayfair district building’s lease and will not be allowed to alter the embassy's design as it was awarded grade 2 listing status for its historical and architectural significance and its "dynamic facade" in 2009. According to the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the concrete building was the "first purpose-built US embassy in Europe." The building's "dynamic facades, well-detailed stonework and consistency of detail and the innovative application of the exposed concrete diagrid" led to its protected status, the DCMS added. Occupying 225,000 square feet, the embassy takes up the entire west side of Grosvenor Square and currently has, according to Bloomberg, around 750 staff. Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake has drawn up plans for the new U.S. embassy in Nine Elms, just south of the Thames, which is set to welcome occupants in 2017. The firm's winning design has been described by the Times as having a "moat" due to its semi-circular pond on one side. The new embassy resembles a crystalline cube and is surrounded by extensive public green spaces.
John Puttick, a British architect currently practicing in New York City, has won an international competition to redesign and modernize an iconic Brutalist bus station in England. The landmark structure in the city of Preston, Lancashire, is described by The Twentieth Century Society as "one of the most significant Brutalist buildings in the UK." It was recently threatened with demolition but now will be saved. The structure was designed in 1968–1969 by Ove Arup & Partners with Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson of Building Design Partnership with E. H. Stazicker. John Puttick Associates was founded in 2014 and previously Puttick established and led MAKE Architects’ Beijing and Hong Kong offices and worked for David Chipperfield Architects. He also spent a year in Houston at Acumen design studio. The design for the station was selected by RIBA in an international competition and also won a local Preston poll of citizens selecting their favorite design.
As Boston continues to ponder its Brutalist city hall, professor suggests covering the behemoth with a glass veil
Like so many Brutalist buildings around the word, Boston's iconic City Hall has not necessarily endeared itself to the public. Since it opened in the 1960s, there have been calls to update the building, completely overhaul it, and to demolish it outright and start over. There have, of course, also been calls to preserve it. The latest idea to revamp City Hall comes from Harry Bartnick, a Suffolk University professor, who wants to cover the structure with a tinted glass curtain structure. In an op-ed in the Boston Globe, he called the idea "simple, obvious, and cost-effective." "The generally outward sloping angle of the glass would impart a feeling of greater stability, and redistribute the visual mass toward the ground," Bartnick argued. "Translucent glass would allow the original wall-surface variations to still be seen, but now softened by filtration through the glass 'veil.'" He continued that the intervention would help the building's efficiency by establishing a "climate-controlled, passive solar interior environment." There are no plans to actually move forward with this project, but, as Bartnick noted, his idea comes as the area undergoes major changes including a new residential tower by César Pelli. Boston Business Journal also recently reported that Center Plaza, a 720,000-square-foot, mixed-us complex nearby, is set to receive a $25 million facelift. Along with new retail tenants, the CBT Architects–led transformation will update exterior walkways, street-level lobbies, and the existing rooftop.
The clock is ticking yet again for East London’s Robin Hood Gardens, the 1972 Brutalist public housing complex designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. In a call to arms, Lord Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson, the son of the architects, have written a letter to over 300 members of the architecture and construction industries in support of the 20th Century Society’s campaign to protect the iconic “streets in the sky” buildings from being demolished. The future of the seminal social housing estate has been in limbo since former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham granted it a listing certificate of immunity six years ago, essentially foiling any landmark designations that would ensure the buildings’ survival and preservation. Now that the certificate has expired, 20th Century Society, a conservation organization for modern architecture, is urging the new Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage to add the buildings to the statutory list of buildings of special architectural and historical interest. “The Smithsons were clearly great architects: the Economist Building, completed in 1964 and Grade I-listed in 1988, is without a doubt the best modern building in the historic centre of London. Robin Hood Gardens, which pioneered ‘streets in the air’ to preserve the public life of the East End terraces that it replaced, was the next large-scale job that the Smithsons embarked upon. It was architecturally and intellectually innovative. In my opinion, it is the most important social housing development from the post-war era in Britain,” wrote Lord Richard Rogers in the letter. Composed of two long concrete blocks, the 7-story buildings in Poplar, London feature balconies that face a rolling, man-made green. Curbed reported that the goal was to “create a modern, bustling city in the sky,” but it has fallen into disrepair, beset with problems including crime and graffiti. Architects, including Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Richard Meier, and Rogers, stand behind the controversial postwar complex, lauding its architectural significance as an exemplar of the Smithsons’ New Brutalism—characterized by exposed materials, contextual design, and the marriage of regional styles and modernism. Below is the full letter from Lord Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson: Dear Friends, I am writing to ask you to support listing Robin Hood Gardens as a building of special architectural interest, in order to protect one of Britain’s most important post-war housing projects, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, from demolition. Previous efforts in 2009 to have the building listed failed, but the case has now been re-opened and we understand that the new Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage will be reviewing the arguments at the end of this week. The buildings, which offer generously-sized flats that could be refurbished, are of outstanding architectural quality and significant historic interest, and public appreciation and understanding of the value of modernist architecture has grown over the past five years, making the case for listing stronger than ever. The UK's 20th Century Society has submitted a paper setting out why they believe Robin Hood Gardens should be listed (i.e. added it to the statutory list of buildings of special architectural and historical interest). Two further assessments are set out below: “Alison and Peter Smithson were the inventors of the New Brutalism in the 1950s and as such they were the ‘bellwethers of the young' as Reyner Banham called them. In many ways [Robin Hood Gardens] epitomizes the Smithsons’ ideas of housing and city building. Two sculptural slabs of affordable housing create the calm and stress free place amidst the ongoing modernization of the London cityscape. The façades of precast concrete elements act as screens that negotiate between the private sphere of the individual flats and the collective space of the inner garden and beyond. The rhythmic composition of vertical fins and horizontal ’streets-in-the-air' articulates the Smithsons’ unique proposition of an architectural language that combines social values with modern technology and material expression. Despite the current state of neglect and abuse Robin Hood Gardens comprises a rare, majestic gesture, both radical and generous in its aspiration for an architecture of human association. As such it still sets an example for architects around the world.” Dr Dirk van den Heuvel, Delft University, Holland. “The Smithsons were clearly great architects: the Economist Building, completed in 1964 and Grade I-listed in 1988, is without a doubt the best modern building in the historic centre of London. Robin Hood Gardens, which pioneered ‘streets in the air’ to preserve the public life of the East End terraces that it replaced, was the next large-scale job that the Smithsons embarked upon. It was architecturally and intellectually innovative. In my opinion, it is the most important social housing development from the post-war era in Britain.” Lord Richard Rogers Last time listing was considered the views of the architectural community were ignored but we believe there is now a real chance of saving the building for posterity but only if the Minister hears, first hand, the views of the profession on the architectural merits of these exceptional buildings. Can we ask you to support the efforts of the 20th Century Society by writing right now to the Minster to support listing and saying why you believe Robin Hood Gardens should be saved? Click here to open an e-mail to the relevant Minister at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, Tracey Crouch MP: Ministerfirstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the building click here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hood_Gardens, and for details of the 20th Century Society case, please click here, http://www.c20society.org.uk/casework/robin-hood-gardens/ For Tweets: #SaveRobinHoodGardens Also, can we ask you to forward this e-mail to anyone else you know who might be willing to help save these important buildings? Yours sincerely, Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson
As AN recently reported, the very long and very heated fight over Paul Rudolph’s Government Center in Goshen, New York would likely end in the courts or with demolition. While local attorney Michael Sussman promised to sue the county to save the building, it sure looked like Rudolph's work was not long for this world. For one, construction equipment is now conspicuously lurking outside the building. But now there is a glimmer of hope for preservationists. The New York Times is reporting that a State Supreme Court judge has ruled that demolition cannot begin before July so he has time to hear arguments on the preliminary injunction. To be clear, the building could certainly still end in demolition; it might just be making a pitstop in the courts first. [h/t Curbed]
Why is Paul Rudolph—like much of Brutalism—so unloved by officialdom? His Orange County Government in Goshen, New York has been under threat of demolition by local government for several years. Now an elegant canopy the architect designed and built in 196o for Sarasota High School in Florida may also end up in a local landfill. Rudolph designed the elongated covering to connect the School with a new addition he designed behind it’s main brick building. The addition is undergoing a thorough renovation and the main building is being taken over by the Ringling College of Art & Design to become a midtown exhibition space. The Ringling wants to renovate the old school and argued that the canopy sits in the way of construction workers and materials entering the building. Ringling College claimed: "We are removing...only the area necessary to continue renovation of the historic Sarasota High School building. We also believe, but do not have final corroboration, that the section we are taking down is also not part of the original Paul Rudolph design but was added on later." But now several groups from Sarasota Architectural Foundation and Docomomo are asking the Ringling to hold off on the demolition. They are also asking the public to contact Larry Thompson (941-359-7601 or 941-365-7603), president of The Ringling College of Art & Design, and ask him to save the Rudolph canopies and incorporate them into the permanent collection of the new museum.