Brutalism is architecture in the raw with an emphasis on materials, texture, and construction, creating dramatic and memorable images.
It was both an ethos and a style. The leading protagonists were Alison and Peter Smithson who advocated a back to basics approach to architecture, seen in their school at Hunstanton in Norfolk because of its uncompromising approach to the display of structure and services. Called New Brutalism, and championed by the architectural historian Reyner Banham, the Smithsons saw it as a natural development from the Modern Movement. Their philosophy encompassed a reverence for the materials of the built world, an affinity between building and man and architecture as way of life. In practice, the architecture that emerged was characterised by the use of raw concrete (beton brut), massive scale, textured surfaces, and emphasis on displaying the different functions of the building, particularly the services, seen in large ventilation towers.
What to look for in a Brutalist building:
Rough unfinished surfaces
Clearly displayed structure and services
Emphasis on materials
Explore these galleries from the RIBA Collections illustrating the main features of Brutalism.
NOTES: Paisley Civic Centre was built in four phases from 1969-1973. Phase 1 was completed in 1969, Phases 2 and 3 were completed by 1972 and Phase 4 containing the dining facilities was finished in early 1973. The council suite and chamber for both the county (Renfrew) and the borough (Paisley), which were part of Phase 4, were put on hold pending local government reorganisation.
Greater London Council. Department of Architecture & Civic Design
NOTES: This is one of the images taken for 'Manplan 8: Housing' in Architectural Review, vol. 148, September 1970. Thamesmead was planned in 1965-1966 as a new town on the riverside marshes of south-east London between Plumstead and Erith. It was scheduled for completion in 1974 but was never fully finished and the projected population of 60,000 for the new town was downgraded to 45,000 by the end of the 1970s. From then around 400 houses were being built annually and by 1982, the population stood at 20,000. Since 2014 the managment and regeneration of the area has come under the aegis of Peabody.