Brutal utopias: the National Trust launches a new tour series

The National Trust launches a new tour series

Ariel view of a building and site
The University of East Anglia is explored as part of a new series of National Trust tours based around brutalist architecture.
(Image credit: John Fielding)

Brutalism's image makeover is reaching its zenith, surely, with the National Trust (opens in new tab) – that bastion of period properties – jumping on the brutal bandwagon. The institution is hosting 'Brutal Utopias: a National Trust celebration of brutalist architecture (opens in new tab)', with exciting behind-the-scenes tours of some of the most important brutalist structures in London, Norwich and Sheffield.

Championed by young pioneering architects determined to reinvent social housing after the Second World War, brutalist homes replaced bomb-damaged slums. But despite the optimism, they were too often poorly maintained. What had been crisp concrete sometimes ended up as a sink-estate.

Sheffield's 1961 Park Hill housing estate, which is on the National Trust's itinerary, was an example of all that was wrong with the movement. Its architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith were heavily influenced by Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation in Marseille, hence the al fresco corridors or 'streets in the sky'. However, Park Hill suffered from social issues and neglect, and was only saved from the wrecking ball by being Grade II* listed in 1998. Studio Egret West (opens in new tab) and Hawkins\Brown (opens in new tab) are now renovating it for developers Urban Splash. 

On tours of the Southbank's Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery in London, visitors will get to admire the original fixtures and fittings that are normally off-limits, before the buildings close for a two-year, £24m refurbishment by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (opens in new tab).

In Norwich, tours will be conducted around the University of East Anglia, whose campus was designed by Denys Lasdun, architect of the National Theatre. Perhaps visitors will catch a glimpse of the £8m redevelopment of Norwich's Westlegate Tower, which is being transformed from a defunct 1950s eyesore into luxury apartments by 5th Studio (opens in new tab).

As well as the on-site access, the National Trust is arranging a romp around London aboard a 1962 Routemaster Coach. Tours will take in concrete delights including Frederick Gibberd's Lansbury Estate; Chamberlin, Powell and Bon's Barbican Estate; the Alexandra Road Estate by Neave Brown; and Ernö Goldfinger's Trellick Tower. A must for fans of brutalism's concrete charms. 

Ariel view of a a large green area with buildings

Its campus was designed by Denys Lasdun, architect of the National Theatre.

(Image credit: John Fielding)

Two buildings with a maintained grass

Located in Norwich, the university complex is defined by geometrical concrete forms.

(Image credit: Geoff Markham)

housing estate

Sheffield’s Park Hill housing estate is also on the National Trust’s itinerary. 

(Image credit: Urban Splash )

walking bridge in front of a housing block

The housing block was designed by Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith in 1961.

(Image credit: Urban Splash )

Shadows of railings

The building suffered social issues and neglect but has now been given a Grade II* listing and is being redeveloped by Studio Egret West and Hawkins\Brown for Urban Splash.

(Image credit: Urban Splash )

Yellow walkway and staircase

In London, the National Trust will offer tours of the Southbank Centre. courtesy National Trust

(Image credit: Sophia Schorr-Kon)

Hayward gallery

Visitors will be able to see the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery before the buildings close for a two-year, £24m refurbishment by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.  courtesy National Trust

(Image credit: Sophia Schorr-Kon)

Theatre style leather seats

Along with the complex’s much-loved public areas...courtesy National Trust

(Image credit: Sophia Schorr-Kon)

Old fixtures and fittings

... visitors will also be able to view original fixtures and fittings that are normally off-limits. courtesy National Trust

(Image credit: TBC)

INFORMATION 

Visit the National Trust (opens in new tab) for timings and information on the tours