Can’t get enough of brutalist architecture? Neither can we. In London, neglected brutalist behemoths are being rebooted and given new life. The wave of savvy renovations is being led by a flock of eagle-eyed developers who wish to save – and capitalise on – these concrete urban structures' dramatic shapes. This is not just a London-focused trend as more brutalist architecture around the world is being given a new lease of life. In London alone we counted contemporary renovations of Centre Point and the Economist Building as part of the movement.
Read this report of new developments at London’s Balfron Tower or visit Brussels where a brutal behemoth is being converted into a co-working space, while in the States a Marcel Breuer buidling in Connecticut is being reimagined as a hotel. Or scroll below, for some of the world's finest brutalist architecture in London and beyond.
Brutalist architecture in London
Centre Point, 1963-1966, by Richard Seifert & Partners
When completed in 1966, Centre Point represented a beacon of optimism within its original context of a run-down, post-war London, standing out for its avant-garde architecture and engineering. However, it remained underused for years until, in 2010, it was acquired by developer Almacantar, which enlisted Conran and Partners to bring the building into the 21st century. Now the design includes modern apartments, a lavish penthouse and a series of amenity spaces, including a pool and a private lounge/club house area with screening rooms and treatment rooms for residents and their guests.
‘Thamesmead’. Semantically, the word sounds like a riverside Shakespearean ale house. But, in the public imagination, it conjures images of a 1970s, crime-ridden neighbourhood, and the droogish backdrop to Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian drama Clockwork Orange. Initially hailed as a futuristic ‘town for the 21st century’, construction of the London City Council-commissioned Thamesmead began in 1968. Despite early promise, it quickly gained a reputation for no-go areas and poor transport links. Recently, after a complicated history, punctuated by well-documented attempts to renew and rethink the area, Thamesmead has been undergoing an extensive regeneration project by Britain’s oldest housing association Peabody, which promises around 20,000 new homes, and improved community facilities. Additional writing: Elly Parsons
123 Victoria Street, 1970s, by Elsom, Pack & Roberts
Using Kvadrat curtaining, furniture from brands such as Vitra, Hem, Muuto and a specially-designed staircase, SODA Studio has conjured up classy offices in a brutalist block. The 40,000 sq ft workspace in London’s Victoria goes by the name of MYO, and is property firm Landsec’s first foray into flexible office space. SODA – the architects behind Soho’s new Boulevard Theatre – has converted the second and third floors of 123 Victoria Street, a 1970s building by Elsom, Pack & Roberts, which was refurbished eight years ago by Aukett Fitzroy Robinson. Inside, SODA took its cue from the blocky glazed exterior. ‘We didn’t want to fight against the building,’ says director Russell Potter. ‘Our driving principle was to create a rigorous grid with walls and partitions,’ which, he adds, they treated as ‘a kit of parts.’ These partitions add to the workspace’s flexible credentials. Additional writing: Clare Dowdy
Brixton Recreation Centre, 1974-1985, by George Finch
The now listed Brixton Recreation Centre, designed by architect George Finch and completed in the mid 1980s is one of the new additions of remarkable brutalist architecture included in the refreshed Brutalist London Map (Second Edition) by Henrietta Billings and with photography by Simon Phipps, published by Blue Crow Media. The map aims to highlight London's rich legacy in brutalist architecture in order to celebrate and help save many buildings from demolition. 'In 2022, seven years on from the first edition of the map, the environmental impact of demolishing these buildings and their vast stores of embodied carbon is alarmingly clear. From a sustainability, as well as a heritage perspective, we cannot afford to lose any more of them,' says the author. More buildings that made their way into the map for the first time are the National Archives at Kew; Blackheath Meeting House; the Royal College of Art’s Darwin Building; and the Camden Town Hall Annexe, recently converted into the Standard Hotel.
Economist Building, 1959-1964, by Alison and Peter Smithson
‘You’d originally sit with a typewriter on the windowsill, then swing round and write longhand at your desk,’ says Deborah Saunt, explaining the Smithsons’ tailor-made office space in the Economist Building for The Economist magazine. Saunt’s practice, DSDHA, won the competition to refurbish this London icon, a building that took the raw pragmatism of brutalism in another, very different direction. The best-known shots of the structure – three ‘roach bed’ Portland stone-clad towers around a central plaza – were taken by a young Michael Carapetian, a friend of the Smithsons who brought a cinematic, reportage-like quality to his images. The AA-trained architect recalls that he ‘wanted a day that was slightly misty and wet. It was the first time a new building had been photographed in the rain.’ The imagery cast has a moody, atmospheric light. ‘It wasn’t seen as shocking, but the building was respected for its ability to blend in with the rest of the street,’ he recalls. ‘The idea was to elevate the plaza above the rest of the street – a sort of utopian idea.’ Saunt says the practice envisaged the structure as a blueprint for a new form of urbanism, linked by walkways and quasi-public spaces. Her studio’s modest but comprehensive refurbishment strips away interiors that themselves were wholesale replacements of Smithsons’ careful original detailing. ‘We’ve made it a lot more harmonious, but have embraced their vision of architecture as a framework,’ she says. The revitalised building will see one of London’s most elegant public spaces brought back to life.
National Theatre, 1976, by Denys Lasdun
The National Theatre courted controversy from the outset, with the UK's favourite architectural scourge, Prince Charles, casually dismissing the capital's new cultural flagship as a ‘nuclear power station’. Sir Denys Lasdun's rigorously composed concrete statement still looks at fresh as ever, thanks to an £80m refurb by Haworth Tompkins in 2015, not to mention the quality of the original design. With generous terraces that step down to the Thames and a monumental assemblage of interior volumes, spaces and stages, it remains one of London's contemporary classics. The city is also home to Lasdun's other masterpiece, the 1964 Royal College of Physicians, a Brutalist stage set of concrete and stone, rising up amongst the genteel stucco terraces of Regents Park. Lasdun's Theatre refined the aesthetic that had already been established by the adjacent Hayward Gallery and the Queen Elizabeth Hall. These buildings still represent a substantial chunk of London's cultural infrastructure and were built between 1960 and 1968 on the site of the Festival of Britain, alongside the remodelled Royal Festival Hall. Designed by a team of architects employed by the Greater London Council – including key members of the iconoclastic Archigram studio – this group of buildings represents concrete at its most diverse and distracting, a collage of textures and forms that rises up beside the river in a thrilling urban jumble. Much loved, forever threatened, but an integral part of the London experience
Alexandra Road Estate, 1968-1978, by Neave Brown
Social housing at its most optimistic, aesthetically sophisticated and single-minded best, the Alexandra Road Estate snakes alongside a railway line in Camden, containing over 500 homes in a variety of configurations. Created by the late Neave Brown – then working in Camden Council's Architecture Department – it went wildly over-budget and later found infamy as a location for dystopian films and television. Yet despite the controversy it continues to be a desirable place to live, with its shuttered concrete flanks rising steeply above a pedestrianised central street.
One Kemble Street, 1968, by George Marsh
This cylinder and box office block is a typical piece of Sixties grandstanding, almost entirely blasé about its immediate surroundings. These days it finds itself an integral part of the eclectic cityscape. Designed by George Marsh, one of the partners in Colonel Richard Seifert's massive commercial architecture outfit, the circular building showcased Seifert's trademark angular modular façade and muscular supporting columns. It was also the HQ to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority for many years. Currently, the central London structure - also known as Space House - is being given a new lease of life by developers Seaforth Land and architects Squire and Partners, who are on site with a transformation of the iconic shell into modern office and retail spaces.
Brunswick Centre, 1972, by Patrick Hodgkinson
Patrick Hodgkinson's original vision for Bloomsbury consisted of a vast trench of concrete dwellings and lecture halls, stomping across the remnants of Georgian London with Brutalist glee. The only chunk to be finished, the Brunswick Centre, is perhaps London's sole megastructure, a concrete valley of houses arranged above a shopping parade and cinema. It took three decades before a programme of refurbishment and upgrade works covered the raw concrete in the paint Hodgkinson originally specified. Now a highly desirable and light-filled place to live, it offers an insight into the grandiose schemes of decades past.
The Barbican Estate, 1965-1976, by Chamberlain, Powell and Bon
For many Londoners the Barbican defines contemporary Brutalism. Yet behind the fortress-like construction of this 35-acre city centre site is a veritable oasis of greenery, culture, water and calm, all wrapped up in some of the most abrasive concrete finishes ever seen. The Barbican almost took as long to build as a city, with initial plans drawn up in the 50s and the final concrete slotted into place in the arts centre, which opened in 1982. The firm of Chamberlain, Powell and Bon oversaw this expansive piece of urbanism, which continues to define the highest standards of concrete design.
Keeling House, 1957, by Denys Lasdun
An earlier outing by Denys Lasdun, Keeling House in East London was intended to form a 'street in the sky', replacing the low-rise back-to-back houses that had succumbed to war damage and old age. The cluster block form was carefully designed, with interlocking, overlooking apartments somehow combining both community and privacy, but it was rather less meticulously built. By the early 90s the block had fallen into disrepair; a pioneering refurbishment by Munkenbeck and Marshall gave it a new lease of life, adding penthouses on top and even securing Lasdun's blessing in the process.
Trellick Tower, 1966-1972, by Ernö Goldfinger
The Trellick Tower is the archetypal symbol of brutalism in West London, a bold cliff of shuttered concrete that overlooks the city's western reaches. Despite a rocky start, the Trellick subsequently ascended to the status of cultural icon, adorning everything from t-shirts to coffee cups. Ernö Goldfinger's generous design initially suffered from poor maintenance but today the building's generous apartments are highly sought after, combining space, light and views, with services pushed to one side and contained in a slim adjoining tower.
78 South Hill Park by Brian Housden
Hampstead Heath’s 78 South Hill Park doesn’t look like a house born of embarrassment, but that is exactly what it is. In the 1950s, architect Brian Housden visited Dutch De Stijl master Gerrit Rietveld (who played roughly the role in architecture that Mondrian played in painting) and, when they parted, Rietveld told Housden he’d love to see the plans of the Hampstead house he was working on. Housden said he was mortified, ashamed of the timid designs he had drawn and decided to start over. Rietveld never saw the drawings, but the result is extraordinary – a brutalist house on the edge of Hampstead Heath that is one of London’s most surprising and inventive post-war dwellings. The 1924 Rietveld Schröder House, which so inspired Housden, is always photographed as a freestanding, almost autonomous building, but, in fact, bookends a dull brick Utrecht terrace. Similarly, Housden’s house squats between a pair of more conventional modernist blocks (including one by Howell, Killick, Partridge & Amis, architects of London’s Young Vic theatre), its muscular concrete frame seeming to push them apart, to defy them to crush it. Additional writing: Edwin Heathcote
Barbican sunken bars by Kam Bava
The much loved Barbican Estate in London comprises many parts and elements – from its famed performing arts centre, a key cultural hub in the City of London and beyond and the largest of its kind in Europe, to its iconic residences, outdoor spaces and brutalist architecture environment. Its scale means that there are many smaller areas, however, which often remain lesser-known, yet are no less important to the Barbican experience. Part of the Grade II-listed Barbican Centre Theatre, the Barbican sunken bars are two hospitality corners of the seminal modernist development, constructed between 1965 and 1971 and located under the steps of the theatre. The spaces were in need of a refresh, so London architect Kam Bava was asked to lead a careful restoration and interior redesign to breathe new life to the complex's much-loved leisure offering.
The bars’ facelift was not just about aesthetic fixes and a superficial polish. The architect ensured a technical upgrade was incorporated as well, because, after years of intensive use, the listed fabric was in dire need of an update. Seeking to maintain the interior's original character, as well as emphasise reuse and recycling as an approach, Bava cleverly redeployed elements found within the Barbican campus. ‘The steel bar structure is made from the handrails on the [Barbican] centre, and the ceiling comes from the art gallery. The handling of these pieces together with the use of mirrors creates a very different scale of experience, using very familiar design cues,' he explains. Read more
South London house by Whittaker Parsons
This brutalist treasure in south London squeezes a surprising amount of space onto an unpromising spot, enhancing the streetscape. The addition, next to a terraced house, features a tough, hard-wearing exterior that brings a little brutalist architecture glamour to its neighbourhood. Whittaker Parsons’ Corner Fold House was designed for a downsizing couple, who swapped a conventional Victorian terrace for a faceted modern house that makes the most of its awkward site, tucked in between an immovable electricity sub-station and the clients’ former family home. The process was remarkably smooth, according to the clients, who were able to transform a garden plot at the side of their house into a completely separate dwelling, digging down to create a new basement and even finding enough space for a small rear terrace. Describing it as ‘the experience of a lifetime’, the clients are especially impressed by Whittaker Parsons’ ability to maximise the amount of available space.
Brutalist architecture globally
Habitat 67, Montreal, by Moshe Safdie
As Portland’s cement industry bloomed at the turn of the 1900s and architects became increasingly tired of conventional materials, Montreal became something of a playground for concrete experimentation. From Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 – the instantly recognisable model community on the Marc-Drouin Quay – to Roger Taillibert’s monolithic Olympic Stadium, constructs of all shapes and sizes are brought into the fold.
CBR HQ, Brussels, Belgium by Constantin Brodzki
Constantin Brodzki is less than enthusiastic, to say the least, whenever he hears of one of his buildings being renovated. At 93 years old, the Belgian architect is still very much engaged with the architecture world, and he’s eager to point out the ways in which he would like his modernist legacy to be preserved. ‘I have experienced catastrophes before, so I’m suspicious,’ Brodzki admits, taking out plans and photos to show how some firms have botched his former projects. One of his designs, the former HQ of the cement company CBR in Brussels, is currently being converted into a new outpost for Antwerp co-working concept Fosbury & Sons. Close to the Sonian Forest, it’s just ten minutes from the high-end Avenue Louise. For Fosbury & Sons’ founders Stijn Geeraets and Maarten Van Gool, the initial impetus to take on the modernist office building, with its characteristic façade of curved concrete modules, was all about the immediate visual impact. But as they started to explore the building, the full package captivated them. Additional writing: Siska Lyseens
Zvonarka Central in Brno, Czech Republic
Brno’s Zvonarka Central Bus Terminal has been a key Brutalist architecture landmark in the city since it first opened in 1988 - and is among the country’s most notable remaining examples of the genre. But years of intense use and high maintenance costs had resulted in a tired, decaying building in dire need of a refresh. Now, the Brutalist bus terminal has been given a new lease of life courtesy of architects CHYBIK + KRISTOF, who in 2011 embarked on a self-initiated journey to restore the famous building to its former glory. The design team worked with the station’s private owners and raised awareness through social media to instigate a discussion about the station’s future, securing the necessary funding for the redesign works in 2015. ‘Demolitions are a global issue,’ explains co-founding architect Michal Kristof. ‘Our role as architects is to engage in these conversations and demonstrate that we no longer operate from a blank page. We need to consider and also work from existing architecture – and gradually shift the conversation from creation to transformation. Read more
Van Wassenhove House, Belgium by Juliaan Lampens
Those, like us, who have a soft spot for crude concrete architecture, will love the work of Juliaan Lampens (1926-2019). The powerful concrete roughness of the Belgian architect’s volumes is inescapable when you walk past two of his best known buildings, both near Ghent: the Chapel of Our Blessed Lady of Kerselare, in the village of Edelare, and the Van Wassenhove house in Sint-Martens-Latem. However, digging a little deeper into Lampens’ life and work, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to his architecture than brutalism by numbers. Belgian curator Angelique Campens has been studying Lampens’ work since her university years and knew him well. The architect had a reputation for being reserved, keeping his business to himself to the point of avoiding contact with colleagues. He didn’t even travel much, reveals Campens. ‘But he had a lot of books. He admired Oscar Niemeyer and was influenced by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.’ He may seem to have lacked the desire for architectural pilgrimage, but Lampens practised non-stop from his base in Eke, East Flanders, from 1950 until his last work was built in 2002 – creating a legacy of about 50, mostly residential, projects, including the chapel and Eke library. Lampens was born in 1926 in De Pinte and grew up in nearby Eke, the son of a cabinetmaker. After working as a technical draughtsman, he studied architecture in Ghent and set up his own firm straight after graduation, kick-starting it with commissions from his father’s middle-class clientele. While following a more conventional design style at first, he nurtured an interest in modernism. ’His visit to the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels was a turning point for him,’ Campens explains. ’Shortly after that, his designs changed drastically. He thought that Le Corbusier was too sculptural, and Mies too structured, but he wanted to combine the two. Read More
Armstrong Rubber Building, aka the Pirelli Tire Building in the USA by Marcel Breuer
Iconic examples of landmark architecture might not typically be found along major highways, but this is exactly where this brutalist architecture masterpiece, designed by Marcel Breuer, has cut a recognisable figure since it was completed in 1970. Located in New Haven, Connecticut, just off of the Interstate 95, the main north-south highway running along the east coast of the United States, the concrete behemoth was first created for the Armstrong Rubber Company, a tyre manufacturer – making its location apt. Originally designed to house the company’s administrative offices as well as a research and development space, Breuer’s sculptural concrete building is interrupted by a void of negative space. This was intended to help buffer and reduce sound for the offices above from the research labs below. It was finished with a façade created from pre-cast concrete panels that offer shade and protection from glare, while creating a dynamic visual tension. The building, which was bought by Pirelli in 1988 as its North American headquarters, was added to Connecticut’s State Register of Historic Places in 2000. Additional writing: Pei-Ru Keh. Read More
Flying Saucer, Sharjah
The ‘Flying Saucer’ is one of Sharjah’s key Brutalist architecture landmarks. The round, striking building, which was originally constructed in the 1970s and opened in 1978 as a mixed use structure, was acquired by the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) in 2012. Then in a state of disrepair, it has now been given a new lease of life through a thorough renovation by the foundation and architect Mona El Mousfy of SpaceContinuum Design Studio. While the structure was originally conceived to house a one-stop-shop restaurant, newsstand, tobacconist, gift shop, patisserie and delicatessen, after the restoration and redesign, the Flying Saucer is reimagined as an art and community space with a café, library, courtyard and activity spaces. Read more
Boston City Hall, 1969, by Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles
Few buildings have been more controversial than those belonging to the brutalist genre; and Boston City Hall is no exception. When its concrete block volumes were unveiled on the 10 February 1969, the launch was underscored by as much fanfare as criticism. Yet, it has now become a much-loved landmark of contemporary architecture, recognised as one of the brutalist movement’s most significant expressions. And the striking building has just marked the 50th anniversary of its grand launch. Designed by Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles, the Boston City Hall was part of the area’s greater government complex redesign and was created following an international competition. The structure is dramatic, featuring cantilevered elements and a highly articulated concrete facade that is instantly recognisable. The Boston City Hall in Massachusetts, USA, by Kallmann, McKinnell & Knowles has recently celebrated the 50th anniversary from its opening. Concrete Architecture and the New Boston’ (Monacelli Press) Read More
San Francisco home, early 1960s by architect Joseph Esherick
An early 1960s San Francisco residence by architect Joseph Esherick has been brought to the 21st century by Richard Beard Architects and The Wiseman Group. The team worked with the original midcentury home’s brutalist architecture, implementing contemporary interiors to accommodate the owners’ art collection and make the home suitable for a family of five. ‘[We wanted it to be] respectful of the heritage but looking to the future,’ says architect Richard Beard. With the home’s main brutalist space, the atrium living room, featuring exposed concrete and a high, skylight ceiling, Beard admits that making it feel ‘cozy’ was challenging. Yet the architecture team balanced preserving the building’s original character and architectural intention with making changes. ‘The character of the house is and was defined by a number of distinctive details and materials,’ explains Beard. ‘Those we preserved, and enhanced. It would have been a shame to turn the house into just another lovely suburban home. What was odd was the compartmentalised plan. At a time when open plans were becoming an innovative architectural approach to composition, this house was comparatively segmented. We carefully opened a few things up, to give a more expansive feeling through the home.’ Read More
Eduardo Leme House, 1969 by Paulo Mendes da Rocha
When art dealer Eduardo Leme was a boy in São Paulo, he used to look out with endless fascination at a striking modernist house two blocks away. It was the home of Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. When Leme saw a ‘For Sale’ sign outside another da Rocha concrete bunker-style house in the city, he decided to buy it. Known as Casa Millán, it had been built in 1969 for another art dealer, Fernando Millán, and was in serious need of a facelift. Leme called on da Rocha himself to fix it up and a friendship was formed – which resulted the architect building Leme the São Paulo art gallery he owns today. As for the updated residence, ‘the concrete gives the house a very informal feel’, says Leme. ‘It’s the sort of place where you feel at home in shorts and a T-shirt.’ The relaxed vibe is added to by the fact that the house overlooks a quiet local park teeming with monkeys and super-sized vegetation, and has a swimming pool in the garden. Additional writing: Emma O'Kelly Read More
Casa Mérida by Ludwig Godefroy
The first thing that stands out about Casa Mérida is its unashamed brutalism, defined by raw and omnipresent concrete, all hard edges and rough surfaces under the strong Mexican sun. The second is that most of the building seems to be open to the outdoors, with few fully enclosed spaces. The project’s defining feature, though, is that it is 80m long but just 8m wide. While this odd stretch would be considered unusual in most places, in Mérida, capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, it’s fairly common, explains the house’s architect, French-born, Mexico City-based Ludwig Godefroy: ‘This type of lot is everywhere in the historic centre of Mérida and it has to do with inheritance, when people started to slice bi er plots into smaller ones, to distribute to different siblings.’ And while a big part of the city comprises grand colonial architecture, some urban chunks include more humble styles, such as old workers’ cottages. It was one such building that Godefroy came across, when he visited Mérida with his client, a high-flying professional from Mexico City. His family of three was in search of the perfect spot for a retreat, to hide away and use as a base to kite-surf nearby. The strange plot was a quirk Godefroy embraced immediately. ‘The house’s long and narrow site provided a new kind of challenge for me,’ he says. ‘It’s nothing like I’ve done before and by pushing yourself, something new and amazing can come up.’ Read more
Punchbowl Mosque by Candalepas Associates
Sydney’s Candalepas Associates has brought a slice of brutalism to the city’s Punchbowl suburb with an orthogonal new mosque. The concrete structure provides a new home for the Australian Islamic Mission, and its various educative and community facilities can host up to 300 worshippers at once. The mosque forms the first of a two-part project for the local Islamic community. The second stage of the plan will see the development of new community buildings that will orbit the place of worship, in turn bringing the local faith closer together. Candalepas Associates was resultantly driven to give the mosque a unique architectural vernacular, so to help it stand separate and distinct from its future sibling spaces. Additional writing: Luke Halls. Read More
Clifton cathedral (1969-73) by Ron Weeks of the Percy Thomas Partnership
Architecture buffs might recognise the brutalist cathedral in Clifton, Bristol by its distinctive, irregular, elongated hexagonal floorplan. What many don’t know however, is that the iconic building has been suffering from water leakages for years, due to its large, striking lead roof not being entirely watertight. Enter architecture and heritage experts Purcell, who have just unveiled their careful repair work to the building’s historical fabric, rendering the cathedral fully watertight for the first time ever. The structure, also known as Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of SS. Peter and Paul in Clifton, Bristol, was originally constructed between 1969-73 to a design by Ron Weeks of the Percy Thomas Partnership, and is a Grade II* listed monument. Due to the building’s sensitive and historical nature, Purcell worked closely with all relevant parties and the Lead Sheet Association to ensure the greatest care is taken when carrying out the repair works. The latter was heavily involved because the pitched roof required the majority of the works – some 86 tons of replacement lead. It was the largest lead roofing project in Britain at the time of its creation. Read more
Rozzol Melara in Trieste, built under the direction of Le Corbusier in the 1960s
Hefty monographs about concrete were everywhere in 2017. Once a marginalised and maligned genre, brutalism has burst back onto the design scene, cited as inspiration by a new generation seduced by the authenticity and heroic ambitions of this impressive architecture. Yet as well as being fetishised for its rough and ready qualities, there’s also a growing desire to preserve the best examples of concrete architecture in the face of widespread indifference and downright hostility. SOS Brutalism, a monumental survey of the more esoteric expressions of concrete architecture around the world, with a special focus on those that are threatened by alteration or demolition. This impressive book, which grew out of a collaboration between the Deutsches Architekturmuseum and Wüstenrot Foundation and was edited by Oliver Elser, Philip Kurz, Peter Cachola Schmal, is a treasure trove of unsung buildings and oddities, including works in Russia, the Middle East and Asia. Covering the period between 1950 and 1970, it uses new photography and archive imagery to rally for preservation and recognition, making it a must for lovers of architecture’s more far-flung fringes. Lovers of raw surfaces, bold forms and naked concrete are spoilt for choice. Additional writing: Jonathan Bell. Read More
Various sites in Havana, Cuba
A few years ago, we tasked renowned New York-based photographer Daniel Shea to capture Cuban creativity, ahead of Chanel’s landmark Havana Cruise show. On the eve of Chanel’s landmark Havana Cruise 2016 show, we dispatched New York photographer Daniel Shea to shoot a portfolio of the Cuban creatives who are driving the country’s new cultural revolution. We asked him what his initial impressions were of Havana. He says: ‘Driving in from the airport, the first thing I noticed was the architecture, which felt unique to the place and its various competing histories, including colonialism. The combination of historical preservation, ruin and the sprinkling of new construction creates the Havana density, plus the beautiful colours and strong, hot sunlight bathing everything.' Additional writing: Katrina Israel. Read more
Yale Centre for British Art, USA, by Louis Khan
Louis Kahn’s masterful Yale Center for British Art re-opened its doors in 2016 after the completion of a $33 million, eight-year renovation led by New Haven-based Knight Architecture. The five-story 1974 building houses the largest collection of British art outside of the United Kingdom, donated in 1966 by Yale Alumnus Paul Mellon. Its intimate, naturally lit galleries are organised around two ethereal interior courtyards, floored in travertine and clad with grids of bared concrete, matte steel and white oak wall panels. Perhaps most famous for its monolithic anchor piece, a drum-like cylindrical grey cement staircase— the centre is an astonishing example of Kahn’s unparalleled gift for eliciting visceral emotion through pure volume, light, and materials. Much of the renovation, describes Knight Architecture principal George Knight, was ’an effort to defend the architecture in the face of legitimate issues.’ Additional writing: San Lubell. Read more
The home of Pedro Reyes and Carla Fernandez in Mexico City
This is a dwelling for the caveman of the future; the ruins of a civilization, now extinct, which was more advanced than the one we’re living in now,’ explains Mexican artist Pedro Reyes. He’s referring to the house he’s built with his wife, fashion designer Carla Fernández, in Coyoacán, in the south of Mexico City. Ancient Aztecs meet The Martian Chronicles in the form of hammered concrete walls, chunky furniture hewn from volcanic stone and an abundance of rich, overblown greenery. A ‘pyramid’ at one end is Carla’s studio, a yard behind it will be Pedro’s. It’s currently a ramshackle plot occupied by the team of artisans that is helping finish the house. The couple is in good company in Coyoacán. Fellow artists Damián Ortega and Gabriel Orozco are nearby, Frida Kahlo was born locally, and it’s where her pal, the exiled Leon Trotsky, was murdered in 1940. Those in Mexico’s creative circles joke that Carla and Pedro are the modern-day Frida and Diego (Rivera, Kahlo’s artist husband). Like their predecessors they are bon vivants – 600 guests came to their housewarming – and like their communist forebears, they are politically engaged. Additional writing: Emma O'Kelly. Read more
County Hall, Truro, FK Hicklin, 1963-66
Owen Hatherley – author of a new book on Britain’s modern buildings – is an architectural journalist with an agenda. Throughout a series of memoirs and travelogues spanning the UK and Europe, Hatherley has proved to be one of the most perceptive and insightful chroniclers of the modernist era. His urban perambulations are in the great tradition of some of the best writers on architecture and design, from Nikolaus Pevsner through to Ian Nairn, Jonathan Meades, and Reyner Banham. Like these critics and historians, Hatherley is adept at eking out some additional fact or stylistic note, while never being afraid of pronouncing an unpopular opinion. Among the buildings featured is Truro Town Hall, pictured here. Additional writing: Jonathan Bell Read More
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Municipal Stadium, Ahmedabad, India. 1959 – 1966
Emancipatory politics in the first decades after the end of colonial rule in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are given a physical shape, thanks to the Museum of Modern Art’s latest exhibition, ‘The Project for Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia 1947 – 1985’, which opens this week. Comprising over 200 South Asian architecture works ranging from original sketches, drawings, and photographs to films and architectural models, the survey focuses on work by prominent leaders and institutions from the region, including the Indian icon Balkrishna V Doshi, currently the only South Asian winner of the Pritzker Prize in architecture; trailblazer Minnette de Silva, the first female licensed architect in Sri Lanka; and Yasmeen Lari, the first woman who qualified as an architect in Pakistan. The pictured, by Charles Correa is among the featured works. Additional writing: Pei-Ru Keh Read More
Casa Zicatela, Mexico
‘Emotional architecture,’ muses Emmanuel Picault, enveloped in a cloud of cigarette smoke at his flat in the trendy Roma district of Mexico City, ‘is one we cannot plan.’ He is referring to the term coined by the German-born Mexican artist Mathias Goéritz in 1953, which describes an architecture elevated to art for the purpose of inspiring emotion. Known primarily for their work on nightclubs and bars, French architectural duo Picault and Ludwig Godefroy, who are based in Mexico, have developed an intuitive and spiritually charged style that mixes modernist and pre-Hispanic influences. Picault is a well-known figure in the Mexican capital. With no formal training, he made a name for himself in the 2000s running Chic by Accident, a visionary antique gallery often credited with reviving interest in 20th-century Mexican design. He also worked on some acclaimed interiors projects, including the Revés bar in the upscale district of Polanco in 2007, which shot him to the forefront of the design scene. Godefroy moved to Mexico in 2007 to work as an architect at Tatiana Bilbao’s studio, after a stint at OMA in Rotterdam. ‘Ludwig brought a strong architecture background to the table, which I didn’t have,’ says Picault, who likes to describe himself as an ensemblier (literally one who ‘brings things together’). Although they originate from neighbouring towns in Normandy, the pair met at a jazz bar in Mexico City. Excited by the potential of their combined skills, they decided to team up in 2010. Additional writing: Benoit Loiseu Read More
University of East Anglia in Norwich (1962–68) by Denys Lasdun
Our admiration for all things concrete is part of our DNA, so when we found out about fine art photographer Simon Phipps’ book on brutalist architecture, Finding Brutalism: A Photographic Survey of Post-War British Architecture, we were rubbing our hands together in glee; and when the book reached our offices, it did not disappoint. Filled with Phipps’ distinctive photographic compositions, this is a richly produced tome. The photographer spent more than 20 years, documenting brutalist architecture in Britain, creating a hefty archive of about 125 buildings. The book features some 200 takes of those, making for an impressive collection to reference and savour. Yet if you think that this is all about aesthetics, think again. Phipps, in effect, follows through his lens the rebuilding of Britain after World War II. His numerous photographs of Brutalist masterpieces not only appeal to the eye and refined tastes, but also ‘recognises the architects’ enormous contribution to the transformation of the political and social landscape of the country’ in the aftermath of the war, explain the publishers, Park Books. Included is the University of East Anglia in Norwich (1962–68) by Denys Lasdun, pictured here. Read more
Pilgrimage Church, 1968, by Gottfried Böhm (1920-2021)
Architecture is one of those professions that can often become a family affair. Gottfried Böhm is not only the son of an architect, he is also the grandson, the husband and the father of architects. Since the early days of his career, more than 60 years ago, Böhm has been known for his original work, which, in 1986, earned him the Pritzker Prize. The Pilgrimage Church in Neviges, Germany, perfectly characterises his style – and is nothing like any church you could imagine. The Pilgrimage Church project began as a competition-winning entry in 1964, in response to the Catholic archdiocese of Koln’s call for a church in Neviges, a small town about half an hour outside the city. Böhm’s winning design ticked all the boxes, providing both the space and atmosphere for religious functions – it offers seating for 800 and standing room for 2,200 in a truly spectacular building – without any obvious recourse to traditional religious symbolism. The church was completed in May 1968 and instantly became a landmark in the town. Taking advantage of a row of pilgrims’ houses and the church’s position at the top of a slope, Böhm created a processional way leading up the hill, into the church’s open courtyard and inside, ending at the altar and the pilgrimage’s religious climax. Read more
Teatro Politecnico, 1965, Quito
Among the Ecuador capital's enduring architectural legacy is the brutalist Teatro Politecnico, designed in 1965 by Oswaldo de la Torre. The structure's unusual, sculptural concrete volume visually instantly stands out, sitting on a concrete plinth. A glass strip across the facade ensures natural light comes into the building. And while this is a piece of architecture that feels thoroughly modern, at the same time it nods to its pre-Hispanic counterparts with its monumentality and subtly dominating presence. The space inside is still in use as a space for events for the local university. Based on an article that first appeared in the Wallpaper* Summer 2020 issue, written by Hugo Macdonald