Hard matters: Concrete Concept tours the world of brutalism
Concrete’s moment in the spotlight is still going strong. When it comes to design – and, more importantly, architecture – that most unrefined of materials can, in the right form, still stop a viewer in their tracks. The latest publication to document a host of brutalist beauties created in the composite is Concrete Concept, a surprisingly light-weight book that provides us a visual world-tour of tortured edifices.
‘Concrete was cheap, but it could be stretched into crazy shapes,’ claims writer Christopher Beanland in his introduction. Reading like an encyclopaedia of the 1960s movement, the tome begins with contributor Jonathan Meades’ own dictionary of brutalist architecture, running from ’A for Asplund’ through to ’Z for Zapotec’ (with notable mentions of ’L for Luder’ and ’C for Cité Radieuse’ along with way).
Continuing on as a world map of retro-futuist structures, the volume travels from Le Corbusier’s iconic Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles to the classically fun Marina City in Chicago, with surprising stop offs like Preston bus garage in the UK. Created in 1969, the bold layers of the listed structure abstractly curve upward to create a boisterous pattern.
Concrete Concept also explores the transforming nature of brutalism: from the Cuban Soviet Embassy, set in the harsh surroundings of Havana, to the sunnier summer vibes of India’s scooping Palace of Assembly in Chandigarh. Elsewhere, unusual animalistic forms appear in Fritz Wotruba’s eponymous Viennese church. The book further touches trends in the ways of concrete, recording that Palacio de Justica in Lisbon looks achingly similar to Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation.
‘It’s a book about a vision of the future from the past,’ Beanland explains, leading us to think about how our concrete favourites will be envisioned in years to come.