What is brutalism?

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Pioneered in the 1950s, and embraced by  a number of prominent architects in the 1960s, brutalism offered a marked, almost revolutionary, contrast to all that had gone before it. And, whether you see it as a celebration of an unpretentious and honest aesthetic, or an ugly grey carbuncle more suited to nuclear power stations, there is no denying that brutalism remains one of architecture’s most divisive styles.

But what is brutalism? And how did it come to be adapted for prominent arts buildings, such as here at Southbank Centre? To gain an insight into brutalist architecture we spoke to Richard Battye, Project Architect for Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, and lead architect on the recently completed restoration of our own brutalist venues; Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery.

What is 'Brutalism'? by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

When you you see the hard cold concrete of a brutalist building, they can look very inhuman, like a machine-made building. But if you stop and think about how they were actually made you start to realise that really they’re a very deep expression of the craft involved in making them.
Richard Battye, Project Architect for Queen Elizabeth Hall restoration.

To celebrate the reopening of Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, Dr. Otto Saumarez Smith, Shuffrey Junior Research Fellow in Architectural History at Lincoln College, University of Oxford, took a closer look at the history and architecture of these brutalist icons.

Concrete Dreams - celebrating the brutalist buildings of Southbank Centre