The Paradoxical Beauty of Brutalist Architecture


and How These Imposing Structures Have Become the Artistic Backdrop for City Life

Brutalist architecture made an appearance in around the 1950s...

Taking over from the modernist architectural period and lasting up until around the 1970s, brutalism etymologically originates from the French word for raw. These imposing structures grew in popularity due to their relative cheapness to build and their ability to serve multiple purposes/house a large number of people.

For the purpose of print (and urban art in general), these buildings have created a backdrop in which to depict city life, that is they have become synonymous with our perception of gritty urban streets, complimenting highly with the medium of screen printing. It is the use of the word raw that I would like to particularly pay attention to, a word with multiple definitions. Uncooked - meaning natural, unprocessed, Strong and undigested, unaltered, cold and bleak but equally powerful and passionate, inexperienced. It is these words that give an insight into how our cities felt during the time of their construction, a new project that took cities around the world by storm, new and exciting but largely untested structures. These were built in their thousands across the UK and still claim and dominate our skylines, to serve as the emissary of city life. 

Original print of the barrier block in Brixton available to buy  here  for £35

Original print of the barrier block in Brixton available to buy here for £35

A messenger accepted by many artists, photographers and musicians, who aim to deliver it to the world. A message of community and pride, most importantly a message of acceptance. Acceptance for differences in preferences, looks, beauty and principally an acceptance for the history surrounding these buildings over their decades of existence. This is why I believe they have become a backdrop for our cities and a prime focus for creatives, it is because they mirror the growth of our cities over the same period of time in terms of diversity and community. This is where their true beauty lies. 

It is there where the beauty lies for these structures, and to most where the beauty ends. The perennial elephant in the room, standing next to taller, supposedly elegant glass structures, or our beloved edwardian/victorian terraced housing. The stories these buildings house are to be cherished, not covered up as they are a huge part of our identity.