In many for years. Living conditions were poor;

In
this essay I will be talking about how Brutalism took on a more humanistic
approach the movement matured. Brutalism is a sub genre movement of modernism. Brutalism
has been around long before the term was coined; it was a mixture between Le
Corbusier, Alison and Peter Smithson. The term Brutalism has had many
questionable origins, Beton Brut was used by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier
which translated to ” raw concrete”, this then mixed with Alison and Peter
Smithson ” New Brutalism” which Reyner Banham described their completion entry
of the Hunstanton School.

 

World
War 2 had just finished in 1945, Winston Churchill, leader of the conservatives
was in power and had been for 4 years previously. The war hit the world pretty
hard and rationing was still around, this was a lifestyle for many for years.

Living conditions were poor; slums were not cared about and there were a huge
divide between classes.  In 1950, people
were sick of the austerity and the divide between classes and what post World
War 2 had become. In 1945 the conservative party had won by a landslide. In
1945, the idea of nationalisation and bringing more equalisation had become
more of a reality; Labour came into government but only by 5 seats, a
re-election was held after this as the king at the time didn’t want to go to
the common wealth games with such a slim majority, he fell ill and the election
results came back with a new government: conservatives. The Conservatives managed
to stay in power until 1964. The manifesto for the conservatives in 1951
general election showed how they were conscious of what had happened to the
country during the war to housing. The prices of materials were to be
controlled as supplies were short such as brick, one of the main materials used
at the time for structures, and rebuilding again would mean a fluctuation of
price cost at first. Subsidies were to be handed out to local authorities and
for private enterprises alike. Since rationing cannot be controlled, housing is
the second priority to national defence as a there was a lot of overcrowded
homes, everyone should be owning their own homes and live in more established
estates. (Churchill, 1951). Not only the uk needed to find smarter and cheaper
ways to build structures, but to implement estates and a sense of community.

Ways of doing this was using materials such as left over brick, glass, concrete,
gabion and trapion, steel and many other materials, money was saved by leaving
a raw look to the buildings, exposing their functionalities rather than
decorating them which would cost more. Brutalism first emerged because of the
impact from the past, it was a representation of the time itself, rationing,
brutality and rawness and getting back on its feet. Brutalism helped the
economy by saving money, almost cutting corners with structures but leaving the
most important parts in the plan.

 

Brutalism
in the beginning was a new concept, the architects who built it loved it and it
was great for economic value, meaning it was very favourable once people had
gotten to know the main values behind it, but at first it wasn’t as accepted
due to the external cold, brutal look. The main two drivers of Brutalism were
three people, Le Corbusier and Alison and Peter Smith, a married couple who
were both architects. Surprisingly the three people associated in many projects
together such as CIAM and then later split off into Team X. Le Corbusier and
the Smithson’s really separated the terms of modernism, brutalism and New
Brutalism together.  Alison and Peter
Smithson saw industrial estates as honesty and they found a lot of inspiration
from this thought once they started thinking more about housing and brutalism
as a whole, this started happening in the late 40’s, early 50’s (The Smithsons
on Housing, 1970).  They turned their
surroundings of sites on their heads, how can they use the characters from
these buildings and really show them off, docks, industry sites and riverbanks
where always close to their building sites.

 

 

Corbusier
believed cities needed to be rethought as they wasn’t fitting in with life
after the war, this then had a catalyst effect on Unité d’Habitation. It was an
iconic building in the movement, it not only set a standard of new architecture
but a new way to look at living in a world after the second world war. Originally
it was meant to have a steel frame, but this had to be subsidised due to the
economic decline of the world when materials were scarce. Le Corbusier wanted
streets in the sky as there was there was too many people in one area, slums
where appearing and there wasn’t much space to work with, he want to decongest
the cities and create more open space, this is when he thought of building high
in a small part of the total ground. (Le Corbusier,1929) The Unité d’Habitation
was the first of its kind and was a great example set to the cities struggling
with space; materials and class systems post war. The building had been thought
about a great deal, and a lot of planning into the way of how families would
live in the space. The interior of Unite d’Habitation proved it was possible to
feel like there was space in such a repetitive building and personalise it for yourself
as it is still standing today and being used. From figure 2 we can see that the
plan had a two storey height living room, not only did this add light into the
space but with the space being narrow it create an illusion of a bigger room,
this was applied to the back of the apartments as well giving more privacy on
the top that couldn’t be seen over through the balcony. The use of materials in
this building have been very honest, glass and concrete together have created
just enough of it to be easy in upkeep of the aesthetical look. The Corbusier
wanted to control the aspects of life in his buildings (Hall,1991, p .211). His
ideas were harmless, but not thought through unfortunately. Having copy pasted buildings
and rooms in a black of flats leaves no room for personality of those living
there. The buildings would have felt more like a hotel than a home, and
fortunately his buildings that exaggerated this idea got turned down a lot.

Although people liked the idea and took away certain aspects of the idea to
build upon it, many didn’t accept it.

 

Alison
and Peter Smithson really extended the concept of humanism in the brutalist
movement. Their first building Hunstanton School (figure 3) was said to be the
first new brutalist building of the movement; it showed honesty. (Banham, 1966
p.19) Water tanks were placed on the outside of the building rather than
traditionally being hidden underground out of sight. The building was designed
for a completion with a secondary school in mind in 1949, the building was
released the same year Le Corbusiers Unité d’Habitation 1954 (double check). Even
though brick was used in this building, it had a lot of steel beams exposed
rather than hidden, glass formed the walls and it was something that had really
explored new grounds and areas of architecture. The building would have been
completed earlier but the scarce materials from the war made it harder to get a
hold of, The Smithsons didn’t take this to their advantage as much as Le
Corbusier, he scrapped his material idea and substituted it and came up with a
new concept, which came to be Unité d’Habitation. Alison and Peter Smithson
deeply thought about how people would interact with the buildings being made,
it was their priority to take in the surroundings and reflect, that in their
work which became challenging with brutalism, as it was very limited in how you
could use materials.

 

Robin
Hood Gardens, which was completed in 1972 (figure 4), was the first housing project that Alison and Peter
Smithon had that was a cluster of flats. By this time the couple had projects in-between
that were successful such as Sheffield University (1953), which was also
another competition design they won. The building still stands today and houses
thousands of students in the science sector (Hodsgon and Cassidy, 2017). Robin
Hood gardens was surrounded by roads, Alison and Peter Smithson built up
concrete walls that bounced back the sound with gaps in the wall, this was to
help with the noise situation from the vehicles, as this was the early 70’s
cars were starting to become more and more popular. The gaps in the fence was
to stop the outside looking like and feeling like a prison, then surrounding it
with shrubbery to add an extra barrier against the noise pollution (The
Smithsons on Housing, 1970). The idea of this was putting the residents first
and to make the building long lasting. With this they also thought about the
living area and the pedestrians around the new housing utopia. The main
audience aim for the buildings were family and young couples that was the case
for most brutalist buildings.  The centre
green field in the middle was for older children to play, but it also deterred
loudness of the children, this was done by creating a hill in the middle that
would deter football matches where many children could all play in a condensed
space creating problematic noise for residents. The Smithson’s always
exaggerated how they used their senses of their surroundings, the history to truly
reflect the building. The noisy rooms of the apartments were parallel to the
noise that would be outside if it got too loud, this meant that the corridors
and living room were always on the outsides closer to the roads. The kitchen
overlooked onto the balconies that young kids could play on, and also the
communal garden on the ground. This meant that families could always have space
but keep an eye on each other, something that had been though out with maturity
through the many architectural projects the Smithson’s had encountered.

 

 

The international
placement of a brutalism really effected its style, an example of this would be
how the UK’s brutalism was politically influenced in a way of equality, much
like socialism, which in the politics, nationalisation for the public of not
only labour but also the conservatives were in favour. In the United States of
America, at the time of the movement, the placement of structural brutalism was
almost a hierarchy, which can reflect on its communist policies at the time. In
the Boston City Hall was constructed between the years of 1963 and 1968,
commissioned also by Gerhard Kallmann and Michael McKinnell. The building got a
lot of critique, as the thought of extreme weather conditions wasn’t involved
in the beginning planning stages. But on the front façade of the building,
there are external buildings. The external buildings climb on the idea of a
hierarchy of power, the importance of the rooms really reflect on who can enter
and who can’t enter the building by separating the public and private sections.

(Kroll, 2018). The Building is can be seen as flaunting it’s importance in the
city and the power it beholds, this can be seen especially in the interior and
the exterior materials. The interior has large light let through from the large
windows on the facades and the amount of them; it is also very structurally complicated
which can be reflected back onto its purpose of the building. Today in 2018,
the government has realised that not everyone favours the building and has
tried to almost dress the building with furnishings around the site, fountains,
positive public events and cleanliness of the building, which can be expensive.

 

 

Brutalism
can be seen as a reflection of the society it was built in, taking in the
factors of politics, geography and year. As time went on the economy got better
in the UK, and politics became a tie almost with labour and conservatives as
the UK was in such a bad state in the beginning. Architects had to learn and
mature ideas fast due to the general state of housing; there was none, which
meant rebuilding needed to be done. Humanism defiantly took more of an approach
in the movement as the buildings aged as well, but aesthetic comes into the
question that played a big part of the fall and critique that brutalism took
towards the end in the 1970’s. Le Corbusier and The Smithson’s both were
catalysts of the movement but had very different ideals, Le Corbusier forced a
lifestyle that came with the buildings he made, and The Smithson’s took in
every aspect of the surroundings for the buildings, but this still left and
alien like feel to the buildings that made them feel like they didn’t belong. Ethic
or Aesthetic the title of Reynar Banham’s book can play into context, is
aesthetic a part of humanism and I believe it is, once basic care has been
taken of couples and families look for more, are they truly happy and can they
improve starts to be a topic of conversation. Architects in the Brutalist
movement thought mainly about what the building needed to do at the moment in
time, and this left a drastic effect for the future of these strong structures
that could stand for years more than other materials. It wasn’t until later on
where architects realised these structures were to be here for a long time.

Upkeep of the concrete needed to be maintained and the buildings needed to accommodate
future generations, something, which Le Corbusier got right on, his first try
with Unité d’habitation, but couldn’t replicate again to such a high standard.