Brutalist London

Do huge slabs of roughly-finished concrete get you excited? If they do, then you’re going to enjoy this collection.

London is awash with Brutalist structures, The Brutalist movement of the 1950s to 1970s was massively concerned with textures, materials and construction, producing gigantic structures aimed at breaking away from the Modernist style of the time. Characterised by rugged, unfinished blocks of concrete it is easy to point out these structures. Here we have put together a list of our favourites from London.

Brutalist architecture polarises architects, as some just do not understand the bold, monumental and very serious style it possesses. There is a lot of speculation surrounding the person who coined the expression ‘Brutalism’ which was taken from ‘béton brut’ in French, literally meaning ‘raw concrete’. Some say it was Hans Asplund who applied the expression to Villa Goth in Uppsala and some believe it was Reyner Banham who first adapted the phrase to Brutalism from ‘New Brutalism’. However, Le Corbusier was the first to adopt this style of architecture in his work.

Here we have created a collection of what we believe are the best examples of this art form in London.

The Barbican, Barbican

The Barbican is the biggest centre of performing arts in the whole of Europe and also hosts the London Symphony Orchestra. It was voted London’s ugliest building in 2003, by people who no doubt did not connect with the late Brutalist development.

Southbank Centre, Waterloo

With beautiful views from it’s first floor restaurant, the Southbank Centre has many who adore it. However, this severe and melancholy looking building also receives some stick, having been compared to an overgrown carpark. The concrete itself has been finished in a number of ways, and so proves to be a break away from the finishes of many of the monolithic structures.

Trellick Tower, Westbourne Park

The Trellick tower stands boldly alongside the Grand Union canal. Designed by Erno Goldfinger, this tower is loved and hated by many. Juxtaposed with the leafy green Meanwhile Gardens, this is a real sight to see. The tower has featured on tv on many occasions and also in music videos. If you like this, you’ll also like the Brownfield Estate.

Institute of Education, Russell Square

The Institute of Education is a large brutalist structure. Despite its obvious Brutalist style, it is also adorned with dark glass, which is very characteristic of the Internationalist style of pre-brutalist times. The building was designed by Lasdun, and sits near to Russell Square.

Camden Town Hall Annexe, Kings Cross

The Camden Town Hall Annexe is a great example of experimentation in Brutalism. The corners on this building show curvature which is worlds away from the original blocky style seen previously. Rumour has it that this building is due to be knocked down and rebuilt, so may be your last chance to see it.

Alexandra Road Estate, Swiss Cottage

This is my personal favourite. This high density housing estate is low-rise, and unlike many of the housing projects in London. The estate has featured in a number of TV shows and films. The back of the estate backs onto the railway line and contains relatively no windows at all, probably with noise-control in mind. The whole estate is built on rubber pads to minimise noise. You can take a leisurely stroll along the inside of the estate which is a stark contrast to the dark intimidating rear side.

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