The eerie backdrop to Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange divides opinion in taste much like Marmite.
Now the hulking concrete Lecture Theatre Block at Brunel University London’s Uxbridge campus is on show in Frankfurt at SOS Brutalism.
Straplined Save the Concrete Monsters, the German Museum of Architecture (DAM)’s exhibition is the first-ever global survey of Brutalist architecture.
“The lecture theatre certainly splits opinion among staff and students,” said Stuart Bonney, Brunel’s senior projects officer. “Both aesthetically and functionally.”
“Architecturally, the front at least seems to be either loved or loathed in equal measure for its scale and visual impact.”
There is an urban myth, he says, that the bunker-like Grade II listed building was built back to front. Because its facade is similar to the Howell Building behind it, there’s an idea it was originally supposed to face The Howell.
At Frankfurt, the lecture block, designed by John Heywood and built in 1965-66, joins photographs, large-scale models and concrete miniatures of Brutalist gems from Japan, Brazil, the former Yugoslavia and Israel. It also features in the accompanying book, SOS Brutalism: A Global Survey.
Taking its name from béton brut, the French words for naked concrete, Brutalist architecture has reached cult status on social media. Over the last two years, all over Facebook and Instagram, fans post black-and-white shots of the layered buildings from odd angles to dramatic effect.
Brutalist buildings sprouted up during the upheaval and experimentation of the 1950s to 1970s, and British architects Alison and Peter Smithson first coined the term Brutalism in a magazine in 1953. But many, including Prince Charles, still see them as nothing more than ‘ugly monstrosities’. Around the world, scores sit on death row, awaiting demolition – something SOS Brutalism aims to stop.
“With its projecting, sloping theatres, Brunel University’s Lecture Centre does not only reveal its construction and function, but rhetorically exaggerates them,” said DAM’s Maximilian Liesner. “In this way, it is a perfect and early example of what we tenderly call a concrete monster.”
“Beyond, as a film set for A Clockwork Orange, the building influenced Brutalism’s dystopian image, which nowadays is about to be judged more favourably by public view.”
The image of Brunel’s Lecture block displayed at the DAM is by photographer Simon Phipps and also features in his new book, Finding Brutalism: A Photographic Survey of Post-War British Architecture
Image inside DAM by Fritz Philipp
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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