Friday, 27 September 2013

Brutal and Beautiful:
the exhibition

Oooh, we are most excited about a new exhibition from English Heritage about post-war buildings, and our love/hate relationship with them.

Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century, which has just opened in central London, covers the period from 1945 to the 1980s and features many photographs and interviews with architects demonstrating the vast amount of post-war architecture the UK has to offer.

Cromwell Tower in the Barbican, London
There is nothing that fires up an architecture debate like post-war building design. You only need to look at the comments below our piece on Preston Bus Station (and the fact that the divisive building gained listed status earlier this week) to see what I mean. But I'm firmly on the side of the crikey-it's-beautiful-but-in-a-wrongheaded-breathtaking-sort-of-way – it's surely hard not to gasp in awe at the sight of the Barbican's Cromwell Tower, pictured above. No? (For further evidence, see exhibit one and also the vast – and vastly contentious – Park Hill Estate in Sheffield.)

Lloyds Building, London
And I'm not alone, as this far-reaching exhibition illustrates. But there's a lot more to its content than massive concrete edifices, or Richard Rogers mould-breaking late seventies/early eighties Lloyds Building design, pictured above and part of the exhibition. 

Scargill Chapel, North Yorkshire
The show also features lesser known buildings such as the quietly monolithic Scargill Chapel in Wharfedale, North Yorkshire, pictured above. Designed and built by the English architect George Pace in between 1958-61, this chapel owes much to Scandinavian design but also sits peacefully among the rolling hills and dales.

New House, Oxfordshire (private residence)
Or the charming New House in Oxfordshire, pictured above. Built in 1963-63 it's a private residence constructed from traditional materials like Cotswold stone and slate and modelled, by architects Stout and Greenfield, on local farm buildings. There's even a Japanese garden thrown in for good measure.

British Gas Engineering Research Station in Tyne and Wear
And then, pictured above, there's the glorious British Gas Engineering Research Station in Tyne and Wear... and that's not a sentence I ever thought I'd write. Built by Ryder and Yates in 1966-67 it reminds me a tiny bit of Brasilia, that fantastical Oscar Niemeyer creation in Brazil. Don't you think? The soaring white towers with their futuristic shapes rising up out of a flat landscape nod to the municipal buildings Niemeyer created. But in Tyne and Wear. Marvellous. 

Yes, I know that living in or near to any such Marmite buildings can often lead to a very different experience than to the often utopian ideal the architect/s had in mind but look at them. They're stunning – sometimes in a sculptural way, sometimes in a horrific way but always, always in a way that makes you react. And that's why I love them – these buildings provoke an emotional response and in that way they're like the best kind of art.

The exhibition runs until 24 November, costs a mere £4 entry and, as an added bonus, is at the rather brilliant Quadriga Gallery, housed inside the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner in London. Opening times: Weds-Sun, 10am-5pm.

Post by Abi

1 comment:

  1. Great post, will endeavour to see this exhibition

    ReplyDelete

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