Venice 2018 – Raw and exposed concrete, heavy, massive and modular volumes, severe character and total lack of embellishments. These are some of the key features of Brutalism, the architectural movements which flourished from the 1950s to the mid ‘70s in name of blunt functionality, unpretentious honesty and moral seriousness. Brutalism found it’s most noticeable expression in government projects such as low-cost housing and university buildings but also tower blocks, and shopping centres. The architects’ anti-bourgeois and Socialist utopian imprint believed the genre could have redeemed lower-income neighbourhoods by offering new urban models for a better society. Well, that didn’t always quite happen…
• RELATED STORIES: Read more Brutalist stories on Archipanic…
Across the globe, Brutalism often became the very tangible proof of the failure of Socialist ideals with many projects becoming the decaying home of some of the poorest and most neglected urban communities. 5 Brutalist buildings screaming for justice at Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 offer a chance to reflect on how we should deal with such architectural legacy.
#1 – Robin Hood Gardens by Alison and Peter Smithson in London
Bulldozers are winning over Alison and Peter Smithson‘s Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, London. After a long campaign to save the loved/hated social housing complex by the architects who actually coined the term Brutalism, the iconic project will be replaced by a £300m redevelopment of affordable and private housing.
At the Pavilion of Applied Arts at Arsenale, a vision for a new model of social housing, the failure of such dream and the building’s decadence are narrated in an exhibition by the Victoria & Albert Museum and La Biennale di Venezia. On show a video installation exploring the architecture and the homes of former residents as well as a section of three storeys of the original façade which has been brought to Venice and reassembled. [Read more…]
#2 – Rome’s Corviale: regeneration by Laura Peretti
But Brutalism is about redemption too. Laura Peretti won the competition for the requalification of the Corviale massive social housing complex in Rome housing over 7.000 people. Designed by Mario Fiorentino and completed in the late 70s, the the 1km long megastructure was supposed to revolutionize the city’s urban development.
After decades of abusive occupation and neglect, Peretti’s regeneration project “aims to transform the building from a dam to a filter” explain Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara, curators of the Freespace exhibition at Arsenale where the project in on display. The new masterplan involves also the areas around the complex and the crossings through the building creating parks, ramps, passages which reconnect the so-called ‘Big Snake’ with it’s surrounding territory, to create quality free space and improve social engagement.
#3 – The re-birth of Sewoon Sangga in Seoul
The Korean Pavilion presents the history and visions for four 1960s state projects which served as nation-building propaganda during the country’s industrialization and modernization. On show also Sewoon Sanga, a 1.2 km brutalist megastructure in the heart of Seoul’s historical district. Architect Kim Swoo-Geun conveived it as a multi-layered city with a separation of pedestrians and car traffic… Eventually, it became a decaying highly compact retail-village for electronic and porn markets as well as industry and repair. Until last year.
Saved from demolition, the new administration consulted with a local resident committee and injected new life into the building giving also guarantees to existing residents and businesses. Young architectural firms, a robot ‘production city’, fablab and an urban orchard cohabit with dusty arcade game repairers, neon salesmen and lamp emporia all stacked on on top of the other. It might not be that photogenic, but the new Sewoon Sangga shows a sensible way to regenerate without gentrifry and to re-invigorate Brutalist buildings without that obnoxious architectural fetishism.
#4 – Le 6b creative occupation in France
Occupy, create and redeem – this could be the motto of the Infinites Places exhibition at the French Pavilion presenting 10 neglected sites which became avant-garde spaces for creatives, entrepreneurs or civic initiatives. On show also the rebirth of Le 6b, a Brutalist office complex in Saint-Denis.
Here, “forty artists, architects, musicians, graphic artists and artisans have managed to invent a generous cultural and economic vitality and have set aside the timeframes of traditional planning.” Say curators at Parisian firm Encore Heureux. Located on the docks of the city, the new 6b inaugurated in 2010 and gives space with affordable prices to over 170 ateliers and it hosts exhibitions, festival, events and concerts.
#5 – Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center for Harvard University
A 3D printed model of Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts is on show at the The School of Athens exhibition at the Greek Pavilion which examines the architecture of the academic commons. The building which is not endangered at all, is the proof of how the human-based imprint of Brutalism has become a brilliant example of vibrant environments.
The concrete and glass building, the only one completed in the United States, represents a perfect synthesis of Le Corbusier’s Brutalist Manifesto. The 5 storey high structure consists in a cubic central volumes with an S-shapedf ramp which connects two streets above the third floor. Concrete structural plinths create open spaces to maximise flexibility while luminous interiors are protected by direct light by using continuous windows and brise-soleil.
Brutalist buildings screaming for justice – courtesy of the studios and pavilions.
• RELATED STORIES: Read more about Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 on Archipanic…