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Late 20th-Century Brutalist
|013 Sydney Masonic Center||015 King George Building||012 Sydney University Law School|
|010 UTS Broadway Campus||54 Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Building||55 Engineering Building Link Building|
|59 Chemical Engineering Building||60 Peter Nicol Russell Building||67 Bio-Chemistry and Microbiology Building|
|69 Wilkinson Building||71 Wentworth Union Building||17 Sydney Convention Centre|
|The twentieth century has thrived on change,
and the early years of the post-war period saw a surprising change of
attitude on the part of many leading architects of the modern movement. In
Europe, the International style of the igos and 19305 had favoured
lightness, transparency, a seamless smoothness of surface, and the
elimination of everything ‘unnecessary’. The early post-war work of Le
Corbusier changed all that. Following his lead, many architects adopted an
uncompromisingly hefty, chunky aesthetic and were ‘brutally’ frank about
showing the world what their buildings were made of and where the pipes,
wires and ducts were. The morality which Pugin, Ruskin and Morris had
introduced to nineteenth- century architecture was disinterred, pumped up
and flaunted for all to see. ‘Let it all hang out’ applied to architecture
in the 1960s as much as to anything else. The typical Brutalist building was
(or seemed) large, tough, and rather overpowering, with blocky shapes
jostling each other aggressively. The favoured material, both outside and
inside, was reinforced concrete bearing the imprint of its formwork. The
delicate balustrades and hand-rails of the 19505 were superseded by solid,
over-scaled elements. Services were proudly exposed, and it was no longer
denigratory to say that a building ‘looked like a factory’.
The Late Twentieth-Century Brutalist style made its appearance in Australia in the mid-196os. The style’s insistence on off-form concrete made it necessary for architects and builders to pay great attention to the design and quality of formwork, some of the most significant early advances being in Western Australia. As happened in most parts of the world where Brutalism became popular, a paradoxical situation arose when enormous care had to be taken to obtain exactly the right degree of ‘artless’ roughness. For high prestige buildings, precast concrete panels with a factory-controlled texture were often preferred to the less predictable off-form concrete. After the passage of several decades, some Late Twentieth-Century Brutalist buildings have not responded well to the ravages of time and weather.
Although the word Brutalism comes from the French word for rough concrete (beton brut), a sense of brutality is also suggested by this style. Brutalist structures are heavy and unrefined with coarsely molded surfaces, usually exposed concrete. Their highly sculptural shapes tend to be crude and blocky, often colliding with one another. The line between brutalism and ordinary modernism is not always clear since concrete buildings are so common and run the entire spectrum of modern styles. Designs which embrace the roughness of concrete or the heavy simplicity of its natural forms are considered brutalist. Other materials including brick and glass can be used in brutalism if they contribute to a block-like effect similar the the strongly articulated concrete forms of early brutalism.
The origin of Brutalism is generally ascribed to the architect Le Corbusier, who experimented widely with concrete designs and whose massive plans for highrise block housing were very influential. American architect Paul Rudolph designed some of the most famous brutalist buildings, some of which are often used to define the style. Brutalism's greatest popularizer is the firm John Portman & Associates which designed several enormous hotels and office clusters known for their spectacular spatial effects.
Harold Holt Swimming Centre, Edgar Street, Malvern, Vic. Kevin Borland and DayI Jackson, architects, 1967. A development which displays the plasticity of poured concrete.
Arthur Stowe House, King’s Park Road, Perth West, WA. Krantz & Sheldon, architects, 1967. A businesslike office block of concrete; showing the pattern and texture of its timber formwork.
Union Building, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW. Anchor, Mortlock, Murray & Woolley, architects, 1968. The design exploits the forms and textures made possible with concrete.
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
RICHARD APPERLY, ROBERT IRVING, PETER REYNOLDS. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SOLOMON MITCHELL.
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.
|Cameron Offices, Belconnen; constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s|