Brute as in unchanged or original, as in ‘raw’. It all comes from ‘béton brut’ meaning simply ‘raw concrete’. And that is the origin core of ‘Brutalism’ the architectural style that was a dominant part of the modernism movement in Architecture which reached out from the 1950’s and through to the 1970’s. For a period of time, for a reason many struggle to truly grasp quite why this style became so popular. And it is strange: it seems so quickly obvious to us that the style is ugly and just, well, brutish!
Yet they do, to many, have an enduring appeal and perhaps even a beauty. Such architecture may not be popular these days with almost all Architects rejecting anything approaching such a un-aesthetically pleasing style. That’s the case which is a shame for all those out there who find such beauty in these hard edges and big grey expanses. There are many buildings like this in Leeds, spread out north, west, east and south. Across the university (as presented beautifully in the picture above) and throughout the centre.
Very much ‘throughout’ the city centre actually, as there is no particular area or district in which Brutalism holds sway over all. It is perhaps somewhat more common in the north of the city where lies the business district, never one to shower itself in aesthetic glory if we’re honest…
We recognize these grey brutal edges and structures from around all of Leeds if we’re honest, though they are certainly on the decline. Very few architects are working with the style these days and many of the Brutalist buildings around Leeds have been demolished or are potentially in the firing line. But for me these shapes and colours have an enduring appeal that I think should not be dismissed. Sure, they are not the prettiest buildings in the city, but they can feel exactly how they where once intended to feel: ambitious, democratic, egalitarian, futuristic, public and, in certain lights at certain times, beautiful.
Architectural Emporium (Architects from Liverpool), recently revamped the famous Castleton Mill, showing that even the most derelict buildings can have new life breathed into them with a little innovation.
As is said: in certain lights at certain times.