Edwin Heathcote at the Financial Times:
Modernism began with an image of clean, lean whiteness; architecture as machine, stripped to its bones. Yet it was resurrected in Brutalism as a fierce, almost aggressive style in which multistorey car parks took on the look of ruined medieval castles or the hulks of aircraft carriers. We have lost some of the best examples — notably the Owen Luder Partnership’s Tricorn Centre and Gateshead Car Park (both designed by the brilliant Rodney Gordon) and the exuberantly sculptural Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago by Bertrand Goldberg. Many of these monuments remain under threat — Peter and Alison Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in London is due for demolition — just as they become fashionable again. Britain was a late-comer to Modernism but its Brutalism was in the vanguard, a world-class architecture that the host country is only now beginning to appreciate.
This is an architecture that contained the seeds of its own destruction in its name. “Brutalism” sounds alienating, savage, uncaring. Yet its origins are anything but. The term was coined in Sweden in 1950 to describe an inoffensive brick house that was, frankly, a bit boring. It was taken up with gusto by Brits on the lookout for the next big idea, then supplemented with the idea of béton brut — using raw concrete on the surface of buildings, as exemplified by Le Corbusier, who employed it in everything from housing estates to monasteries — and with Jean Dubuffet’s notion of l’art brut, or outsider art.