New images guide Brutal North presents a celebration of brutalist structure in northern England
photographer Simon Phipps has a specific opinion on brutalist architecture – that it should be celebrated.
Brutalist architecture, a style first associated with the architect Le Corbusier, uses a lot of concrete and is often criticized for being ugly, imposing and badly weathered.
But Simon sees brutalist structures as visionary, buildings that need to be celebrated for the impression they make on the skyline. And for his recently published photo book Brutal North (September release) The Leeds-born photographer ventured to the place that “houses the best examples of brutalist architecture – the north of England”.
September Publishing said in a statement: ‘The images in Brutal North offer a visual celebration of modernist and brutalist architecture across the region.
In the post-war years, some of the most ambitious, enlightened and successful modernist architecture in the world was built in the north of England. For the first time, a single photo book captures these buildings in all their strength and progressive ambition. ‘
Scroll down to view some Simon’s striking pictures in the band with subjects like a cathedral, a gas station, a bridge and an elementary school. Captions courtesy of Matthew Steele.
Preston’s central bus station and car park were slated to be demolished in 2012 for financial reasons. However, in 2013 it was given the status of a listed building, which is partly due to the innovative use of reinforced plastic molded parts when pouring the sculptural concrete decks
This picture shows the expansion of the campus at the University of Leeds, which was built between 1963 and 1978. The plan, writes Matthew Steele, aimed to create a collegial atmosphere by providing high-density student accommodation along with a centrally located building for pooled classrooms’
The Grade II listed Halifax building, which was built in Halifax between 1968 and 1974, was designed by Building Design Partnership to be the new headquarters of the Halifax Building Society, explains Matthew. He writes: “It was planned according to the principles of the office landscape, an approach developed in Germany in the 1950s to promote a more social and collaborative work environment. Accordingly, one could access a mezzanine floor with facilities such as a restaurant, games room and a bar from the entrance hall. The upper levels have an irregular quadrangular shape, which is dictated by location restrictions, and are designed to be open – an achievement that is possible thanks to a four-meter-deep framework on the second floor. All floors are connected by a central core and four corner stairs, each of which is clad on the outside with Yorkstone above the roof. ‘
Check out the Grade I listed Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, which was built between 1962 and 1967. Matthew explains the story behind his design: “After making the decision to abandon Edwin Lutyen’s costly inter-war designs for the Metropolitan Cathedral, Diocese of Liverpool, an architectural competition was announced that attracted 258 entries from around the world, including architects such as Denys Lasdun , the Smithsons and the Archigram Groups. The winner in 1960 was Frederick Gibberd, whose proposal was strongly influenced by Oscar Niemeyer’s design for the Cathedral of Brasilia (1958–1970). A circular plan was adopted, although Gibberd considered elliptical and octagonal options.
‘Forton Services is an indication of the UK adoption of the motor vehicle in the 1960s [between Preston and Lancaster] was commissioned by Top Rank Motor Inns as the Preston bypass was absorbed by the M6, ”writes Matthew. “The services themselves are located between intersections 32 and 33 and are not of much interest: two buildings with flat roofs connected by a pedestrian bridge across the carriageway. What sets them apart, however, is the instantly recognizable former Pennine Tower. A cantilever restaurant and a sundeck were once located at the top of this hexagonal concrete structure, which, at 22 meters high, offered guests a view of the surrounding landscape. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed in 1989. ‘
“Until the Humber Bridge opened in 1981, the only way to cross the river was by boat,” explains Matthew. ‘At 1,410 meters in length, it was the longest single-span bridge in the world at the time of construction and was designed by Freeman Fox and Partners, the engineers who are also responsible for the Forth Road Bridge and the Severn Bridge. In contrast to the examples that were constructed of steel, the Humber Bridge was technologically innovative in the use of reinforced concrete to overcome challenging geomorphological conditions. When designating its status as a listed building, historical England described its “taut, reduced elegance”.
Pictured here is Bank House in Leeds, which was built between 1969 and 71 and is now a listed company. Matthew writes: “The building has a square floor plan and takes the shape of an inverted ziggurat over five floors [a building with successively receding levels] with a central light shaft that penetrates the two upper floors. It is a cast-in-place reinforced concrete structure clad with gray granite and bronze. A sculpted aluminum ceiling by artist Alan Boyson has since been removed. ‘
This is a Grade I listed classroom at Kennington Primary School in Preston. It was built in 1974 and is called “The Bubble” by the students. Matthew adds, ‘It is believed to be the UK’s first fully structured plastic building and was a prototype for the intended mass production of fiberglass reinforced plastic schools by the Lancashire County Council’s architectural division. However, no further examples were built. ‘
LEFT: The Dorman Long Tower in Middlesbrough, built in the 1950s, is a holdover from the South Bank Coke Ovens. The concrete tower functioned as a huge supply bunker for the coke ovens that have since been destroyed. CORRECT: This is the former Royal Insurance headquarters in Liverpool, not to be confused, says Matthew, with the neo-baroque Royal Insurance Building (1903) by James F. Doyle. The 1970s structure was called a “sand castle” by the locals, and for historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner the slotted windows gave the feel of a fortress
Brutal North by Simon Phipps is available now in September Publishing. All photographs by Simon Phipps, captions by Matthew Steele