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  Love it or loathe it, there is no doubt that the high rise, high density crusade for function and form that we now consider to be iconic Sixties architecture made a significant impression on the British skyline and landscape. I use the word 'consider' advisedly because this style of architecture was actually a later extension of the Bauhaus-inspired 'modernist' movement of three decades earlier.

The original architectural mainstay of this movement was not even British, but the Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, probably better known as Le Corbusier, who was also a painter, writer, sculptor, furniture designer and urban planner. The bomb-damage clearance programme of the Fifties and the 'baby boom' together with the potential oil crisis required fast, simple, comparatively cheap construction and futuristic minimalist designs using modern building elements of concrete and steel seized the opportunity.

The style of design now generally known as 'brutalist' (from the French 'béton brut' or 'raw concrete') was pioneered by Le Corbusier who, contrary to previous design, created simplistic, unadorned, monolithic concrete structures built around a steel frame. The public housing projects his ideas influenced are now considered to be largely responsible for having the effect of isolating communities in high-rises and disrupting the traditional social ties integral to community development.

Brasilia    Berlin Wall    Seaside Hotels   Aswan Dam   Motorways and Roads   Hyde Park Underpass   World Trade Center   Worlds Longest Bridge

Verrazano Narrows Bridge   Mont Blanc Tunnel   Tay Road Bridge   Moscow TV Tower   Victoria Underground Line   Euston Station 
 

As cities underwent massive rebuilding programmes entire communities were split up and rehoused in anonymous (sometimes badly-constructed - see 'Ronan Point') grey boxes, even if they didn't want to go. There were, commonly, no monitorable areas for children to play in and poor lift maintenance often resulted in climbing up and down 27 flights of stairs. There were, of course, construction triumphs such as the Post Office Tower as well as planning disasters like Westgate House, Newcastle, and

   Robin Hood Gardens         Ronan Point

Britain was not far behind with its own 'modernist' architects such as Sir Basil Spence, the designer of Coventry Cathedral, Owen Luder's 'Tricorn' shopping centre and Alison and Peter Smithson who created London's 'Economist' building and 'Robin Hood Gardens'. Foreign architects such as 'Trellick Tower' designer Hungarian Erno Goldfinger were also making their mark. Do you happen to recognise that name in another Sixties concept? Quite right - James Bond author Ian Fleming allegedly disliked the architects work so much that he named a Bond villain after him!

Westgate House    Forth Road Bridge   Tricorn Centre, Portsmouth

This a far larger subject than I can do credit to - as a good starting point there is more fab information at

Sixties Concrete - Retrowow


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