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Brutal North - a Review

johnriley1uk

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Brutal North - a Review

20 Nov 2020 11:28AM   Views : 300 Unique : 213

I've always been interested in architecture, not in a highly technical way, but as an aesthetic. I know what I like to look at, and I like well detailed, quirky buildings, so the Victorian and other older buildings are the ones most likely to appeal. So this book popped up on Twitter and I thought it seemed an interesting contrast to what I like - Brutal North by Simon Phipps, September Publishing, 2020, ISBN 978-1-012836-16-4. This shows black and white images of the concrete montrosities of the later 1960s onwards, and I say monstrosities because no matter how clever the architects think they are, given a few years, water damage and neglect and they are generally not a pretty sight. There are also all those bleak public areas, bereft of relief from the oppression of all that concrete, with overgrown gardens and solitary ailing trees, none maintained no doubt because of lack of ongoing funding.
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The photos in the book are actually all very well shot, and actually exaggerate the bleakness by being in black and white. An example is the Lancastrian Hall and Library in Swinton, Manchester. Apparently closed since 2015, this is a building I am well familiar with, along with the Swinton shopping precinct that continues the bleak concrete behind it. Here's the back and white image from the book.
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And yet, is this entirely fair? A different look might be gained from my colour slide shot in the early 1970s, which shows a much warmer effect, with some colour in the concrete facade. There's also no argument with the building inside, which fulfilled its functions very comfortably.
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It may be the sledgehammer design of huge concrete blocks that is the cause of my architectural lament. Stone or brick, breaking up the detail as it does, is so much friendlier and so much more human.
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However, the book itself is fascinating, and well worth the price being charged for it on Amazon. Highly reommended!

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