A beauty in brutalism
19 December, 2016 — By John Evans
Branch Hill Estate, Spedan Close, Hampstead, designed by Gordon Benson and Alan Forsyth for Camden architects’ department, built 1974-1976. © Simon Phipps
A TIMELY reminder of the importance of social housing to the economy and prosperity of post-war London comes with the publication of a new book by Clerkenwell-based photographer Simon Phipps.
Brutal London is a “photographic exploration of the post-war architecture of London” from a man who is a sculpture graduate of the Royal College of Art and who grew up in Milton Keynes the son of architects involved in the design of the new town.
The book looks at “the raw concrete and imposing mass of Brutalist architecture… undeniably part of the fabric of London’s landscape – both visual and social – and part of our urban history”.
Phipps is the creator of the New Brutalism collection of photography on Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter and his book is arranged borough by borough (12 in inner-London in addition to the City). It includes detailed information about all the buildings featured.
The premise is that momentum is growing to celebrate, reclaim and preserve buildings which were once written off or allowed to decay. It covers not only famous examples such as Trellick Tower, Post Office Tower, the Barbican, and Thamesmead but also less well-known structures.
In Camden, among others, there are the estates of Alexandra Road, Branch Hill, Maiden Lane, Ingestre Road and Dunboyne Road; and the UCL Institute of Education and the ambulance station in Cressy Road.
Phipps notes the important role of Sydney Cook, the borough architect between 1965 and 1973, and writes: “The new council of Camden formed in 1965 had the necessary circumstances for creating housing of the highest quality – visionary borough architect, Sydney Cook; a pool of passionate and talented young designers; and a substantial housing budget. Camden’s enlightened policies, implemented through excellent and innovative housing, resulted in an increase in social housing and an improvement in the residents’ quality of life”.
In the section on Islington, in addition to housing estates, Phipps includes Elia Mews, City University and Quaker Court.
• Brutal London by Simon Phipps, September Publishing, £14.99