Between brutalists: The Banham hypothesis and the Smithson way of life

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    Abstract

    This essay revisits the debates on the New Brutalism as it emerged in Great Britain in the early 1950s. The shifting positions of its main propagators, Alison and Peter Smithson and Reyner Banham, are scrutinised through a re-reading of the polemics of the period and its aftermath. Conventionally, Banham's ground-breaking essay of 1955 ‘The New Brutalism’ is used as a starting-point for a unified history of New Brutalism. However, as it turns out, the Smithsons and Banham held very different opinions about the direction of the New Brutalist project. Whereas Banham advocated an integration between architecture and the latest technologies, the Smithsons sought to combine modern architecture with a multiplicity of tendencies within British culture, reaching back to Arts and Crafts concepts, among others. To open up the discourse and to measure the various shifts, the essay discusses the concept of ‘Image’, identified by Banham as one of the key concepts of New Brutalism, in relation to the various statements made by the Smithsons. In contrast to Banham, the Smithsons defined New Brutalism by laying emphasis on the material qualities of architecture and the aspects of process and making in architectural construction. This was related to their ambition to redesign the system of relationships between the everyday, domesticity, labour and the larger society. In short, it was a different ‘way of life’ that was behind the Smithsons' project for New Brutalism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)293-308
    Number of pages16
    JournalThe Journal of Architecture
    Volume20
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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