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A New Book Captures the Beauty of London’s Brutalist Architecture

by Rick Anderson

Brutalist architecture—a movement characterized by angular forms and rough materials such as glass, brick, and concrete—is considered by many to be dull and unattractive in comparison to other styles. Yet Brutalism has its fans, too. One of them is New York–based photographer Ty Cole. An admirer of architecture, Cole believes that the charm of the buildings can be found “in the unfinished aesthetic of the materials used to create them.” The photographer’s latest project, Brutalist London (Dashwood Books, $40), is an 80-page book featuring 15 buildings constructed in the British capital. Perhaps because the design came to prominence after World War II, London —a city that had endured many bombing raids—was ripe to embrace its cheap and easily produced layout. As a result, in the span of 20 years, Brutalist buildings began popping up throughout the British capital. “I chose London to shoot Brutalist architecture since the range spreads from residential to civic to religious,” says Cole.

One Kemble Street (1966), devised by Richard Seifert and George Marsh.

At a London Planning and Communication Committee dinner in 1987, Prince Charles declared Brutalist architecture to be “more offensive than rubble.” For Cole, this interpretation is a misunderstanding of an often beautiful style of design. “It’s hard for me to believe that an architect would create a building with the intent to express something negative,” he says. “So my aim in producing this book was to capture the buildings with an optimistic eye, or open mind, to discover its redeeming qualities.”

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