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New Urbanism


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“New Brutalism” remains a tricky term for the student of postwar art and architecture, both too specific and too general. On the one hand, it is associated with a small number of writings and projects carried out by a group of architects, artists, and critics in 1950s London. Alison and Peter Smithson first used the term to describe a residential project in Soho that was to be characterized by a “warehouse” aesthetic and unfinished surfaces, and, in a famous 1955 essay, Reyner Banham wrote that the movement’s three primary characteristics were “Memorability as an Image,” “Clear exhibition of Structure,” and “Valuation of Material ‘as found.’”1 Despite having been granted these attributes, however, or perhaps because of the way they lend themselves to both oversimplification (unfinished sur faces) and open- ended abstract ion (“Memorabilit y as an Image”), Brutalism is often employed today as nothing more than a vague epithet lobbed at vast expanses of postwar institutional building; its associations with art practice are, more frequently than not, left out entirely. The purpose of dedicating this issue to New Brutalism, then, is both to reconsider its theses and to reevaluate its work and writings, while at the same time amending and supplementing earlier histories of the moment, which have emphasized the pop aspects of the work. 2 In doing so, we hope to recapture something of New Brutalism’s latent critical potential. As Theo Crosby wrote in the January 1955 issue of Architectural Design, New Brutalism positioned itself against the “contemporary”—“its veneer of ‘modern’
1. Alison and Peter Smithson, “House in Soho, London,” Architectural Design (December 1953), p. 342; and Reyner Banham, “The New Brutalism,” Architectural Review 118 (December 1955), pp. 354–61, both of which are reprinted in this issue. Banham later expanded his essay in The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic? (London: The Architectural Press, 1966), which, while enlarging his canon to include other examples of European and Japanese architecture, also had the effect of obscuring what was at stake in his original use of the term. 2. See “The Independent Group,” ed. Hal Foster and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, October 94 (Fall 2000). See also the recently collected essays in Mark Crinson and Claire Zimmerman, eds., Neo-avant-garde and Postmodern: Postwar Architecture in Britain and Beyond (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).

OCTOBER 136, Spring 2011, pp. 3–6. © 2011 October Magazine, Ltd. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



details, frames, recessed plinths, decorative piloti.”3 “Contemporary,” in this moment, functioned as shorthand for a bastardized version of modernism, a modernism already liquidated of its ideals and reduced to nothing more than a style, a look, and a scenario for up-to-date living. Against this degradation, New Brutalism sought to return to the first lessons of the modern movement, which led to a close study and rigorous evaluation of its key architects—Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe in particular. Such attention paid to history, however, did not lead to rote repetition; in fact, it enabled a revision. Instead of embracing the automobile as object type, for example, as Le Corbusier had done in his seminal Vers une Architecture (1923), the Smithsons imagined the machine as a means of production, embracing it as a force that might actually produce architecture.4 To this end, and to show architecture’s affiliation with the processes of industry, they used building materials as they found them. Steel and brick were incorporated as they were, with traces of production upon them, their industrial nature kept intact. (The vicissitudes of brick in New Brutalist discourse are taken up here by Anthony Vidler.5) To a large extent, this interest in the “as found” translated into a preoccupation with questions of surface. Just as Le Corbusier embraced the patterns created by the rough wooden formwork on the exteriors of his concrete piloti at the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille (1947–52) so did the Smithsons show the scratch marks and scuffs that went into the making of their own buildings, such as their school at Hunstanton (1949–53).6 Eduardo Paolozzi, too, in his bronze sculpture of the late 1950s, built up figures of hollow men that appear to be comprised solely of surface incident, with bits of rubbish and scrap caught like flies in lesions of wax (this process is detailed by Ben Highmore in his contribution7). Similarly, the architect and typographer Edward Wright (recovered for us here by Craig Buckley8) found text to be part and parcel of the surface—or better yet, the texture—of architecture. Indeed, New Brutalism sought to capture a multiplicity of things within its envelope; one of its notable characteristics is the fantastic list of heterogeneous matter that it aimed to absorb. If New Brutalist art and architecture influenced each other, the Smithsons said in a 1954 interview, they are “equally and mysteriously influenced by industrial techniques, the cinema, supersonic flight, African villages, and old tin cans.”9 Engaging a similarly diverse inventory of material, Nigel Henderson “made photograms using debris from bomb sites (though soon almost anything would do, bottles, ice,
3. [Theo Crosby,] “The New Brutalism,” Architectural Design ( January 1955), p. 1; reprinted in this volume. 4. Of course, Le Corbusier also investigated various mechanical methods of manufacture, as can be seen in his Maison Domino (1915) as well as in his conception of the house as a machine à habiter. In the end though, Le Corbusier’s machine was a better oiled one than the Smithsons desired. 5. “Another Brick in the Wall,” pp. 105–32. 6. Such qualities are quite apparent in the photographs of the project taken by Nigel Henderson. 7. “‘Image-breaking, God-making’: Paolozzi’s Brutalism,” pp. 87–104. 8. “Graphic Constructions: The Experimental Typography of Edward Wright,” pp. 156–81. 9. Bill Cowburn and Michael Pearson, “Art in Architecture,” 244: Journal of the University of Manchester Architecture and Planning Society 2 (Winter 1954), p. 20; reprinted in this volume.

New Brutalism: Introduction


elastic bands, negatives).”10 In 1953, Henderson, Paolozzi, and the Smithsons put forth an even wider constellation of specimens in their exhibition Parallel of Life and Art, which featured photographs of everything from mud flats to bicycle crashes, and which sought to disclose some of the sources that they understood to be affecting their practices. In New Brutalism, then, the concrete reality of both art and architecture were understood to be fundamentally connected to a world of mediated images, as well as a sundry assortment of cast-off things. Indeed, New Brutalism took as its task the communication of this heterogeneous world to the postwar subject, drawing together a vast array of dispersed effects into a consolidated—and perhaps comprehensible—form. For Banham, it did this via the “memorability” of the “images” it produced—whether in the form of a building, sculpture, or photograph. Not yet postmodern pictures, New Brutalist images lodged in the brain because they had something thing-like about them. The New Brutalist image was not abstract but visceral. Banham once referred to them as “concrete images—images that can carry the mass of tradition and association, or the energy of novelty and technology,” and deliver them to the beholding subject (this is the subject of my own contribution).11 If New Brutalism in both its artistic and architectural incarnations sought to incorporate the diversity of the world, to compress it and forge it into an image, it also sought to extend outwards, to make plain the systems of circulation and communication that structure life—and it is here that its concerns become more explicitly architectural, if no less artistic (this point is developed by Hadas Steiner in her text12). New Brutalism consistently positioned itself in terms of wider environments and ecologies, taking particular interest in patterns of connection. Such a concern is evident in the Smithsons’ early studies of village footpaths and the sociability of the working class street. Banham’s attention to the topological pathways of the Smithsons’ unrealized Sheffield University project (1953) gets to this point as well, as do Nigel Henderson’s “stressed” photographs of street life, and the scattered blocks of Paolozzi’s designs for playgrounds. If the figure of the child was central to postwar British culture at large, connoting a fresh start and new life, New Brutalism valued it for offering a qualitatively different way of seeing. As Jean Piaget demonstrated at this time, children see topologically, and in channeling this view, New Brutalism began to move beyond the inherited geometries of Renaissance perspective into a spatial order characterized by affinity and spontaneity. If the child served as a first guide for the New Brutalists, even more important was the new culture of communication they saw before them. (If children presented one model of looking and seeing, the culture of phones and cars offered yet another. Or, to put it slightly differently, children’s vision provided a primitive
10. “Notes towards a chronology based on conversations with the artist,” in Nigel Henderson: Paintings Collages and Photographs (London: Anthony d’Offay, 1977), n.p. 11. Reyner Banham, “This Is Tomorrow,” Architectural Review 120 (September 1956), pp. 186–88; reprinted in this volume. 12. “Life at the Threshold,” pp. 133–55.



model of technological communication.) New Brutalism, as Peter Smithson made clear in 1959, felt that architecture had to register such modes of communication in its very form.13 Against the stand-alone buildings of what he and Alison would soon dub the “heroic period of modern architecture,” they focused on what they called “town planning” and what they would later refer to as “the space between.”14 Today, this emphasis on communication in New Brutalism appears bound up with a shift toward a New Economy in which communication is valued over labor as traditionally defined. Equally important, however, is the Smithsons’ insistence that such “immaterial” networks generate physical form. For them, everything solid did not simply melt into air; their work serves as an important counterpoint to so much architecture today in which site, scale, and place are thought to be increasingly irrelevant as long as an internet connection and large sums of capital are readily available. The Smithsons’ stress on the material production of their buildings attests to a resistance to utopian discourse of the “immaterial,” showing that physical labor and material resources are central to architecture’s very possibility. If the Smithsons heeded the call of communication, then, they also wanted to put it in its place.15 In a 1959 interview, Peter Smithson criticized Eero Saarinen’s General Motors Technical Center (1945–56) where, he said, communication had become “an end in itself,” the building’s closed-circuit racetrack-like form functioning as a literal road to nowhere. For the New Brutalists, as for Marshall McLuhan, media were messages, and it is precisely because they felt this way that they wanted to preserve certain media and the messages that inhere in them.16 The question for the New Brutalists, then, became how to communicate something through the din of “contemporary” noise, or, as they put it, how to “face up to a mass-production society, and drag a rough poetry out of the confused and powerful forces which are at work” within it.17 Their brand of poetry, however, was not meant to redeem society, but rather to create something of value in a confrontation with it. Though some might call such a position nostalgic or reactionary, the problem of how to smuggle the lessons of the past into our present moment, and how to hold the various forces of the present moment in productive tension, is—or at least, should be—one of the most pressing concerns for architects, artists, and theorists practicing today.

13. See Alison Smithson, Peter Smithson, Jane B. Drew, E. Maxwell Fry, “Conversation on Brutalism,” Zodiac 4 (1959), pp. 73–81; reprinted in this volume. 14. See Alison and Peter Smithson, “The Heroic Period of Modern Architecture,” Architectural Design (December 1965). In a late interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Peter Smithson affirmed his interest in what he called “the space between.” Peter Smithson and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Smithson Time: A Dialogue (Cologne: Walther König, 2004), p. 20. 15. This, too, sets them apart from so many architects of the “interstitial” that we see today. 16. For more on the Smithsons’ interest in McLuhan, see their 1962 drawings for an exhibition project tentatively titled “Extensions of Man” (done in conjunction with Lawrence Alloway and Reyner Banham) in Alison and Peter Smithson, The Charged Void: Architecture (New York: The Monacelli Press, 2005), pp. 326–27. 17. “The New Brutalism: Alison and Peter Smithson answer the criticisms on the opposite page,” Architectural Design (April 1957), p. 113; reprinted in this volume.

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...TV5, a television and radio broadcasting network, has extended their service of providing news to the nation by creating its online news portal, It features news, not only locally, but also internationally, which is gathered from the network's own news team, from the news pool of News5, and from various news wire services. The first thing we have noticed about the website was the formality in its interface, the colors and font used, which is appropriate for its purpose. Moreover, news reports were properly positioned, having the headlines placed noticeable in the top and middle part, and breaking and other news on the sides. also provides tabs such as National, World, Business, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Opinion, Weather and Special Features. This would be very useful for the visitors of the website, since they could easily filter the reports and find the particular news they are interested in. In addition, the website presents its users links to social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, which would be helpful in promoting the website and disseminating news to the people. also steps up their service by offering its users the radio broadcasting feature, which enables the users to listen to their Radyo5 through the Internet. However, the website has some bad points. First, its appearance as a website is too dull unlike the other websites of competing networks which seems to be more interactive and entertaining to...

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What Were the Major Developments in the Evolution of Mass Media During the 20th Century?

...obtaining information. Newspapers were mainly local news and obtained social news such as who was recently married and who had social gatherings. People were also a main source of news. Neighbors would talk at social gathering and around town to inform what was going on in the local area. With the development of the radio in the 1940’s national news was spread much quicker. The families would gather around the radio to listen to the President of the United States and keep updated on the war. Newspapers was still a popular form of obtaining news local and nationally. By the 1950’s television was invented and became very popular. Families would gather around the television to watch major events such as the first man to walk on the moon. The television gave Americans access to worldwide news. Newspapers and the radio were still used as a source of information. The development of the television started major progress. In 1962 the first satellite was launch into space. This started continues progress with items such as mobile phones and computers. Computers were complicated in the early developments but progressed as time went on. Business used computers to which were big and bulky but helped businessmen keep more accurate data and obtain information quicker. By the 1980’s most schools had computers which gave students access to the internet. Presently most home have computers in their homes and are able to access the news as well as communicating with other...

Words: 259 - Pages: 2