Modernism gets brutalist treatment
By Edwin Heathcote

Published: August 11 2007 01:41 | Last updated: August 11 2007 01:41

The problem with the best building plots is that they almost always
already have buildings on them. Rigorous building control makes cities
hard places to build in, and the avid protection of the countryside
makes it very hard to build in the middle of nowhere. So almost the only
way to build something new is to demolish something else. But then,
historic buildings, city districts and skylines are protected. So the
solution is to demolish something that nobody likes. And that is, almost
always, modernist architecture. Yet if we lose an entire strata of our
history – as looks increasingly likely – we deprive the future of the
possibility of judging for itself, and learning first hand from some
mistakes, and some triumphs.

There is no doubt that modernist architecture can be hard to love, and
hard to defend. Few people miss the sink estates, the monolithic offices
on podiums that mercilessly broke up the ancient street plans of our
city centres, the rain-stained concrete or the brutal multi-storey car
parks. But that is not the whole picture. There are a few undisputed
monuments, protected by listing and legislation, but we are in critical
danger of losing other extremely fine buildings to bland commercial
development, often far more aesthetically and intellectually
impoverished than what it replaces.