Helen Barrett

Abstract and concrete: the beauty of brutalism

Our modernist architecture is increasingly at risk, and we should cherish it more than we do, say Owen Hatherley and Nicholas Kenyon

Modernism for the wealthy: ‘The Barbican operates alongside the existing city, not as part of it.’ Looking up at the corner of one of the low-level residential blocks. [Getty Images]

Nothing divides the British like modernist architecture. Traditionalists are suspicious of its utopian ambitions and dismiss it as ugly; proponents romanticise it, yearn for the civic principles that built it and gloss over its failings; the young see period charm in flat roofs and straight lines, while the old associate them with deprivation; the wealthy mostly avoid it — and many people have no choice but to live in it.

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