Cameron Offices, Belconnen Town Centre. John Andrews, 1972. brutalist-feature

Late twentieth century brutalist

The original inspiration for the brutalist style came from Le Corbusier’s French buildings of the early 1950s. They demonstrated an uncompromising attitude to materials and construction that influenced architecture for several decades. Buildings in the international style had a certain lightness of style, with plain, smooth wall surfaces.

In contrast, brutalist buildings demonstrated an aggressive largeness of scale and a strong, muscular character, often with services exposed or contained in a featured semi-cylindrical element. Reinforced concrete showing the imprint of its formwork was the material of choice. English architects Alison and Peter Smithson were among the first to articulate the ‘new brutalism’ in their Hunstanton School, Norfolk (1949-53).

The first brutalist style building in Australia was the Hale School Memorial Hall in Perth, designed by Marshall Clifton and completed in 1961. It was greeted with a mixture of praise and outrage. The style became more common—if not popular—by the mid 1970s.

One of the best examples in Australia can be found in Canberra—the Cameron Offices by John Andrews. The most outstanding example in Australia of a house in the brutalist style is probably the Harry and Penelope Seidler house at Killara, which can be seen on the Seidler and Associates website. The CCAE (now UC) Student Residences are the most notable example in Canberra.

Features

  • Strong shapes, boldly composed
  • Reinforced concrete structure expressed
  • Largeness of scale, strong, muscular character
  • Off form concrete construction
  • Large areas of blank wall
  • Strongly textured brickwork or stone
  • External sun control in the form of pre-cast fins
  • Diagonal, sloping or strong curved elements contrasting with horizontal and vertical members

On this site

Other examples in Australia

  • Hale School Memorial Hall, Perth. Marshall Clifton, 1961.
  • Seidler House, Killara, NSW. Harry and Penelope Seidler, 1967.
  • Union Building, Macquarie U. Ancher, Mortlock, Murray and Woolley, 1968.
  • Sydney University Law School. McConnel, Smith and Johnson, 1969.
  • Cameron Offices, Belconnen Town Centre, ACT. John Andrews, 1972.
  • High Court of Australia, ACT. Edwards, Madigan, Torzillio and Briggs, 1980.
  • National Gallery of Australia, ACT. Edwards, Madigan, Torzillio and Briggs, 1982.