Brutalism is one of the few architectural style labels to have originally been used positively but subsequently become a term of abuse, in the process performing the opposite etymological journey to such terms as ‘gothic’ and ‘baroque’. ‘It is a concrete brutalist monstrosity’ is a blanket response that obscures the variety, beauty and complexity of a whole period of architecture. Barnabas Calder, who good-naturedly recalls how an architect once told him he risked becoming a ‘concrete-sniffing wanker’, has written an ebullient and gushing love letter to the style.
Being a brutalist champion is no longer much of a distinction in itself: this book joins the recent outpouring of works by other concrete fanciers, from John Grindrod’s chatty Concretopia (2013) to Elain Harwood’s magisterial Space, Hope, and Brutalism (2015). Harwood’s gigantic book will remain the standard scholarly text for