A UK Government minister has launched a scathing attack on brutalist architecture, claiming it is “aesthetically worthless, simply because it is ugly”.
John Hayes, Minister of State for Transport, said the Government would be the “vanguard of a renaissance” in architecture by rebuilding a Doric arch (pictured) that stood outside London’s Euston station before it was demolished in 1962.
The station is set to be renovated as part of the HS2 rail link project.
The minister said the public “crave harmony” in architecture and that when it came to modernist architecture, “people don’t like it”.
Hayes said: “The overwhelming majority of public architecture built during my lifetime is aesthetically worthless, simply because it is ugly.
“This assertion is not so much challenged by defenders of contemporary architecture as dismissed out of hand.
“They say that yes, I might find it ugly, but that’s nothing more than my subjective personal judgement – and as such, of no significance.
“The aesthetics of our built environment – including our transport architecture – has suffered from what Sir Roger Scruton has called the Cult of Ugliness.
“Be warned! The descendants of the brutalists still each day design and build new horrors from huge concrete slabs to out of scale; rough-hewn buildings, and massive sculptural shaped structures which bear little or no relationship to their older neighbours.
“Consider swathes of the worst of our towns and cities; then say that I am wrong.”
Brutalist architecture, which was popular from the 1950s until the 1970s, emphasises exposed concrete and brickwork and functional, modern designs.
Though the style had fallen out of favour with architects by the 1980s, it has recently seen signs of a revival in interest – with a push to list famous buildings built in the style.
Examples include Preston Bus Station, which was granted Grade II listed status in 2013 after attempts to demolish it by the local council.
Prince Charles has also attacked modernism buildings in a 1984 speech to the Royal Institute of British Architects, describing one proposal as a “monstrous carbuncle”
But Ben Derbyshire, president-elect of the Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA), said not everyone would agree with the minister’s comments.
“For every person or minister who favours a particular architectural style or building, there is another with a completely different viewpoint or preference,” he said.
“It is interesting to see John Hayes so stridently asserting his design preferences, but not everyone is going to agree with him. What we can all agree on is the importance of ensuring that whatever is built in this country makes a positive impact to its locality and community and we are pleased to see another Government minister recognising the vital role of a talented design team in achieving this.”