Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A fierce experience at the factory-cathedral

My father-in-law took us to Essex University in the summer. We had dinner in the extended Wivenhouse House but then took time to wander past the lakes and onto the campus, just a little over 50 years old. I am glad we did as my cameraphone was immediately out and my mind thrown back to my days (now more than 20 years back) at Leeds - not a campus university itself but an institution whose geography was transformed by the Brutalist experiments of Chamberlin Powell and Bon. Even with only the odd out-of-season overseas student passing by, you could feel the energy such a place could have generated among the student tumult of the 60s and 70s. Indeed, Essex University acknowledged this with their 'Something Fierce' exhibition last year on the vision of Albert Sloman and the work of Kenneth Capon at the Architects’ Co-Partnership. Many students turning up at their various institutions of higher education these last few weeks will face far less confrontational and much more consumerist styles of architecture than these; more's the pity.

Like any of these developments, creeping commerce and HSE notices blight many a sightline and there's now a bland sub-Guggenheim Bilbao lecture theatre in the mix (the Ivor Crewe) but it was still a joy to be thrown back to this kind of complete concrete environment, having spent long months wondering in Leeds' Edward Boyle library and Roger Stevens lecture theatre and wandering the staircases of the EC Stoner building (luckily I missed this terrible tack-on).

A few campus pics of my own plus a few stolen ones of the choice Leeds ones follow, including the demolished Brunswick building down the road at the Poly. Just like something off a 90s Warp compilation.

Sloman Library x 3

Student upheaval: 'Danger - Falling ideologies'
I hate it when they try to pastoralise this stuff.
The new Siberrad building seems more sympathetic to the 60s campus style, and its front columns have been built to generate superb echoes.
Back to Leeds, here's their Brutalist big four.
Further reading: Owen Hatherley in Dezeen

The Particulations on Leeds University's Brutalist spaces (scroll down for further articles)

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