chapter  Eleven
20 Pages

The Sublime

WithSimon Henley

This chapter explores the sublime, the melancholy, the malevolent and the sometimes irrational and terrific forms of Brutalism. It examines how, curiously, many of these forms offer refuge and inspiration for those who venture in. James Dunnett, writing about Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron and Trellick towers in London, said, ‘It is as though Goldfinger, from among the Functionalist totems, had chosen as a source of inspiration the artefacts of war. The search for new forms led architects to invert the pyramid and create top-heavy structures. Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles’s gargantuan Boston City Hall uses every device imaginable to achieve the monumental. This idea about ‘Texture’ and the formal and surface qualities of a work of architecture may be compared to Reyner Banham’s notion of ‘imageability’. War demonstrates the frailty of buildings in the face of bombardment. Most structures are defenseless. Only monolithic concrete offers resistance. Only concrete proffers the idea of a bombproof architecture in the aftermath of total destruction.