The Top 5 Brutalist Buildings in London

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Image Credit: Elliot C Nash

Brutalism is like marmite - you either love it or you hate it. If you love it, read on! These are our favourite of London’s concrete beasts...

After the Second World War, bomb-struck London was awash with architectural opportunities, with residents in desperate need of housing. Inspired by the German Bauhaus style, using reinforced concrete which opened up hitherto-unknown structural and sculptural possibilities, old notions of beauty were sacrificed (some say) for functionality. Sometimes drawn on as a symbol of social fragmentation and urban decay, there is nonetheless something undeniably monumental about a Brutalist building.

With severe styles, concrete, monolithic structures and blocky outlines, Brutalist buildings have been accused by opponents of ruining the face of London. However, this striking style still has its fans and, as is the case with many a trend, appreciation of Brutalism is circling back around again. Here are 5 of our fauvorites...

The National Theatre

Image Credit:

Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PX 

Though once described by Prince Charles as being reminiscent of "a nuclear power station", the National Theatre exemplifies some of the best aspects of Brutalism: designed by Denys Lasdun in 1976, it is noted for its dynamism, visceral sense of shock, and the contextual spaces it creates. The theatre is formed of two fly towers rising from layered horizontal terraces that wrap around the building, cascading to the river level. Lasdun designed the building from the inside out, starting with the theatre space itself before even knowing what the outside would look like.

Created as a city-like public facility, the complex accommodates three stages, restaurants, bars and workshops, while the main public foyer area has become one of the city's key communal spaces, serving as "the nation's sitting room".

Southbank Centre

Image Credit:

Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

Although The National Theatre is TECHNICALLY a part part of the Southbank Centre, this complex of world-renowned art venues deserves its own mention. Built in 1951, the site is home to several important cultural institutions including the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, all of which hold various events throughout the year such as musical performances, intellectual and educational programs, and festivals.

The Grade II-listed Royal Festival Hall, designed by Robert Matthew, is the biggest venue at the Southbank Centre, seating 2,500 people. The Hayward Gallery, with its iconic glass pyramid roof lights, is one of the world's leading contemporary art galleries. Queen Elizabeth Hall showcases world-class talks, gigs and performances of dance and classical music; the roof garden, with its stunning views is open daily in the spring and summer months and free to visit.

The Brunswick Centre

Image Credit:

Bernard Street, London, WC1N 1BS

The Brunswick Centre is a grade II listed complex in Bloomsbury is located between Brunswick Square and Russel Square. It was designed by Patrick Hodgkinson in the mid-1960s and planned as a residential and retail complex at a time when private, mixed-use development in the UK was rare. Hodgkinson could not find enough private buyers for the residential properties above the promenade, so he struck a deal with Camden council and they were developed as council flats while he developed the shops on the ground.

Nowadays referring to itself as just The Brunswick, the centre contains 560 flats, various shops, cafés and restaurants, a supermarket and the Betha Dochouse Cuzon cinema (or the Curzon Bloomsbury), with water features by the artist Susanna Heron added to the central space in 2006.

Brunel University

Kingston Lane, London, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH

The Lecture Centre of Brunel University London, designed by Richard Sheppard in 1968, contains over 60 lecture theatres and classrooms. Designed so that the university community was only a short walk away from the centre, the student residential accommodation sat at the north of the main core of the campus, with administrative and academic buildings located to the south.

This Brutalist behemoth was utilised by Stanley Kubrick as the eerie backdrop to 1971 dystopian classic film A Clockwork Orange, and it has reached cult status on social media with fans coming to the campus to post black-and-white shots of the layered building from odd angles to dramatic effect.

The Barbican

Image ©

Silk Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 8DS

Perhaps London's prime example of the philosophy at the heart of the Brutalism movement, built under the utopian ideal of services many of the demands of inner-city living; The Barbican Estate is a massive multi-use complex containing an art centre, a cinema, restaurants, a public library, the Museum of LondonGuildhall School of Music and a neighbouring residential complex of some 2000 apartments. The mottled façades were created between 1960 -80 by hammering away at cast concrete.

While the aesthetic of the estate may be reminiscent of a medieval fortress, the cantilevered balconies are enlivened with plants and there are private gardens, lakes, and walkways which making the area quite desirable; today, flats in The Barbican sell for as much as £4 million!