The Hayward Gallery

AA July 1968
40 years ago, the Hayward Gallery opened and completed the trilogy that is the South Bank Arts Centre. The reception was almost universally poor. The Guardian of 17th July stated that “architecturally it is an expression neither of use nor site, that it is made of a material that was, years ago, proved odious in our climate.” The AJ reviewed it on 10th July 1968, reporting that “it has that secretive and repelling character that one associates with top security research establishments”. The review goes downhill from there.

In order to look good, Brutalism needs deeply contrasting, sun-drenched, hard-shadowed, well-composed, preferably black and white photography that depicts the concrete’s precise textural image of the formwork negative. The Hayward Gallery is a particularly striking example of this. It has almost no windows and is designed to control the internal light artificially to mimic an overcast sky. In other words, it demands sunshine on the outside and clouds on the inside.
AA July 1968 p.70

The AJ’s photographs are as flat as the review. On 3rd February 1971, the AJ did a follow-up piece in order to show that not only did the Hayward look terrible, but it didn’t work either. The photographs are even less complimentary with litter, graffiti, rain-soaked concrete and every-day people doing every-day things.

AA July 1968 p.71
Infinitely more stylish, however, is Architecture d’Aujourd’hui’s coverage, in issue number 135 that incidentally also featured the ill-fated Gateshead and Cumbernauld shopping centres. The comment is short and descriptive, but the photographs appear emphatic, dramatic and cinematic. The architecture becomes the backdrop to an episode of The Avengers where well-tailored silhouettes with sunglasses and attaché briefcases drag their long shadows reluctantly across the warm summer plaza to an evening rendez-vous. 

The English may have invented the “-ism”, but we should look to the French for the “béton brut”.

AJ February 1971 p.57
AJ February 1971 p.245
AJ February 1971 p.253



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Michael Ventris

Sydney Opera House