Category Archives: brutalism

SOS Brutalism. A Global Survey

SOS Brutalism. A Global Survey, edited by Oliver Elser, Philip Kurz and Peter Cachola Schmal.

On amazon UK.

Publisher Park Books writes: A global survey of brutalist architecture of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Some 100 contributors document around 120 key buildings from this period, including many previously unpublished discoveries that are in acute danger of loss through neglect of intended demolition. Moreover, the book features overviews of brutalism in architecture in twelve regions around the world. Case studies of hotspots such as the Macedonian capital Skopje or New Haven, Connecticut, and essays on the history and theory of brutalism round out this lavishly illustrated book. The supplement collects papers of an international symposium on brutalism in architecture held in Berlin in 2012.

Brutalism has achieved a cult status on social media over the past couple of years. This wave of beton chic has given rise to spectacular photo books, cheerful facebook pages and even -as i learnt in one of the first essays of SOS Brutalism- new forms of web design.

Not everyone is entirely seduced by the so-called “concrete monstrosities.” Brutalism is often either a source of aesthetic contempt, or a painful reminder of political ideals that some would rather forget. Incidentally, the fact that Brutalist structures form the backdrop for the violent scenes of iconic films such as A Clockwork Orange, Gomorrah and La Haine might have contributed to the poor image the style is now suffering from.

SOS Brutalism‘s approach of Brutalism crosses the bridges between academic reflection and popular energy. The essays are solid and impeccably researched but also very engaging and illustrated with plenty of contemporary images and archive documents. Even the selection of buildings blends the expert and the amateur. The constructions presented in the book are the result of a crowd-sourced experiment. The team behind sosbrutalism.org asked experts and amateurs to use the hashtag #SOSBrutalism to recommend structures that deserve to be saved from destruction. While the book presents only 120 edifices, the online database counts over 1,000 projects.


Leonardo & Nicola Mosso, Chiesa del Gesù Redentore, Turin, 1954-1957. Photo: Federico Padovani, via

Jonathan Meades. Bunkers Brutalism and Bloodymindedness Concrete Poetry – One and two

The buildings discussed in great details in the paper publication come from 12 regions. Including Africa, Oceania, Eastern Europe, etc. With special chapters dedicated to Great Britain where the architectural style originated and to Germany because the SOS Brutalism project was launched by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum.

SOS Brutalism. A Global Survey doesn’t just showcases fine examples of the controversial 20th century architectural style, it also attempts to redefine its repertoire, explores how the values of Brutalism participated to the political debates of the time and contributes to the discussions around the legacy of the style.

I went straight to the 500 pages hardback and cast aside the paperback supplement. Mostly because it is called a supplement and because it bears the very un-sexy title of “Contributions to the international symposium in Berlin 2012.” I was expecting a dry assemblage of academic papers but when i did finally look into the supplement, i found a rather exciting selection of essays (and lots more images!) I was particularly interested in the ones that bring the spotlight on a few countries and analyze the significance that Brutalism had for society at the time and the impact it continues to have on cities and imaginations.

Also, as a side note: bloody pinterest!!! It’s been super difficult to trace back the origin of some of the images i wanted to use. Pretty much every photo of interesting buildings was courtesy of either pinterest or alamy.

Ok, rant over. Let’s proceed with a few images that will feed into the concrete frenzy. They illustrate some of the 120 buildings presented in the book.

Africa:


Paul Herbé and Jean Le Couteur, Sacré-Coeur Cathedral, Algiers, Algeria, 1944-1956


Rinaldo Olivieri, La Pyramide, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 1968-1973 (threatened.) Photo: Iwan Baan, via

North America


John Andrews, Scarborough College (the Meeting Place), Toronto, Canada, 1962-1965. Photo: Thomas Guignard, via

Latin America


German Samper, SENA building, Bogota, Colombia, 1958-1960 (photo)


Clorindo Testa/SEPRA, Bank of London and South America Headquarters (now Banco Hipotecario) Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1959-1966. Photo: © Federico Cairoli, via


Erasmo Calvini, Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Coromoto, Guanare, Venezuela, 1976, 1982-1996. Photo: WAP

Middle East


Minoru Yamasaki / Modam (Mohammad Reza Moghtader): Pahlavi University (today: Shiraz University), Shiraz, Iran, 1960, 1974-1979. Photo: Hamid Reza Bani, 2017 (via)

Russia, Central Asia and Caucasus


Yan Zanis and Alexander Dolzhikov, Don State Public Library, Rostov-on-Don, Russia


Spartak Khachikyan, Hrachik Poghosyan, Artur Tarkhanyan, Cinema Rossiya (now Ayrarat), Yerevan, Armenia, 1968-1975 (photo)


Olga Gurevich, Vladimir and Boriz Katz Zhukov: Hotel Rus, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1980–1988 Photo: Konstantin Antipin 2016 (via)

East Asia


Arata Isozaki, Oita Prefectural Library, Oita, Japan, 1962-1966. Photo via


Kenzo Tange, Yamanashi Press and Broadcasting Center (now Yamanashi Cultural Center), Kofu, Japan, 1961-1968. Photo via

South and Southeast Asia


Balkrishna V. Doshi / Mahendra Raj, Premabhai Hall, 1956D–1972. Photo: Arnout Fonck via


Vann Molyvann, National Sports Complex, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1962-1964 (threatened). Photo via


Charles Correa, Visvesvaraya Center Bangalore, 1974-1980. Photo: Ben Bensal

Western Europe. Beyond Great Britain: Proto-Brutalism and the French Situation


Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza, Torres Blancas, Madrid, 1958-1968. Photo kurioso

Eastern Europe


Igor Vasilevskil, Druzhba Sanatorium, Kurpaty, Russia, 1980-1986. Photo:
William Veerbeek, via

Great Britain


Building Design Partnership, Preston Bus Station, 1960-1969. Photo: Adrian Welch via


Procession to celebrate Preston Bus Station in 2013. Photo

And obviously:

Architecture Foundation, The Barbican: A Middle Class Council Estate, 2015

Germany


Marie Brigitte Hämer-Buro and Hardt-Waltherr Hämer, Theatre, Ingolstadt, Germany, 1960-66. Photo via

Oceania


Theodore Gofers, Sirius Apartment Building, Sydney, Australia, 1978-1980 (threatened.) Photo Flickr/Marek, via

The book is published in conjunction with the exhibition SOS Brutalism—Save the Concrete Monsters at DAM in Frankfurt on the Main (open now and until 25 February 2018) and at Architekturzentrum Wien (3 May to 6 August 2018).

Related stories: Béton. The history of a concrete-clad utopia, Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century, Utopia London.

Béton: The history of a concrete-clad utopia

WF_F_113.001.O
Werner Feiersinger, Untitled (Corviale), 2015

Long reviled, brutalism seems to be everyone’s favourite architectural style at the moment. The nostalgia for the late modernist architecture manifests itself through stunning coffee table books, brutalism appreciation society and plenty of campaigns to save some of its masterpieces.

If the rude charms and resolute geometries of brutalism have been somewhat rehabilitated, its utopian ambitions have not. Buildings made of the cement and stone amalgam still carry with them the stigma of the egalitarian commitments and social advances they promised but spectacularly failed to deliver.

Terada-Concrete
Ron Terada, Concrete Language, 2006/2016

Instead of enriching people’s lives with carefully proportioned dwellings and safe green space for socializing, the structures ghettoised the poor and betrayed their top-down (if well-meaning) designs.

Béton, an exhibition that opened a few months ago at Kunsthalle Wien, is entirely dedicated to brutalism. Its title alludes to the etymology of the architectural movement: béton brut, which can be translated into ‘exposed concrete.’

The show doesn’t intend to debate on the merits and shortcomings of concrete and its uses in building and engineering. Instead, it invites us to revisit the radical ideas and social utopia that these working-class housing and public buildings attempted to embody .

Aiming to change society, brutalist architecture virtually gave shape to utopia. Today, many of the buildings built at the time are threatened with demolition; they are considered to have failed their purpose. In light of a modernism stained by dystopia, contemporary art once again carve out its original ideas, its euphoria, but also its failure. Not out of a nostalgic longing but for the sake of remembering that architecture was once more than enclosed space, and concrete was not merely a building material but was historically and ideologically charged.

While i was in town to visit AJNHAJTCLUB at Q21, i crossed the square of the MuseumsQuartier and spent a couple of hours walking through the Béton exhibition…

Gillick_Liam_Beton0
Liam Gillick, Pain in a building, 1999

The UK has its fair share of brutalist estates and buildings that didn’t live up to the democratizing aspirations of their architects and planners. Thamesmead in Greater London is a good example of what happens when commendable utopia has to contend with economic realities. Conceived in the 1960s as the town of the future, Thamesmead promised to combine city life with the joys of the countryside: green spaces, a nature reserve and an artificial lake. However, the experiment quickly turned sour. Plans to build a shopping center around a marina, a train station and other amenities had to be scrapped because of financial difficulties. Criminality rose quickly and in the late ’70s, the neighbourhood was used as a sink estate by the councils around.

Stanley Kubrick filmed some of the key scenes of his 1971 film A Clockwork Orange in Thamesmead. The town served as the setting for a dystopic London ruled by anarchy and violence.

Fe10deman1697
Thomas Demand, Public Housing, 2003

2demand6622_b

Public Housing, by Thomas Demand, demonstrates that not all good intentions end up in embarrassment and disappointment.

Before taking the photos, Thomas Demand builds by hand paper and cardboard models based on pictures. The original image for “Public Housing” is printed on the pink $10 banknote from Singapore. The housing estate is typical of the low-cost, high-rise housing blocks built in 1965 when Singapore gained its independence from Malaysia and decided to address the poor living conditions and housing issues. By 1965 the percentage of the local population living in public housing rose from 9% in 1959 to 23%. Roughly 80% of Singaporeans now live in flats built by the Housing and Development Board of Singapore, a city-state usually associated with finance rather than with policies that protect the underprivileged.

1ponvivin63110_2053962845338152976_o
Monica Bonvicini, Add Elegance to your Poverty, 1990/2016. Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

Monica Bonvicini‘s “Add Elegance to your Poverty” questions cynical approaches to real problems. Sprayed on a wall in Berlin, the sentence is a direct reference to an advertising claim which is often used to sell real estate in California: “Add Elegance to Your Property”. It also echoes the famous “Arm, aber sexy” (poor but sexy) coined by Berlin’s former mayor Klaus Wowereit in an attempt to gloss over the city’s budget deficits.

121423cfh3944
Miki Kratsman, Abu Dis 2003, 2003. Photo: Chelouche gallery

Israel’s self-defence law requires the installation of shelters in all buildings, including private houses. It also regulates the upkeep of bunkers in homes and factories. After the First Gulf War, steel concrete with access to the individual flats within a building were also added, providing thus easy access to a space of safety in case of chemical weapon attacks by neighbouring countries. Miki Kratsman’s photos show how these safe rooms are integrated into the urban landscape, outsiders would find it difficult to identify these shelters as structures created for situations of violence.

The intentionally unsensational view of these extremely politically and socially charged elements of the urban landscape alludes to the omnipresence of this conflict, precisely because of the incidental nature of Kratsman’s approach.

Kratsman also documented frontier posts along the Road 443. Although the road partly leads through Palestinian territory, it is only accessible to Israeli. In 2002, Israel prohibited Palestinians from using the road, by vehicle or on foot, for whatever purpose, including transport of goods or for medical emergencies.

I couldn’t find photos of either series online so i’ve picked up another one to illustrate his work.

Ingrid-Martens_Africa-Shafted_1
Ingrid Martens, Africa Shafted, 2012

Ingrid Martens, Africa Shafted (trailer), 2012

Ingrid Martens, Africa Shafted (trailer), 2012

Ingrid Martens spent 5 years filming people who live in Ponte Tower, ‘the tallest and grandest urban slum in the world’. Conceived as a luxury residential complex for white people living in Johannesburg in the 1970s, the brutalist tower is built around a hollow inner core that provides light thanks to the windows that encircle the inner and outer exterior.

In the 1990s, the area surrounding the 54-storey building started to be associated with gang crimes. Most of the white privileged families moved to supposedly safer suburbs and the owners of the building left it to decay. Soon, South Africans of colour, as well as immigrants from neighbouring countries, moved in. The residential block grew to become densely populated, and acquired the reputation of being a ghetto. Today, after renovation and tightened security, the situation at Ponte is considered to have greatly improved.

Africa Shafted is a fascinating documentary that takes us on a ride up and down one of the lifts of the building. Documentary maker Ingrid Martens has the residents talk to the camera but most importantly talk to each other. They discuss the bad reputation of the building, the joy of living in an apartment that overlooks the whole city, the political and economic reasons why some of them had to leave their own country, the prejudices they encounter in their adopted country, etc.

The multitude of voices on African issues portrays a metaphor of Ponte as “Little Africa”, providing perspectives that not only cover the problems and dreams of prosperity of the continent, but poignant as well as provocative opinions on contemporary life.

Werner-Feiersinger_4_Morandi
Werner Feiersinger, Untitled (Morandi), 2010

13opening_6897165975229993077_o
Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

WF_F_108.002.O
Werner Feiersinger, Untitled (Fregene), 2015

WF_F_112.001.O
Werner Feiersinger, Untitled (Musmeci), 2015

Werner Feiersinger’s series of shots of Italian buildings from the 1950s to the 1970s reminds us of the power and audacity of the architectural applications of futurism. Even left to decay, these example of post-war architecture demonstrate that sometimes the past can be more radical than the present.

Dante Bini’s concrete domes, which were constructed with the help of moored balloons, are juxtaposed with shots from the ten-storey housing complex Corviale on the outskirts of Rome, and Vittorio Giorgini’s expressive concrete summer house in Baratti. The designs of these structures of the 1960s and 1970s reflect the emphatic commitment to a cosmopolitan society. This undeniably experimental architecture is defined by vitality and lightness, and bears testimony to the economic and cultural upswing in a time characterised by the belief that the future could be shaped with architectonic means.

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_6
Tercerunquinto, Gráfica reportes de condición, 2010–2016. Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

5-Tercerunquinto_sin-marco
Tercerunquinto, M-19 (Gráfica reportes de condición), 2010

Tercerunquinto‘s photo series Gráfica reportes de condición is a collection of so-called status quo reports (reportes de condición). The Mexican artist collective commissioned a specialist on restoration and structural preservation, and a group of students, to produce reports on the condition of graffiti throughout the city of Bogotá and in particular the ones that protest against social inequality and governmental misdeeds: “no more state terror”, “Neither your, nor my government”, “When hunger is the rule, rebellion is a right”, “Don’t vote – there is no space for our dreams in your ballot boxes.”

The slogans were then printed onto photographs of Bogotá in which the degree of social discontent is generally reflected in the urban landscape.

As in many countries, the public sphere is the billboard for those who wish to mobilise like-minded people or to express their dissatisfaction with existing circumstances. Like ethnologists of everyday life, Tercerunquinto commission inventories in order to study the interrelationship between society and urbanity.

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_4
Jumana Manna, Government Quarter Study, 2014; Mark Boyle, Secretions: Blood, Sweat, Piss and Tears, 1978. Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

Jumana Manna’s sculptures are full size replicas of three concrete pillars found at the entrance of the Høyblokka (“H-Block”), a brutalist building located in Regjeringskvartalet, the government quarter in Oslo. Built in 1958, in a period of Post War optimism and aspirations of the Nordic model of the Welfare State, the building was partly destroyed in 2011 in the Norway attacks orchestrated by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik.

Following the bombing, the decision whether to preserve or demolish the Høyblokka and a building in the same quarter is at the center of an emotionally intense national debate.

0abiaszielonyiui
Tobias Zielony, Le Vele di Scampia, 2010

cq5damasq80
Tobias Zielony, Le Vele di Scampia, 2010

Le Vele di Scampia is the popular name of a Brutalist housing complex in Naples made famous by the movie Gomorrah which used some of the district as its backdrop. Designed between 1962 and 1975 in brutalist style, the gigantic building complex was supposed to provide families with functional facilities for life in a residential community but it has long been controlled by the Mafia. With over 50% unemployment, the area has a very high crime rate and is considered to be one of Europe’s biggest drug dealing venues.

In Tobias Zielony‘s part social documentation part artistic experiment images, night shots of the architecture are interrupted by portraits of young people.

More images from the exhibition:

beton-kunsthalle-wien-19to1-1
David Maljkovic, Missing Colours, 2010

1openingmaison919726006090021939_o
Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

1maisonett13110_874_o
Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

1muroeufs5599216939144209_o
Olaf Metzel, Treppenhaus Fridericianum, 1987. Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

1eggcarton0_570_o
Olaf Metzel, Treppenhaus Fridericianum, 1987. Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

Tom-Burr-Brutalist-Bulletin-Board
Tom Burr, Brutalist Bulletin Board, 2001

13pattes2057528_o
Hubert Kiecol, Zeile, 1981. Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_2
Hubert Kiecol, Zeile, 1981. Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_5
Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_1
Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

Andreas-Bunte_Kirchen
Andreas Bunte, Still from O.T. (Kirchen), 2012

Akhoj_Kasper
Kasper Akhøj, 999, 2015

Béton, curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen and Vanessa Joan Müller, is at Kunsthalle Wien until 16 October 2016. The exhibition guide is available for download in PDF format.

Every Saturday, urbanist Eugene Quinn invites locals and tourists to Vienna ugly, a guided tours of Vienna’s most unattractive squares .

Related stories: Utopia London, Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century, Balkanology, New Architecture and Urban Phenomena in South Eastern Europe.

Béton: The history of a concrete-clad utopia

WF_F_113.001.O
Werner Feiersinger, Untitled (Corviale), 2015

Long reviled, brutalism seems to be everyone’s favourite architectural style at the moment. The nostalgia for the late modernist architecture manifests itself through stunning coffee table books, brutalism appreciation society and plenty of campaigns to save some of its masterpieces.

If the rude charms and resolute geometries of brutalism have been somewhat rehabilitated, its utopian ambitions have not. Buildings made of the cement and stone amalgam still carry with them the stigma of the egalitarian commitments and social advances they promised but spectacularly failed to deliver.

Terada-Concrete
Ron Terada, Concrete Language, 2006/2016

Instead of enriching people’s lives with carefully proportioned dwellings and safe green space for socializing, the structures ghettoised the poor and betrayed their top-down (if well-meaning) designs.

Béton, an exhibition that opened a few months ago at Kunsthalle Wien, is entirely dedicated to brutalism. Its title alludes to the etymology of the architectural movement: béton brut, which can be translated into ‘exposed concrete.’

The show doesn’t intend to debate on the merits and shortcomings of concrete and its uses in building and engineering. Instead, it invites us to revisit the radical ideas and social utopia that these working-class housing and public buildings attempted to embody .

Aiming to change society, brutalist architecture virtually gave shape to utopia. Today, many of the buildings built at the time are threatened with demolition; they are considered to have failed their purpose. In light of a modernism stained by dystopia, contemporary art once again carve out its original ideas, its euphoria, but also its failure. Not out of a nostalgic longing but for the sake of remembering that architecture was once more than enclosed space, and concrete was not merely a building material but was historically and ideologically charged.

While i was in town to visit AJNHAJTCLUB at Q21, i crossed the square of the MuseumsQuartier and spent a couple of hours walking through the Béton exhibition…

Gillick_Liam_Beton0
Liam Gillick, Pain in a building, 1999

The UK has its fair share of brutalist estates and buildings that didn’t live up to the democratizing aspirations of their architects and planners. Thamesmead in Greater London is a good example of what happens when commendable utopia has to contend with economic realities. Conceived in the 1960s as the town of the future, Thamesmead promised to combine city life with the joys of the countryside: green spaces, a nature reserve and an artificial lake. However, the experiment quickly turned sour. Plans to build a shopping center around a marina, a train station and other amenities had to be scrapped because of financial difficulties. Criminality rose quickly and in the late ’70s, the neighbourhood was used as a sink estate by the councils around.

Stanley Kubrick filmed some of the key scenes of his 1971 film A Clockwork Orange in Thamesmead. The town served as the setting for a dystopic London ruled by anarchy and violence.

Fe10deman1697
Thomas Demand, Public Housing, 2003

2demand6622_b

Public Housing, by Thomas Demand, demonstrates that not all good intentions end up in embarrassment and disappointment.

Before taking the photos, Thomas Demand builds by hand paper and cardboard models based on pictures. The original image for “Public Housing” is printed on the pink $10 banknote from Singapore. The housing estate is typical of the low-cost, high-rise housing blocks built in 1965 when Singapore gained its independence from Malaysia and decided to address the poor living conditions and housing issues. By 1965 the percentage of the local population living in public housing rose from 9% in 1959 to 23%. Roughly 80% of Singaporeans now live in flats built by the Housing and Development Board of Singapore, a city-state usually associated with finance rather than with policies that protect the underprivileged.

1ponvivin63110_2053962845338152976_o
Monica Bonvicini, Add Elegance to your Poverty, 1990/2016. Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

Monica Bonvicini‘s “Add Elegance to your Poverty” questions cynical approaches to real problems. Sprayed on a wall in Berlin, the sentence is a direct reference to an advertising claim which is often used to sell real estate in California: “Add Elegance to Your Property”. It also echoes the famous “Arm, aber sexy” (poor but sexy) coined by Berlin’s former mayor Klaus Wowereit in an attempt to gloss over the city’s budget deficits.

121423cfh3944
Miki Kratsman, Abu Dis 2003, 2003. Photo: Chelouche gallery

Israel’s self-defence law requires the installation of shelters in all buildings, including private houses. It also regulates the upkeep of bunkers in homes and factories. After the First Gulf War, steel concrete with access to the individual flats within a building were also added, providing thus easy access to a space of safety in case of chemical weapon attacks by neighbouring countries. Miki Kratsman’s photos show how these safe rooms are integrated into the urban landscape, outsiders would find it difficult to identify these shelters as structures created for situations of violence.

The intentionally unsensational view of these extremely politically and socially charged elements of the urban landscape alludes to the omnipresence of this conflict, precisely because of the incidental nature of Kratsman’s approach.

Kratsman also documented frontier posts along the Road 443. Although the road partly leads through Palestinian territory, it is only accessible to Israeli. In 2002, Israel prohibited Palestinians from using the road, by vehicle or on foot, for whatever purpose, including transport of goods or for medical emergencies.

I couldn’t find photos of either series online so i’ve picked up another one to illustrate his work.

Ingrid-Martens_Africa-Shafted_1
Ingrid Martens, Africa Shafted, 2012

Ingrid Martens, Africa Shafted (trailer), 2012

Ingrid Martens, Africa Shafted (trailer), 2012

Ingrid Martens spent 5 years filming people who live in Ponte Tower, ‘the tallest and grandest urban slum in the world’. Conceived as a luxury residential complex for white people living in Johannesburg in the 1970s, the brutalist tower is built around a hollow inner core that provides light thanks to the windows that encircle the inner and outer exterior.

In the 1990s, the area surrounding the 54-storey building started to be associated with gang crimes. Most of the white privileged families moved to supposedly safer suburbs and the owners of the building left it to decay. Soon, South Africans of colour, as well as immigrants from neighbouring countries, moved in. The residential block grew to become densely populated, and acquired the reputation of being a ghetto. Today, after renovation and tightened security, the situation at Ponte is considered to have greatly improved.

Africa Shafted is a fascinating documentary that takes us on a ride up and down one of the lifts of the building. Documentary maker Ingrid Martens has the residents talk to the camera but most importantly talk to each other. They discuss the bad reputation of the building, the joy of living in an apartment that overlooks the whole city, the political and economic reasons why some of them had to leave their own country, the prejudices they encounter in their adopted country, etc.

The multitude of voices on African issues portrays a metaphor of Ponte as “Little Africa”, providing perspectives that not only cover the problems and dreams of prosperity of the continent, but poignant as well as provocative opinions on contemporary life.

Werner-Feiersinger_4_Morandi
Werner Feiersinger, Untitled (Morandi), 2010

13opening_6897165975229993077_o
Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

WF_F_108.002.O
Werner Feiersinger, Untitled (Fregene), 2015

WF_F_112.001.O
Werner Feiersinger, Untitled (Musmeci), 2015

Werner Feiersinger’s series of shots of Italian buildings from the 1950s to the 1970s reminds us of the power and audacity of the architectural applications of futurism. Even left to decay, these example of post-war architecture demonstrate that sometimes the past can be more radical than the present.

Dante Bini’s concrete domes, which were constructed with the help of moored balloons, are juxtaposed with shots from the ten-storey housing complex Corviale on the outskirts of Rome, and Vittorio Giorgini’s expressive concrete summer house in Baratti. The designs of these structures of the 1960s and 1970s reflect the emphatic commitment to a cosmopolitan society. This undeniably experimental architecture is defined by vitality and lightness, and bears testimony to the economic and cultural upswing in a time characterised by the belief that the future could be shaped with architectonic means.

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_6
Tercerunquinto, Gráfica reportes de condición, 2010–2016. Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

5-Tercerunquinto_sin-marco
Tercerunquinto, M-19 (Gráfica reportes de condición), 2010

Tercerunquinto‘s photo series Gráfica reportes de condición is a collection of so-called status quo reports (reportes de condición). The Mexican artist collective commissioned a specialist on restoration and structural preservation, and a group of students, to produce reports on the condition of graffiti throughout the city of Bogotá and in particular the ones that protest against social inequality and governmental misdeeds: “no more state terror”, “Neither your, nor my government”, “When hunger is the rule, rebellion is a right”, “Don’t vote – there is no space for our dreams in your ballot boxes.”

The slogans were then printed onto photographs of Bogotá in which the degree of social discontent is generally reflected in the urban landscape.

As in many countries, the public sphere is the billboard for those who wish to mobilise like-minded people or to express their dissatisfaction with existing circumstances. Like ethnologists of everyday life, Tercerunquinto commission inventories in order to study the interrelationship between society and urbanity.

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_4
Jumana Manna, Government Quarter Study, 2014; Mark Boyle, Secretions: Blood, Sweat, Piss and Tears, 1978. Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

Jumana Manna’s sculptures are full size replicas of three concrete pillars found at the entrance of the Høyblokka (“H-Block”), a brutalist building located in Regjeringskvartalet, the government quarter in Oslo. Built in 1958, in a period of Post War optimism and aspirations of the Nordic model of the Welfare State, the building was partly destroyed in 2011 in the Norway attacks orchestrated by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik.

Following the bombing, the decision whether to preserve or demolish the Høyblokka and a building in the same quarter is at the center of an emotionally intense national debate.

0abiaszielonyiui
Tobias Zielony, Le Vele di Scampia, 2010

cq5damasq80
Tobias Zielony, Le Vele di Scampia, 2010

Le Vele di Scampia is the popular name of a Brutalist housing complex in Naples made famous by the movie Gomorrah which used some of the district as its backdrop. Designed between 1962 and 1975 in brutalist style, the gigantic building complex was supposed to provide families with functional facilities for life in a residential community but it has long been controlled by the Mafia. With over 50% unemployment, the area has a very high crime rate and is considered to be one of Europe’s biggest drug dealing venues.

In Tobias Zielony‘s part social documentation part artistic experiment images, night shots of the architecture are interrupted by portraits of young people.

More images from the exhibition:

beton-kunsthalle-wien-19to1-1
David Maljkovic, Missing Colours, 2010

1openingmaison919726006090021939_o
Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

1maisonett13110_874_o
Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

1muroeufs5599216939144209_o
Olaf Metzel, Treppenhaus Fridericianum, 1987. Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

1eggcarton0_570_o
Olaf Metzel, Treppenhaus Fridericianum, 1987. Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

Tom-Burr-Brutalist-Bulletin-Board
Tom Burr, Brutalist Bulletin Board, 2001

13pattes2057528_o
Hubert Kiecol, Zeile, 1981. Opening of the exhibition. Photo: Joanna Pianka (eSeL.at) for Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_2
Hubert Kiecol, Zeile, 1981. Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_5
Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

Ausstellungsansicht_Beton_1
Installation view: Béton, Kunsthalle Wien 2016, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff

Andreas-Bunte_Kirchen
Andreas Bunte, Still from O.T. (Kirchen), 2012

Akhoj_Kasper
Kasper Akhøj, 999, 2015

Béton, curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen and Vanessa Joan Müller, is at Kunsthalle Wien until 16 October 2016. The exhibition guide is available for download in PDF format.

Every Saturday, urbanist Eugene Quinn invites locals and tourists to Vienna ugly, a guided tours of Vienna’s most unattractive squares .

Related stories: Utopia London, Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century, Balkanology, New Architecture and Urban Phenomena in South Eastern Europe.