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Whenever a structure wins the accolade of “Britain’s most hated building”, or crowds bay beside a demolition as at a public architectural execution, the victims will be brutalist buildings.
Brutalism is one of Britain’s two contributions to modern architecture. The other is “high tech”, the engineering aesthetic of metal and glass that has, in effect, become the style of the City , the emblem of modernity. Brutalism, an aesthetic based on bulky cliffs of concrete, remains locked up in its filthy, rain-stained bunker, dismissed as modernism’s idiot relative, reviled, unpopular, a manifestation of everything that went wrong with architecture. One of its finest British proponents was Rodney Gordon, who has died aged 75.
Gordon remained unknown beyond architecture circles. His brief, flashy career largely happened in the office of Owen Luder in the 1960s, meaning his name was rarely associated with a building. In that time the office designed a handful of astonishing, sculptural buildings, nearly all of which have been, or are being, destroyed. The finest was the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, a terrific essay in sci-fi concrete that was left to rot by an unsympathetic council and chain stores that would rather have been somewhere else, somewhere with a bit less . . . character. Opened in 1966, its fiercely modelled form embraced a shopping centre, a nightclub and apartments. By the 1980s its apartments had never been fully occupied because of problems with damp and malfunctioning services, the nightclub had degenerated into a shabby casino and the top of the multistorey car park had become the south coast’s most popular spot for suicides after Beachy Head. It was demolished in 2004.