When I hear the word Brutalist, I'm instantly transported to my days on Park Hill in Sheffield, where I lived for over a decade. It's a famously brutalist building with a thousand self-similar maisonettes all squished up in a wiggly concrete labyrinth. It truly is a labyrinth, as upon moving in to my first place, it wasn't for many years before I had memorised the entire layout. Every nook and cranny had its own community living there, in which people knew each other's name and we all did our best to look out for each other. That is if you made an effort to blend in, if you kept yourself to yourself, that's exactly what you got. I was so enchanted by the place that I wrote a book, which some of you may already know.
However, this 1960s concrete behemoth was part of a culture of building brash and unapologetically unaesthetic structures which fulfilled a defined purpose. Car parks, factories, office blocks, and housing estates all got their fair share of the style. We've all likely seen a brutalist building, it's made of concrete, it's got huge fascias, and it's blocky. Little or no effort was taken to make it look appealing, when creating functional and affordable solutions to everyday problems like housing, competition was not an issue. It wasn't important to appeal to those who could be choosy, these were buildings with a social purpose.
It's way out of date now, and we likely won't be seeing any brutalism soon when it comes to new builds. We associate it with the time, and often with dilapidated states. However the concept has carried on. It may have had a rest period, through the 1980s, but simple, effective, and non-swish design has resurfaced. Where? Online. Even this website could likely be considered brutalist, it's got everything it needs. For Alternative Fruit, it's the content which makes the experience. There's even a website dedicated to brutalist design.
Web-design likes simple and effective lay-out. Often websites include funky graphics and CSS wizardry that makes everything flow like icy water. That's cool, I love playing with flashy websites, but often I just want the information, the data, the pictures etc. When it comes to that, simple and non-distracting is best. Often websites become extremely large. As you may see from the archive sections, it is easy to create years of material if we just keep writing it. This also resembles the brutalist ethic, just make it how people want it and keep doing the same thing until you run out of time, space, cash or resources.
Effective, simple, and well-planned concrete architecture had its heyday and it could have been much longer than it was. The thing that let it down was a culture of disrepair. It was during the 80s and 90s when many council estates and publicly owned buildings were not looked after as well as they ought to have been. This created the run-down and dilapidated look that we know now. If we can learn anything from this, it's that we can keep things at their best by taking care and paying attention, not letting things slowly turn to rot. Websites have much less entropy than a concrete building, provided the server remains stable, but keeping things up-to-date and refreshed is also part of the formula.
Choose Love on Alternative Fruit is reader supported. Because of you, more people get to discover creativity and art for themselves. Thank you so much!
Follow the editor on Twitter