A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism

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A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism

The London-based journalist and writer Christopher Beanland, has written a breathtaking monster of a book, Concrete Concept, in which he profiles 50 architectonic brutalist beasts around the world. One of them is the Government Quarter in Oslo, Norway.

A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism
Norway, Oslo; Government Quarter, 1980s. Photo: Viksjø, Erling

No modern architectural movement has aroused so much awe and so much ire as Brutalism. In his book “Concrete Concept”, Christopher Beanland has profiled 50 brutalist beasts around the world (built between the 1950s to 1970s) He demonstrates how Brutalism infected popular culture. This is architecture at its most assertive: compelling, distinctive, sometimes terrifying. But, as Concrete Concept shows, Brutalism can be about love as well as hate.

Concrete Concept is a well-illustrated compendium of fifty Brutalist landmarks on six continents, and its oversized thickness makes it almost brutal in itself, not a classically seductive coffee table book.

A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism
High-rise building in Government Quarter, Oslo

The Swedish architect Hans Asplund coined the term nybrutalism in 1949, and four years later it was used for the first time in the British journal Architectural Design.
Concept Concrete looks at Brutalism, a movement which peaked in the 1960s with a visual language that has become inextricably associated with the post-war welfare state it developed from.

A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism
Concrete Concept, book-cover

The book reads Brutalism as if it has the peaceful allure of jutting stones in a sand garden – an abstract Zen mentality in a practical social setting.

A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism
The low-rise building (the Y-block) in Oslo Government Quarter

“A witty, high-adrenalin, concrete-fueled mega-tour of some of the world’s unfairly maligned ‘monstrosities. Concrete Concept is a gutsy, bombastic lobe song,” wrote Catherine Croft in Twentieth Century Society about Concept Concrete.

A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism
Picasso’s facade decorations

The Government Quarter, Oslo (Regjeringskvartalet)
The Norwegian architect Erling Viksjø designed the looming high-rise government building in 1958, adding the low-rise, Y-shaped block in 1969. The speckled, rough exterior is particularly memorable because of Picasso’s concrete blast murals that adorn the facade with fractured sea-side scenes, as well as the vivid icons crafted by Norwegian artists that chequer up the side of the high-rise.

A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism
Picasso’s drawings

A major architectural debate flared up in Norway following attempts to heal the wounds of the July 2011 attacks on Oslo and Utoya Island. Part of the attacks took place in downtown Oslo as a car bomb was detonated in front of the building housing the Prime Minister’s office in the Government Quarter, killing eight people and damaging surrounding Brutalist buildings by Erling Viksjø.

A Norwegian Architectural Masterpiece that Changed the Face of Brutalism, written by Tor Kjolberg

Related:

What Now, Oslo?

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