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Nic Sampson

Brutalism and the Legacy of Mies: Classical Modernism and theories of the ‘as-found’.

My PhD research will return to the UK architectural scene in the early 1950s and a reinterpretation of architecture as set against the theoretical ‘guiding principles’ of international modernism; a reinterpretation spearheaded by the Smithsons who sought to challenge the programme of the hugely influential Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) and its celebrated pre-war founders.

I will re-examine the relationship between central aspects of pre-war modernism, embodied in the work of Mies van der Rohe, and theories subsequently developed by the Smithsons that, in a post-war British context, were regarded as radical and, indeed, subversive in the challenge they posed to the tenets and aesthetics of the Modern Movement itself.  My central idea is to investigate the ideological and material dialogue between what Higgott terms ‘the shift to the specific’ and the expressed universalism of a Miesian aesthetic by asking the question:  Why does an apparent gap exist between the established values of a universal modernism and the development of Brutalism in post-war Britain that searched out the as-found characteristics of the ‘place’, despite a stated belief in a shared ideological platform?

Supervisors: Dr Leslie Topp

Image: Hunstanton School - Smithsons 1954