Mention ‘Brutalism’ and you’ll get two distinct reactions. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either shorthand for ‘concrete eyesore’, or it marks the height of architecture’s quest for housing utopia.
Nowhere splits opinion like the Barbican Estate. Just last year it topped a poll of London’s ugliest buildings, but property prices are soaring 50 years after construction began and it has long-served as a creative muse to artists, musicians and architects.
Here, we look at music videos that bring the Barbican and other Brutalist landmarks to life.
Metronomy – ‘Month of Sundays’
Metronomy’s ‘Month of Sundays’ video, directed by Callum Cooper, captures the Barbican Estate in kaleidoscopic form. The camera spins endlessly, creating a dizzying portrait of the building’s shapes and textures.
Unit 4 + 2 – ‘Concrete & Clay’
Step back in time to 1965, when the Barbican’s foundations were first being laid. The title of one-hit wonder Unit 4 + 2’s track ‘Concrete & Clay’ was a fitting precursor to the concrete mammoth that was to come.
8:58 – ‘The Clock’
‘The Clock’ by 8:58, a side project of electro group Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll, stars actor Cillian Murphy, whose character can’t get enough of London’s Brutalist icons. Named The Generic Man, he lives in Poplar’s Robin Hood Gardens – built in 1972 by architects Alison and Peter Smithson – and heads to the Barbican for work.
The Libertines – ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’
The Brutalist housing estate in Thamesmead, south east London, famously appeared in filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 A Clockwork Orange as the home of its delinquent lead character. Troublemaking Peter Doherty and The Libertines also dropped by in 2004 to film their video for ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’.
The Chemical Brothers – ‘Go’
Seven dancers march through a modernist Parisian paradise in The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Go’ video, directed by Michel Gondry. Many of the towers here, in the city’s Front-de-Seine area, were built in the 1970s under plans conceived by architects Raymond Lopez and Henry Pottier. Gondry’s video brings to life the shapes, patterns and concrete of this continental Brutalist wonderland.
Omi Palone – ‘Architecture’
Young British band Omi Palone wrote a track titled ‘Architecture’, so a video featuring London’s Brutalist landmarks naturally followed. Among the roll call are Trellick Tower in Kensington and Balfron Tower in Poplar – both designed by Ernö Goldfinger – and architect Neave Brown’s Alexandra Road Estate in Swiss Cottage.