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TOKYO - YOKOHAMA

Birdsong emanates from rail platform speakers. The platforms witness a timely coming-and-going of trains. Wicked architecture, temple grounds and tranquil parks therapeutically punctuate what would otherwise unfold as the urban monotony of the world's largest metropolis.

What lessons can we glean from the social sustainability of Tokyo’s density?

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TOKYO - YOKOHAMA

Birdsong emanates from rail platform speakers. The platforms witness a timely coming-and-going of trains. Wicked architecture, temple grounds and tranquil parks therapeutically punctuate what would otherwise unfold as the urban monotony of the world's largest metropolis.

What lessons can we glean from the social sustainability of Tokyo’s density?

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SOUTH BANK, LONDON

 

For us concrete-sniffing tragics, London's SouthBank is a Mecca. Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Hayward Gallery, Lasdun's National Theatre...

These are pukka monsters you can properly envisage a battalion of Stormtroopers pouring from. Indeed, a sure gauge of brutalism is this: Would it look good in a Star Wars episode?

Brutalism can be deemed to reflect the increased intrusion of government and state power. It is no accident that brutalist architectural forms often harboured state 

departments. Brutalist buildings afford sobering historic reflection - much like the preservation of Communist statues in former Soviet states. Their bluntness is more honest than contemporary glass-based attempts that allude to "transparency" of state operation.

An architectural form commonly disliked for an inaccessible, imposing coldness can offer some quaint and humble hints as to the construction process. Concrete surfaces embossed with timber grain signify the use of wooden moulds at South Bank's National Theatre.

Fellow sniffers bray at the misassumptions the heathen hold about brutalism. No, it wasn't cheap. Nor was it easy. Rather, brutalism more often than not reflects the work of architects at the peak of their craft and a belief that technological progress should deliver social benefit.

Recognition of the missassumption surrounding brutalism would better inform contemporary planning and architecture - particularly in relation to notions of heritage and the shaping of form by function. Yet opinions on brutalism remain based upon taste and fashion. It deserves better.

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OKINAWA

Whilst the use of concrete in public buildings may be gaining a belated appreciation, its application to residential architecture seems radical. Then there's Okinawa.

The timber-marked 1960s concrete of Southbank is rendered somewhat quaint by the prevalence of no-nonsense concrete homes seen here. This is a brutality borne of necessity given Okinawa’s regular battering by typhoons. Okinawans are house-bound during such events and their homes must be robust.​ The result seems to be an unconscious brutalism.

All photography © Paul Tulett 2019