Celebrating Reyner Banham II: New Brutalism

João Paulo Providência

Richard J. Williams

June 14, 2022, 17h00

Trinity College Auditorium (Coimbra)


Eliana Sousa Santos, Jorge Figueira and Paulo Providência, CES researchers,on the occasion of the centenary of Reyner Banham's birth, promote a conference series centred on three aspects of the work of this important British critic. The second conference, focusing on New Brutalism and architecture, features Richard J. Williams (Reyner Banham’s Brutalism) and Paulo Providência (The image of Brutalism) as speakers.

The image of Brutalism

“The New Brutalism”, an article published in #188 of The Architectural Review, in December of 1955, by the young critic Reyner Banham, theorizes about the effervescent architectural production of the first half of the 1950s: the Marseille Building and its strong expression in béton brut , the Ronchamp Chapel with its formal exuberance, or the early works of Alison and Peter Smithson such as the Hunstanton School, are just a few examples of this production, to which we can associate the artistic production of the Independent Group.

A small manifesto on the emerging architecture, it recovers the production of the masters of the Modern Movement conceptualizing a reinvented modernity in a radical return to back to basics. It privileges structural and material expression and proposes a theoretical codification in three topics: Memorability as an Image; Clear exhibition of Structure; Valorization of Material ‘as found’. Whether the clear display of the Structure, or the valorization of Materials 'as found' are concepts of easy apprehension allowing the alignment of brutalist architectures, the concept of image memorability requires further clarification. “Great architecture will have to be 'conceptual' to become image-making, that is, producer of apprehensible and memorable images”, seeking the legibility and memorability of its construction, says Banham, reinforcing the viscerality of these images, and repudiating the abstraction.

Celebrating Banham allows us to rethink the actuality of the Warburgian/Panofskian affiliation of his concept of image (not just architectural), structured by form and concept.


1. Ronchamp Chapel at the opening of the article 'The New Brutalism', Architectural Review, 1955


2. Hunstanton Shcool, 'The New Brutalism', Architectural Review, 1955

3. Church of Saint Mark at Bjorkhagen, in The New Brutalism - Ethics of Aesthetics?, 1966

Bio notes

Richard J. Williams is Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures at the University of Edinburgh. He recently published a book on Reyner Banham under the title "Reyner Banham Revisited", edited by Reaktion Books, 2021.

Paulo Providência