The Brutalist Architecture of Leeds
The first part in a 4 part series where we will be covering the Brutalist architecture of Leeds, London, Manchester and Berlin.
Brutalism, a title derived from the French, “béton brut” or (raw concrete), was part of the modernist architectural movement, spanning from the 1950’s to the mid 1970’s. Many buildings and larger complexes of brutalist architecture have a dystopian feel to them and wouldn’t be out of place as “futuristic” cities in science fiction films both past and present. They are often criticised as ugly and harsh. Yes, they don’t age too well, especially in the more damp and maritime climates, but if you can look past the concrete facades and appreciate these buildings in detail what you see are huge, monumental structures that are in every right beautiful.
The brutalist buildings of Leeds are spread out all over the city, standing out in always noticeable contrast to the various other styles of architecture that predominate Leeds. Trying to uncover them all makes for a great day of exploring.
We start deep within the Leeds University Campus where amongst a wide range of differing architectural styles there is a brilliant display of brutalism.
There’s no set place to look in the city center when it comes to brutalist architecture. It’s all a bit spread out, with examples in the business district, the north of the city, the main retail space and more right on the fringe. Below are the few examples in the business district.
The Merrion Centre Offices
Part of the Merrion Centre complex built in the 1960s, and home to shops, a bowling alley, offices and once a cinema, the main office block is a brilliant example of brutalism.
The Pinnacle Building
Recently refurbished, with a new sign up top and a more modern approach to office space inside, this towering office block on Albion Street can be seen from most parts of the city.
Currently home to Dorothy Perkins and Burton, and in the past Topshop, this small, but classic example of Brutalism is located right at the top of Briggate, the main shopping street in Leeds.
Yorkshire Evening Post Offices
These offices for the YEP have become quite the landmark to local residents and visitors. It stands as one of the first buildings many people see as they arrive into Leeds due to its close proximity to the city ring roads and motorway access. The angular shapes and rough concrete textures have housed the newspaper for many years.
Leeds International Pool
Constructed in the 1960’s and designed by architect John Poulson, the Leeds International Pool served the people of Leeds for over 40 years until its demolition in 2009. It was an iconic building at its time of inception and remains so today through photographic memories and stories from those who remembered it. Comparable swimming facilities in Leeds have now moved to the John Charles Centre For Sport.
It’s a real shame to see this building demolished. . But with so many people detesting the style, most notably Prince Charles, maybe it is a sign of things to come for brutalist architecture. Will there come a time when these often historic buildings are ripped down and replaced at a rate where this style of architecture becomes hard to find? We hope not.
Next in this series, we visit Manchester. Coming soon.
Words by Adam Newton
Photos by Adam Newton and Sam Coe