Bristol street art exhibition transforms Ballardian brutalist street

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42 Responses to “Bristol street art exhibition transforms Ballardian brutalist street”

  1. drukqs says:

    While the some of the art is breathtaking, I’m struck by how utterly appalling the buildings are. To say the planners and the architects failed is a total understatement. Sadly, no amount of window dressing will truly fix this.

  2. tw15 says:

    I agree. Some of these buildings failed from the moment they opened. We had people with Steve Jobs’s single mindedness, but without Steve Jobs’s abilities.

  3. polymorf says:

    Hilarious.

  4. Bucket says:

    It appears that the sweatshirt monsters from the Leave It To Beaver episode posted the other day are embedded deeper in the collective unconscious than I had previously assumed.

  5. kmoser says:

    Bare block concrete structures may have felt futuristic when they were designed in the 60s and 70s, but these days they are evocative of clunky Soviet-style architecture at best. You’d think architects, of all people, would be cognizant of how their designs would be viewed in the actual future, not some science fiction fantasy utopia.

  6. Although this painting certainly makes things look nicer, I wouldn’t say that the original architecture is purposely oppressive. It’s just ugly. Concrete looks really nice until it starts to stain. This isn’t some horrible dystopia, just badly placed lines. In my opinion the headline to this article is a little exaggerated.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Are you familiar with the Brutalist school of architecture?

      • Yes, I am familiar with Brutalist Architecture and the term ‘Ballardian’. It seems like this particular photo isn’t really that harsh. Even without the colorful improvements, the space is still broken up by other architecture and materials.. It’s hard to really know what the space looked like before, since the site linked gives us no ‘before’ picture.

        • Daneel says:

           http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Nelson+Street,+Bristol&hl=en&ll=51.456521,-2.593846&spn=0.009172,0.022402&sll=51.460264,-2.576079&sspn=0.009305,0.022402&vpsrc=0&z=15&layer=c&cbll=51.456512,-2.593982&panoid=sGRDDzdRc_uVRym8Je4Vgw&cbp=12,257.19,,0,-23.79

  7. nosehat says:

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think Brutalist architecture like this is really beautiful.  Sure, the graffiti art is cool and all, but I’d also love to see this street with with just the bare, rain-soaked concrete, glass windows, etc.

    • Matt Jones says:

      Sounds like a lovely place to live.

    • plingboot says:

      Totally agree.  I’d rather have some honest and distinctive, even possibly unsightly, buildings than live in a fake lego land world of cute samey safe mock georgian or whatever period is currently in vogue. I love buildings that are of their time. Give it long enough and this horrible ugly stuff that’s fashionable to hate will be appreciated again. Just look what happened in the 60s, bulldozing  beautiful victorian buildings as unsightly.
      Check out Poundbury, pet project of modern architecture critic Prince bloody Charles. It’s an awful fake themepark of a place.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/mar/31/prince-charles-fire-station-poundbury  We’ve a rich history of different eras of architecture. Shame to lose this by abandoning contempary and building fake twee.

      • Daneel says:

        I like some Brutalist architecture – the Barbican and Trellick Tower spring to mind (didn’t the Grand Designs chappy do a programme where he climbed up the outside of it?). It’s an important architectural style and much better than twee fake Tudor rubbish. I loathe Poundbury. Typical of the man, though. He’s totally absurd.

        I saw a documentary once where Janet Street-Porter (I think) was talking about Aylesbury, and how she preferred the brutalist county hall to the traditional buildings that surrounded it. She made a good argument. I remember the celebrating in Portsmouth when the Tricorn came down though. I don’t think the Get Carter car park in Gateshead is particularly missed either. I think it’s easier to admire Brutalism when you don’t have to live with it all the time.

  8. freshacconci says:

    I’m with the lovers of Brutalism here. I’ve always been a fan. The failures of Brutalism are not the style so much as the problems of any urban planning. Modernist International architecture is beautiful too but it failed when utilized by city planners for poor neighbourhoods. It’s not the architecture, it’s the city planners love of cheap and easily built structures and ill-conceived solutions to housing shortages. This is where Modernism and Brutalism failed, not in the ideas or the designs.

    I love David Barton’s term “cute samey safe” as it can apply to crappy, boring graffiti as well. Lame cartoons don’t bring anything particularly to life.

  9. jimjambandit says:

    I worked on the parallel street many years ago, and while there is something stark and ‘beautiful’ in the simple forms it’s not actually a very human(e) place to work in or move around. Add to that the fact that I was working in a crappy low-paid cal centre job (big shout to BT!) and it’s little wonder I emigrated perhaps.
    However Bristol is a wonderful city, great art/graffiti community (much more to Brizzle than Banksy folks). Can’t wait to visit next year.
    Big respect to the council for recognising one of the unique parts of it’s culture

  10. Tzctplus - says:

    I agree with the criticism of graffiti: lots of it is derivative, mediocre, commercialized and escapist, some of it depresses me as much as bad architecture from any period.

  11. Drabula says:

    Yeah, “low brow” is kind of getting long in the tooth. I would have loved that drooling green Frankenstein’s monster in the background when I was 10.

  12. gowarrgh says:

    I live in Bristol and while I’ve got to admit that i do kind of like the 60s/70s concrete architecture, the problem with Nelson street was that all the buildings have been adandoned for some time, while the street links the two main parts of Bristol city centre. It was a fairly busy thoroughfare but a pretty grim place to walk through, especially at night. Hopefully this will change things

    A lot of the work is derivative but there’s a huge variety of styles from the cartoony seen above, old school tagging, photorealistic and stenciled work to name a few. It’s a good mix of local and worldwide artists too
     
    The street party was immense with a really good atmosphere and hopefully it should lead to more tourism for Bristol. While a lot of pieces were made for the opening, there’s still plenty of space for more work so hopefully it will continue to grow

    • IRMO says:

      “I live in Bristol and while I’ve got to admit that i do kind of like the 60s/70s concrete architecture, the problem with Nelson street was that all the buildings have been adandoned for some time,”

      See, that’s the thing with that style. Some people “kind of like it” but not in enough numbers to keep a viable community around those buildings.  

  13. milfodd says:

    Along similar lines is the Living Walls project currently going up in Albany, New York (Atlanta in Georgia had their own in August) - http://livingwallsalbany.com/
    Come visit the capital of New York!

  14. IRMO says:

    “I’d rather have some honest and distinctive, even possibly unsightly, buildings than live in a fake lego land world of cute samey safe mock georgian or whatever period is currently in vogue.”

    It’s not honest in the slightest. An honest architect would admit that naked concrete is a structural hazard and cover it up with sacrificial stucco that can bear the beating of the elements and be periodically redone. Brutalist architecture is the great litmus test to tell apart fanboys who have no idea how to build a liveable environment and people who actually do. 

    • freshacconci says:

      An honest architect would cover concrete with stucco??? How on earth is covering something honest? Concrete can be and is often beautiful if done right and is hardly a “structural hazard”. The problem with Brutalism is that it was often done on the cheap. But slathering it with cheesy stucco? I can’t imagine anything more opposite of honest than that.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        An honest architect would cover concrete with stucco??? How on earth is covering something honest? Concrete can be and is often beautiful if done right and is hardly a “structural hazard”. The problem with Brutalism is that it was often done on the cheap. But slathering it with cheesy stucco? I can’t imagine anything more opposite of honest than that.

        Um….form follows function?

  15. I formed my first ltd. company here, on the astroturf in front of frankenstein’s monster.  Good old Bristol.

  16. Bevatron Repairman says:

    >> The town planners and architects failed, and as the decades passed they watched their dreams descend into decay, shunned by popular taste and left to become associated with poverty, depravation and failure.<<

    Why should we believe that New Urbanism, with its popsicle radii and transit villages and what not, will fare any better?  It's top down planning just the same.

  17. Heavy Metal Yogi says:

    Such beauty in such dystopic setting really tugs at my heart strings, but it feels transient like a Tibetan sand mandala.  Over time smog and sunlight will fade the paintings, and I think that adds more to their beauty in the present. 

  18. IRMO says:

    “An honest architect would cover concrete with stucco??? How on earth is covering something honest?”

    Exposure to the elements is very bad for bare concrete. If you slather on the stucco and let the stucco bear the beating, your building will last. 

    “Concrete can be and is often beautiful if done right and is hardly a “structural hazard”.”

    Is that why brutalist structures are so beloved by crowds that gather to form Jane Jacobs-esque communities around them? Please, if any such building exists, that is popular in the city whre it is built, and enjoys high occupancy, and has not had its concrete chip away since the 1960′s, please let me know. 

  19. kittnkat says:

    As a muralist, I know how painted walls can change a person’s space, mood and awareness….good on the officials for taking a chance to create something unique in their city that will be ever-morphing, alive and a direct spiritual connection to the people who live work and create there.

    Graffiti is more than something done in a back ally in the dead of night to flout authority, it’s a statement that this is our space, the landscape of our lives and we choose color instead of grey, dream and creation instead of decay, motion and light instead of the black of night.

    For those of you who appreciate the concrete, I’m sure you can find lots more elsewhere to tickle your fancy….

  20. IRMO says:

    “The Barbican?” How much of the activity around the Barbican comes from it being the main place to use London’s library resources? And how much is due to it being an enjoyable environment to be in? (Honest question. I’ve not been to London for 30 years.) 
    There’s lots of activity around Boston’s City Hall, too, but that’s because you can’t fight City Hall to make them, um, move City Hall. 

    • blurgh says:

      “”The Barbican?” How much of the activity around the Barbican comes from it being the main place to use London’s library resources? And how much is due to it being an enjoyable environment to be in? (Honest question. I’ve not been to London for 30 years.)”

      Library resources? Not much, I guess. A lot more because it’s a cultural centre, like the South Bank. Having said that, the main reason I go to the Barbican is just ‘cos I like the architecture. The South Bank, less so.

  21. lunchcoma says:

    Brutalism is interesting and important as public art, but I feel it often fails at the practical level of providing people with usable space to live, work and study. I’ve had to work in a number of brutalist structures and lived in one for a period of time, and there are some real functional problems. It’s hard to find stairs and doors. There often aren’t enough windows. Sometimes the interior spaces are oddly laid out. The dormitory I lived in as a student had purposefully small rooms to encourage students not to be so solitary, but only had a handful of cramped, uncomfortable interior common areas and no exterior common areas. And while concrete can be attactive and interesting in certain contexts, it’s not particularly suited for climates with high rainfall.

    I don’t think that this means that all later building styles are superior. The repulsive mishmash of copied styles that’s seen in the planned suburban communities from the last couple of decades is just as unfriendly toward its residents, and without the redeeming artistic values. But I do think that in all styles of architecture, there needs to be some compromise between expressing artistic values and producing a functional building, and that people are quite right to hate some brutalist structures for failing at the second goal.

  22. Martha Bridegam says:

    “…poverty, depravation and failure…”
    - T. Maughan

    “I’m depraved on account I’m deprived.”
    - Stephen Sondheim

  23. CountZero says:

    As someone who has walked along Nelson Street many times over the years, but who doesn’t live in Bristol, take it from me, it’s a thoroughly dispiriting and depressing place to have to walk through. There are overpasses and covered passageways that are an open invitation for a mugging or a beating, and while Brutalist architecture can be impressive when set in the right environment, here it’s overwhelming and overbearing, with tall, dark grey buildings either side of a narrow street. Bristol is an old city, it’s fishermen were catching cod off Newfoundlands Grand Banks before Columbus made an ass of himself by landing in the Carribean and thinking he’d discovered a new route to India. This architecture only exists because of Nazi bomb damage, and this project has made an enormous difference to a nasty, grimy part of the city, that could only be better improved by the wholesale removal of every building along it.
    I was down there Sunday afternoon, and the atmosphere was amazing, a real party feeling.

  24. hbl says:

    That’s the thing about Nelson St, it’s a cut through. There’s no real reason to go down there. In fact, when it was in full swing there wasn’t much reason, unless you were a petty criminal, because that’s where the Magistrates Court used to be!

    Still, I live in Bristol, and in order to go and have a look I would have go pretty far out of my way. I can see why a dab of paint is preferable (cheaper) than tearing it down, and I think it’s a great idea if it gets updated once a year, or organically changes constantly. Otherwise, what’s the point? It’ll soon be as much an eyesore as the Brutalist architecture it seeks to enliven.

  25. I live in Bristol and I saw the artists working on this last week when I was walking through the area on a Friday night. I was amazed at how beautiful it looked compared to before even before it was finished, as I would always walk through that street as quickly as I could because it was so dull and overbearing.

  26. pauljodi says:

    Drooling Frankenstein is really what I want to look at every morning trudging to work.

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