Skopje was another destination that hadn’t been of any interest to me until a friend moved there. With a quick weekend trip planned it would be a great destination for a few rolls of black and white film. I had taken another roll of film during the trip but unfortunately it was damaged during the process and though there were images they weren’t salvageable.
Architecturally I had high hopes for Berlin. I knew about the redevelopment of the city after the war then again after after reunification, but I wasn’t prepared for the scale of the development I would encounter. Whole city blocks and avenues created from nothing. Single apartment buildings stretching on and on.
On the other hand there were often spaces still vacant, undeveloped, where a building had once clearly stood. A different city had emerge after the war, one that I was very keen to see.
Being a subscriber to The Modernist I had seen their issue featuring the Mäusebunker and it had ignited an interested in Berlin. Though it wasn’t a motivator to visit Berlin it did definitely give the trip a purpose. Later I would find out a visit would require a 40 minute train journey, hopefully it would be worth it.
Though Brutalism is often my focus I ended up visiting and photographing a huge variety of buildings largely those built to solve the housing issue in the city after World War II but also modernist buildings thanks to a map I picked up from Blue Crow Media.
Embassy of the Czech Republic
Originally opening as the Czechoslovakian embassy in 1978. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992 the Czech Republic took over the building and continued to use it as their embassy.
The buildings design is very typical of the era however the materials, granite and glass, were different in comparison. The interior has been left largely in its original state. Red and orange run throughout with furniture and fixtures designed especially for the building.
A small but impressive former church hidden in the district of Kreuzberg. Built in 1967 by German architect Werner Düttmann, who at the time was West Berlin’s director of Urban development. The building no longer holds church services and since 2015 it has been repurposed as a gallery space after the interior went through a three million euro renovation.
Spitteleck is a prefabricated building built in the early 1980s. It was situated in clearly a largely residential area that used to be a part of East Berlin. Walking down Leipziger Straße there were tall apartment buildings lining both sides of the busy street, though they were more conventionally designed than Spitteleck that stood out at the end.
The Coca-Cola sign was added to the top of the building after German Reunification.
The Research Institutes for Experimental Medicine has gone by many names. More commonly called the Mouse Bunker or Mäusebunker in German, prior to 2003 it was known as the Central Animal Laboratories of the Free University of Berlin. Once an animal testing laboratory, now unused and empty with its future resting in the balance.
It’s surroundings and location were equally as unusual as the building. Hidden on one side by several low standing apartment buildings it could only be viewed front on. On the other side a woodland path ran alongside a canal, the lump of a building hidden by trees, even though they were bare during the early months of spring.
The Institute for Hygiene and Environmental Medicine
Surprising to me the hygiene institute stood across the street from Mäusebunker. It was a Brutalism face off of the most highest calibre, two unique buildings that had both outlived their uses, but unfortunately there was a clear winner. Though the hygiene institute had its own personality with hidden details on every corner it fell a little short, especially when comparing it to its neighbour.
I walked underneath its raised structure with each corner and detail different from the last. There was no single side the same as another, neither any symmetry to be found. It was when I stood at the front of the building, viewing the building in full, that I could appreciate how complex the design really was.
Thanks to recent campaigning, led largely by architect Gunnar Klack and architecture historian Felix Tokar, both HygieneInstitut and Mäusebunker will not face demolition and the developers are looking for other more sustainable ways to develop the area.
The neighbourhood of Kreuzburg revealed two fantastic surprises. A car park that I came across purely by chance and then Kreuzberg Tower. A completely baffling building in both design and function.
Kreuzberg Tower is an apartment complex made up of three buildings, the 14 story tower and two 5 story wings. It was designed by John Hejduk. Its facade is well known for its colourful and angular balconies.
The original Gedächtniskirche (or The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) was largely damaged during bombing raids in World War II. At first it was decided that the ruins would be removed and the whole area was to be redeveloped but after considerations the remains were to be kept at the centre.
The new design, which is a complete juxtaposition to the remains, consists of an octagonal new church, a chapel and a 12 metre hexagonal tower. The incredible detail of the block work cannot truly be appreciated until you venture inside, revealing 21,292 individual stained glass inlays designed by Gabriel Loire.
During my trip to Berlin I saw many large scale apartment blocks, they would line major roads and often continue on into the distance, but there was something different about Pallasseum. Firstly, it wasn’t built parallel to the road, the road actually ran under it. The building also wasn’t one continuous straight block, it criss-crossed itself creating small courtyards in between.
The building is known for the littering of satellite dishes that hang from the balconies and each section was almost a repetition from the last. Most peculiarly the building has been built over a World War II bunker, with is large concrete mass protruding from the south end of the building.
The range of architecture in Berlin was so vast, unique and interesting I want to put something together that will reflect that. Instead of focusing purely on Brutalism I want it to capture the city no matter the architectural style. I have already posted a few highlights on film and hope that there will be more to come.
I used a number of maps from Blue Crow Media during my stay in Berlin.
The Inspiring Fight On The Ground To Save Berlin’s At-Risk Brutalism featuring HygieneInstitut and Mäusebunker.
Copies of The Modernist featuring Mäusebunker are still available.
My recent trip to Berlin has left me inspired and I continue to look through the photographs I took in the city imagining a larger project that needs to be brought to life. Which hopefully will once I get the remaining films back.
I found myself leaning towards my film camera more and after seeing some of the first results I can see why. The process of shooting film has become more appealing over the last few years for many reasons, though it is more expensive and it can be weeks, sometimes months, before I see the image. Though, this is mostly due to my shooting habits and a roll of film can be in the camera for a while, with me only taking one or two shots every now and then, before having a batch to send off to the lab. One of my latest films had images from three different countries on it.
While I wait and ponder over the direction I want to take a larger project I wanted to share a handful of images I shot on colour film during a weekend in Berlin, of course they largely focused on architecture.
Residential Complex Spitteleck
St Agnes Church
Unknown Apartment Block
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Out of all the cities I have recently visited with the aim to photograph the unique and often brutal architecture, Bristol has far out exceed the others. Those that I found varied in function and design greatly, some of which are among the last remaining examples of their kind. After collaborating on BRUTAL Bristol with other contributors I thought it only fitting to compile a collection of my own.
Cheese Lane Shot Tower
One thing that I have enjoyed about photographing brutal architecture is what it can teach you about past history. A time when function was important and industry was very different. Many of the buildings I aim to capture have an important history and use which in recent years has become obsolete.
This isn’t more true than with the Shot Tower on Cheese Lane. For those, like me, that don’t know what a shot tower is or how the production of lead shot takes place. Let me explain.
The molten lead would be passed through a sieve at height and as it fell the droplets would form balls. At the bottom of the tower would be a pool of water that would dramatically reduce the temperature of the lead in their round form
With a change in production there are now only three shot towers left in the country and as well as being Grade II listed the one on Cheese Lane was the last to be built.
Broadmead Car Park
Prince Street Car Park
Prince St Car Park was especially interesting to me because of its similarities to Welbeck St, I don’t think I would be the first to make the comparison between the two facades. Also to be in a city with a surviving Brutalist car park made me think of Portsmouth’s long lost Tricorn.
Broadmead Baptist Church
In my opinion Broadmead Baptist Church would be Bristol’s hidden gem. Unassuming from the outside people walk below without even realising what may be above them. If you are one of the rare people to look up from street level you are teased by the angular roof and glass that leaves little hint to what would be inside. Adding to that is the building is largely home to a Tesco Metro, so many would assume nothing more than a stockroom or offices.
Though Castlemead loomed over the city and was continuously in view as I explored the city, it was late in the afternoon when I walked underneath its bulky form.
Clifton Cathedral was one of the reasons I wanted to visit Bristol in the first place. Its interior is remarkable. Every corner and detail is different to anything I have seen before. It makes concrete look elegant, detailed and delicate.
Rupert Street Car Park
Plimsoll Swing Bridge
Heading out of Bristol’s centre is Plimsoll Swing Bridge. Though the bridge and its function is unique in itself it was a few of the details that I was interested in, the control booth and staircases in particular. It was also from here where I could get a great view of another, more famous bridge, Clifton.
Jo Underhill is a fantastic photographer who has captured a number of brutal car parks across the country including Welbeck Street and Bristol’s Prince Street Car Park, which I would recommend taking a look at.
Many of the buildings here feature in BRUTAL Bristol, a collaborative zine created to showcase the unique architecture of Bristol from the perspective of photographers, writers, creatives and enthusiasts. There are a few copies of the zine left and so far it has helped FareShare SouthWest provide over a thousand meals for families in need!
Chichester Festival Theatre is one of the closest and finest examples of Brutalism that I have to home. I often visit Chichester and it has been a focus of my photography work in the past, especially when exploring the city’s architecture for South Coast Journal.
Over the years I have shot the building numerous times, as well as on different formats. What follows is a collection of images showing Chichester Festival Theatre at different times of day and during different seasons.
Chichester Festival Theatre
The Barbican Estate was built on a area of land in London devastated by bombings during World War II. Buildings within the Estate started to open from 1969 onwards, with the last being Shakespeare Tower, one of the prominent tower blocks, in 1976. The completion of the Estate provided over 2000 flats in the City of London.
The Barbican Estate, Arts Centre, library and a few other buildings make up the Grade II listed Barbican Complex and it is regarded as an excellent example of brutalism.
My plan was to walk around the estate capturing the buildings that comprise the Barbican complex on various film formats, mostly in black and white. It was during my second stop that disaster struct and I dropped the Polaroid camera that I planned to use for a majority of shots.
The damaged caused to the Polaroid meant that all subsequent shots came out blurry. I had only taken one shot before entering the complex of the looming high rise towers.
With the Polaroid abandoned I continued on with my film camera loaded with Ilford HP5 Plus.
The Barbican complex is a maze. I have been there a number of times before and always wandered in and out where ever the route took me, along the way discovering different places, some of which you wouldn’t expect to find in central London.
This time I tried to follow a certain path. The stairs and dead ends became frustrating, made worse by the fact that I had dropped and broken a camera. Each turning never took me in the direction I wanted to go but nonetheless fantastic opportunities to capture the buildings, their details and a large part of the complex.
I want this project to continue and grow on each visit. Discovering new parts and details about the Barbican as I go. The grand plan to extensively photograph the complex and one day to eventually visit the elusive Barbican Conservatory.
I recently watched a fantastic video called Golden Barbican by Joe Gilbert who captured the changing colours of the Barbican during several sunsets.
Capturing Brutalism continues with my BRUTAL Collection.
I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the contributors of BRUTAL Bristol by sharing their work and how to find out more about them. Without their interest and support in this project it would have never left the idea stage.
I hope that if you either already have a copy of the zine or you see their work for the first time here you will visit the links provided and show your support.
Instagram – @duffmonkey
The zine wouldn’t have been possible without the written input from Tom Spooner, who provided his insights into Boardmead Baptist Church, and Ray Newman who talked us through the high rise tower blocks of Redcliffe.
BRUTAL Bristol is a collaborative zine created to showcase the unique architecture of Bristol from the perspective of photographers, writers, creatives and enthusiasts.
Money raised from the sale of BRUTAL Bristol and related prints will be donated to FareShare South West, a charity working in the Bristol area fighting against food waste and hunger.
Through a chance visit during an extremely unusual year I was in Bristol. A city I had visited a few times before but one I had never really explored. I was driven by the shots of the iconic Clifton Cathedral I had seen but I wanted to find out more about the city and especially its buildings.
I went to Twitter and asked for suggestions from a growing community of Brutalism enthusiasts, a community that I felt I had become apart of over the last few years.
I was flooded with fantastic photographs and articles of hidden gems and iconic architecture that Bristol had to offer. I had been given some insights and suggestions from photographers, writers, creatives and other enthusiasts of buildings and places to visit and see while I was there.
I had glimpsed the city from the perspective of others and upon my return I wanted to capture that again. An idea began to take shape and that grew, resulting in BRUTAL Bristol. Many of the people that had first offered their suggestions feature in the zine as they influenced my own photography.
BRUTAL Bristol is a collaborative zine created to showcase the unique architecture of Bristol from the perspective of photographers, writers, creatives and enthusiasts.
The zine aims to take the medium of one community and make a positive difference in another. With that in mind money raised from this zine and its related prints will be donated to the charity FareShare South West.
FareShare South West was formed in 2007 to help tackle the food poverty issue in the South West. They work in close partnership with hundreds of local organisations, delivering food to those most in need across the South West through different means. In 2020 and 2021 they responded to the pandemic by scaling up their operations by over five times to deliver an Emergency Food Operation. With cuts being made to charities and vital services across the region, now more than ever we have a responsibility to use surplus food as a force for good.
It was a last minute dash to head over to The Arts Tower before leaving Sheffield and driving south. The short winter days left little time for photography and the sun was already low in the sky, casting shadows over the lower floors of the building when I arrived.
The Arts Tower was opened in 1966 by The Queen Mother. Belonging to the University of Sheffield it was at first home to its eighteen art departments. For many years it was the tallest building in Sheffield.
Short on time I never ventured inside, missing a very well known and unique detail of The Arts Tower, its paternoster lift, one of only a handful left in the UK.