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Brutalism is back. The fickle finger of fashion has touched these concrete beasts of the architectural world. In many design hotels it’s the coffee table brutalism book lying on the shelf in reception, while other hoteliers have spotted that people want to try out a night in these singular 1060s buildings. From Oscar Niemeyer’s showpiece Brasilia Palace Hotel to the hotel inside Le Corbusier’s classic Unite d’Habitiation in Marseille, to the striking Hotel Zlatibor in Uzice, Serbia, brutalist hotels are eye-catchers. From the rediscovered gems of the 1970s like the Bristol Marriott, the Britannia in Coventry and the Concorde in Quebec City or the Swissotel Zurich – to the new kids on the block like the offices converted into hotels (The 9 in Cleveland and Bloc in a former modernist block on top of Gatwick Airport) and the forthcoming London Standard, which will be housed in Camden Town Hall, where architects once designed ground-breaking social housing in London, times sure are changing. Love it or hate it, this is our pick of the brutalist best.
Achingly hip re-imaging of the mid-century aesthetic in one of the parts of central Stockholm that the post-war planners completely got their teeth into. At Six is a new hotel that shows that a brutalist building can be re-used (don’t knock it down – do it up instead), updated and filled with finery to wow today’s guests.
Tucked away right in the centre of London, just behind Tottenham Court Road Station, is this under-appreciated but hugely interesting beast of a building by Elsworth Sykes. It opened in 1976 as the London Central YMCA but is now the St Giles Hotel. They’ve just refurbed the lobby and added public art, but they know that the building is all killer and no filler, and begs to be photographed.
A little bit of French finesse from Marcel Breuer, one of the most important and famous architects of the mid-20th century. Here he created an entire modernist ski resort up in the Alps, and this hotel was its crowning glory. Now restored and managed by Terminal Neige it once again revels in its brutalist luxury. Re-opening November 2017.
Looking like a crinkle cut crisp standing proud against the Sydney CBD skyline, the Four Seasons by Michael Dysart and opened in 1982 is an eye-catcher. It’s tall, and like its near neighbour the Sirius Building lends a sophisticated air to the city. The jagged deployment of windows means the building is fascinating and you get double views from rooms.
Zichron Ya’akov, Israel
This former convalescence home was a place where people recovered from illness, now it’s a place to restore the soul. Set a little inland from the sea, the architecture of the building is an unmistakable, wave-influenced set piece. It’s a part of the Design Hotels brand now and is also a performance space for music and the arts.
Looking like a blow up of a model hotel from Thunderbirds, the drum-like shape and unique windows of The Park Tower in Knightsbridge make a one-off in the hotel world (though the Space House office block by the same architect looks slightly similar to it). It was designed by Richard Seifert, who everyone called ‘The Colonel’. He also designed Centre Point and many other London commercial buildings of the 1960s and 70s.
Munich’s Westin Grand is a genuine discovery. Hardly mentioned in the architecture books, it’s a complete showstopper of the early 1970s aesthetic – rough, tough, big and bold. This is concrete gone wild and it’s very beautiful on a sunny day. The huge hotel is by Edgar Frasch and dates from 1972 – it was built for Munich’s Olympics (and if you want more brutalism – almost the entire nearby Olympic Park is in the same urban style).
The handsome QT in Canberra is a concrete colossus in a city that has its fair share of brutalism (check out the National Gallery of Australia too). It used to be a Rydges, but since its transformation into a branch of Oz’s premier boutique brand it’s shining again with vintage class. The lobby has a real retro feel with that crunchy bush-hammered concrete that lovers of the style relish and spiral stairs seemingly out of a 1970s talk show.
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