I’ve had a lifelong love affair with concrete buildings – so much more beautiful than a country estate

One day these concrete museums will be hundreds of years old, writes Angela Barnes, and they will tell people how we lived in the latter part of the 1900s

Tuesday 12 October 2021 09:18
<p>Brutal beauty: the Signal Box at Birmingham New Street Station</p>

Brutal beauty: the Signal Box at Birmingham New Street Station

The latter part of the 20th century gets a bad rap when it comes to architecture. But I want to take a moment to speak up for concrete, for the so-called “monstrous carbuncles” of modernist architecture that get labelled as “ugly”.

I love these buildings. I mean, I really love them. Raw concrete to me is beautiful. My engagement ring is a square of concrete set in silver; my husband and I wear concrete wedding bands; our wedding was in Basil Spence’s concrete and stained glass creation, the Meeting House at Sussex University. Even some of the tables at our wedding breakfast were named after concrete buildings, such as the Signal Box at Birmingham New Street Station or the majestic Pennine Tower at Lancaster Services on the M6.

I am not a communist, but I really like the look. Contrary to popular belief though, concrete as a building material didn’t appear out of nowhere in the 1950s to rebuild a destroyed Europe; it was used by the Mayans, the Romans and the Ancient Greeks. It is the second most used substance on earth after water.

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