The Twentieth Century Society

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Book reviews

Richard Seifert: British Brutalist Architect

Dominic Bradbury, (Lund Humphries, 176pp, £40)

Reviewed by Catherine Croft
September 2020

Richard Seifert: British Brutalist Architect is designed by Stefi Orazi, whose own books and Modernist Estates blog show her passion for mid-century buildings. The images are mainly black and white, with full-page slanting shots of the most strongly modelled of Seifert’s towers, as well as geometric feature details. There are also some of the original, almost iridescent watercolour presentation drawings by A F Gill.

Seifert’s practice was large and prolific – he reckoned he had been responsible for over fifty hotels alone – and by concentrating on just twelve projects (presented as a series of case studies), the book emphasises the most flamboyant and sculptural works. It is good to see these given the praise they deserve, and their flexibility acknowledged (the book has been supported by developers Almacanter, responsible for the recent residential conversion of Centre Point). But the broader Seifert story is surely more significant. His reputation was built on maximising the development potential of any site and, while Bradbury notes the design input of his practice partner, George Marsh, as a complementary force, I was left wanting to know more of the financial and political wrangling, and more about the man himself and how the office functioned.

Bradbury concludes that ‘It seems to have taken the Colonel a long time to come in from the cold, but at last Richard Seifert is making his way into the architectural pantheon. It is long overdue.’ This acceptance is very welcome, and the book shows a keen awareness of recent conservation battles over Seifert buildings. It will also no doubt help solidify Seifert’s reputation, but it’s not very revealing about the lesser-known and more run-of-the-mill works which are increasingly challenging our casework team.


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