Few could have failed to notice the number of gleaming glass towers that have come to dominate Manchester’s skyline over the last couple of years, springing up at an alarming rate, offering luxury office and living space to those who can afford. Battles between developers, the city’s residents, and conservationists have ensued, raising serious questions about who the city is for and what makes ‘good architecture’. Located in the shadow of Beetham Tower (the UK’s tallest building outside of London until 2018), Saul Hay Gallery responds to this contemporary narrative with BRUTAL – a group show reflecting on, celebrating and inspired by the built environment.
The exhibition pays particular attention to the often-maligned Brutalist and Modernist schools of thought, which promoted architecture’s social, utilitarian function – to create simple, honest and functional buildings that accommodate their purpose, inhabitants, and location and aligned with a socialist, utopian vision of living. Greater Manchester has plenty of prominent examples of the concrete-heavy form, including the Mancunian Way flyover and Salford Shopping Precinct (which both directly feature within the exhibition), though their presence is becoming ever more diluted by neighbouring modern developments.
Featuring painting and sculpture by artists Mandy Payne, Emma Bennett, William Braithwaite, Dan Broughton, and Jen Orpin, BRUTAL at Saul Hay offers visitors a chance to step back and consider the rapidly changing fabric of our urban surroundings and what kind of city we want to inhabit.