Education In A Modern World

Hunstanton Secondary Modern School, 1950s: Brutalism

The main block of Hunstanton Secondary Modern School

Hunstanton Secondary Modern School: the main block, 1954
Designer: Alison and Peter Smithson
Photographer: Reginald Hugo de Burgh Galwey 
© RIBA Library Photographs Collection

At a time when Modernism finally held sway in Britain, Peter and Alison Smithson's glass and steel Hunstanton Secondary Modern School with its honest of expression of materials and construction, offered something different from the sprawling campus and prefabrication models for school building promoted by their contemporaries.

Inspiration for Hunstanton came from German Modernist Mies Van der Rohe. Upon discovering Van der Rohe's 1942 Illinois Institute of Technology campus in a book by Philip Johnson, Peter Smithson was 'fired' with motivation. Mies Van der Rohe's work represented a way to direct the practice of Modernism away from the banality that the Smithsons saw in most post-war buildings towards a more heroic and rigorous architecture of precision engineering and streamlined, expressive materials. In response, the Smithsons had designed Britain's first Brutalist building.

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