Modernism: From Art Deco to Brutalism

The University of Huddersfield is an example of modernist architecture

Thursday, October 19, 2023

More than 50 members of Huddersfield Civic Society, Huddersfield Modernists and guests came to New North Road Baptist Church to enjoy an evening celebrating Modernist architecture in and around Huddersfield.

From the bold colours and geometries of art deco and style moderne to the glass and concrete functionalism of Bauhaus and brutalism, modernist architecture and urban planning defined the 20th century.

But what is modernism? Why was it so popular? Where can you see it on the streets of Huddersfield and in the surrounding valleys? Does it make sense to use the same term to describe structures as diverse as the library and art gallery, Farnley Hey and Emley Moor mast?

Huddersfield Civic Society’s Geoff Hughes introduced the evening, quoting from New North Road Baptist Church’s own website “When the new inner ring road was built in the early 1970s the people at New North Road grasped the opportunity and agreed to demolish their old Victorian building and build something contemporary and new.”

A lecture by Eddy Rhead from the Modernist Society in Manchester then looked at local buildings from Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery (1937) through to Emley Moor mast (1971) and a selection of late 20th Century buildings in and around Huddersfield town centre. Eddy emphasised the importance of looking at the buildings as demonstrating the confidence of the people of the age that built them with the best designs and materials of their time.

This was followed by a panel discussion with Eddy Rhead, David Wyles, Chair of Huddersfield Civic Society, James Chisem of the Huddersfield Modernists and Dr Caterina Benincasa-Sharman, Senior Lecturer at Huddersfield University’s Department of Design and The Built Environment.

The evening concluded with panel members taking questions from the audience.