Barnabas Calder


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Photograph: Helen @ GingerheadDesign


Assistant: Amber Garvey


Barnabas Calder is a historian of architecture specialising in British architecture since 1945. He is a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool, and is compiling an online complete works of Sir Denys Lasdun, funded by the Graham Foundation and in collaboration with the RIBA British Architectural Library Special Collections.

Forthcoming publication LIGHTS OF MAN - CORNERSTONE / GROVE ATLANTIC - JUNE 2022


Latest publication ARCHITECTURE - PELICAN - APRIL 2021

The story of architecture is the story of humanity. The buildings we live in, from the humblest pre-historic huts to today's skyscrapers, reveal our priorities and ambitions, our family structures and power structures. And to an extent never explored until now, architecture has been shaped in every era by our access to energy, from fire to farming to fossil fuels.

In this ground-breaking history of world architecture, Barnabas Calder takes us on a dazzling tour of some of the most astonishing buildings of the past fifteen thousand years, from Uruk, via Ancient Rome and Victorian Liverpool, to China's booming megacities. He reveals how every building - from the Parthenon to the Great Mosque of Damascus to a typical Georgian house - was influenced by the energy available to its architects, and why this matters.

Today architecture consumes so much energy that 40% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from the construction and running of buildings. If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change then now, more than ever, we need beautiful but also intelligent architecture, and to retrofit - not demolish - the buildings we already have.



"The best introduction to this most exciting and visceral period of British architecture – a learned and passionate book." Simon Bradley, author of The Railways

"Part history, part aesthetic autobiography, wholly engaging and liable to convince those procrastinators sitting (uncomfortably) on the concrete fence." Jonathan Meades

"A compelling and evocative read, one that is meticulously researched, and filled with insight and passion. Through Barnabas Calder’s personal narrative we gain a deep understanding and appreciation of a tough subject." Kate Goodwin, Head of Architecture, Royal Academy of Arts

"A fascinating odyssey through Britain's Brutalist landscape. The journey is sometimes breathtaking, but always insightful and informed. By its end, we understand the complexity, skill, and vision, as well as the politics, that created the buildings he explores in such loving detail." Elizabeth Darling, author of Re-Forming Britain

"Barnabas Calder is a self-outed lover of concrete, a man who doesn’t visit buildings but makes “pilgrimages”. He holds back on neither his praise for the objects of his passion, nor his wrath against those who threaten them. Buy this excellent book, read it and go out and hug your nearest lofty edifice in concrete and glass!" Neil Baxter, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland

"This engrossing book by a fellow self-confessed concrete lover is both a witty travelogue and memoir and the clear-sighted history of Brutalist buildings. Barnabas Calder relishes the craftsmanship, the financial back stories, and the aims and ambitions of a diverse generation of architects, whose works deserve our sympathy." Catherine Croft, Director, Twentieth Century Society

"This celebration of all things concrete will please both its aficionados and those who find it hard to love … Calder’s distinctive approach is a combination of scholarliness with personal association … An engaging and accessible guide for those drawn towards these ex-monstrosities." Observer

"It’s not a history book … It’s chatty, anecdotal and thoroughly entertaining … My advice? Read the book, load up your mobile with some rock ‘n’ roll and Calder’s online photos, and go hug some concrete." Times Higher Education

"Calder provides the ideal eye-opening introduction for the curious general reader. It deserves a large audience … This is a charmingly personal book, authoritatively knowledgeable and spikily argumentative." Literary Review

"Calder wants to make an argument about the greatness of Brutalism as an architectural style. He writes beautifully." Owen Hatherley London Review of Books



Publication DetailsNotes


The raw concrete buildings of the 1960s constitute the greatest flowering of architecture the world has ever seen. The biggest construction boom in history promoted unprecedented technological innovation and an explosion of competitive creativity amongst architects, engineers and concrete-workers. The Brutalist style was the result.

Today, after several decades in the shadows, attitudes towards Brutalism are slowly changing, but it is a movement that is still overlooked, and grossly underrated.

Raw Concrete overturns the perception of Brutalist buildings as the penny-pinching, utilitarian products of dutiful social concern. Instead it looks a little closer, uncovering the luxuriously skilled craft and daring engineering with which the best buildings of the 1960s came into being: magnificent architectural visions serving clients rich and poor, radical and conservative.