Alison and Peter Smithson's Economist Building at Fifty

November 19, 2008–January 11, 2009
Peter Christiansen, curator
Mary Daniels, organizer
Ines Zaluendo, organizer
Drawn entirely from the GSD’s Special Collections, this two part exhibition focuses on the landmark Economist Building by British architects Alison and Peter Smithson. Commissioned fifty years ago, the Economist Building was the Smithsons’ reflection upon the emerging Brutalist sensibility, a term they coined. Deriving the term from Le Corbusier’s use of the idiom béton brut in describing his Unite d’Habitation of 1954, the Economist Building was a singular work, both contingent and reflective upon the Brutalist movement. The interweaving of a humanist ethos and a formal forthrightness came together in what would quickly become one of London's most significant modern buildings.
To illustrate this notion, this exhibition takes a unique approach in presenting material related to the project. Situated here in the Special Collections room in the lower level of the Frances Loeb Library are a selection of original drawings of the project. Concentrated on the main level upstairs are materials relating to the building’s life spanning the years after its completion in 1965 to the present, including clippings, publications, films and other ephemera. These materials demonstrate the potent agency this building brought to its city as an enigmatic beacon of both work and leisure, conformity and rebelliousness. Few buildings rival The Economist in capturing the cultural imagination of a city and a movement so enduringly.