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May 6, 2014


Filed under: Brutalist architecture — Tags: — jherzlinger @ 8:46 am

I was driving with my daughters and we passed some very austere and brutal looking buildings.  My daughters asked me why the architecture and the buildings are so ugly? So I thought I would explain the ugliness in this architecture.

When I think of brutalism in architecture, I think of the movies that are filmed in Russia, of the urban communities that if one goes through certain parts of London, you will see these giant looking apartment buildings that are very sad and scary!

BRUTALISM as an architectural philosophy  , rather than a style, was often also associated with a a socialist utopian ideology, which tended to be supported by its designers. Brutalism makes the style unfriendly and uncommunicative, instead of being integrating and protective, as its proponents intended.  Brutalism also is criticized as disregarding the social and historic and architectural environment of its surroundings, making the introduction of such structures in existing developed areas appear starkly out of place and alien. The failure of positive communities to form early on in some Brutalist structures, possibly due to the larger processes of urban decay that set in after World War II, led to the combined unpopularity of both the ideology and the architectural style.

There are many campuses in North america that have examples of Brutalist architecture.  Paul Rudolph’s 1958 Yale art and architecture Building.  the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is an example of an entire campus designed from scratch in the Brutalist style.

There are a lot of criticisms  of the Brutalist style that are not only of the aesthetic, but also from the fact that concrete facades do not age well in damp, cloudy maritime climates such as those of northwestern Europe.

Brutalism today is experiencing a revival! OH NO! The 1950′s are back? The truth of the matter is that Brutalism was largely dead by the mid 1980′s, having largely given way to Strucutal Expressionism and Deconstructivism, it has experienced an updating of sorts in recent years.  many of the rougher aspects of the style have been softened in newer buildings, withconcrete facades often being sandblasted to create a stone-like surface, covered in stucco, or composed of patterned, pre-cast elements.  Modernist architects taking this approach in recent projects include even one of my favorites, LEGORRETA!

So the next time you see this ugly architecture you will have a better understanding and maybe an appreciation!

Have a wonderful day!



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