A lot of people don't enjoy brutalist architecture. Historically, people criticized it as harsh and abstract. But for me, any design philosophy is a beauty on its own. Brutalist architecture started in the 1950s and died down by the mid-1970s. We can often associate brutalist structures with schools, churches, public housing, and government building. A few architects revived the brutalist movement around the 80s, but it turns out to be too harsh and abstract that people don't enjoy it.
We can compare brutalism to harsh and ominous techno music of architecture. It is expensive to maintain and difficult to demolish, which is why brutalist structures stand tall in our chaotic and decaying environment due to their permanency. Aside from constraints in demolition, brutalist architecture can't be modified or rebuilt. It stays as what the architect planned. The brutalist architecture features visually heavy edifices with bold geometry, solid exposed concrete features, and a predominantly monochrome palette. Brutalist architecture valued utility over style and pared-down austerity above fancy design.
People's poor reception to brutalist architecture is due to people associating it with the term brutalism, which we perceived as unfriendly, threatening, and even inhospitable. Brutalism is not about the cold and aggressiveness of this architectural style but raw or unfinished concrete. Despite this misconception, brutalism is one of the most polarizing architectural styles because of the strong emotions it elicits in both the design community and the general public.
Brutalism rose to fame and stumble.
The Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier started the brutalism movement in architecture. He has a passion for concrete. His first project is the Unité d'Habitation at Marseilles, France, after World War II. The Unité d'Habitation is a working-class housing, which designed to have a massive reinforced concrete framework. It served as a model for subsequent Brutalist constructions.
Hans Asplund, a Swedish architect, coined the term "brutalism" about the architecture in 1949 to describe a square brick residence called the Villa Göth. Alison and Peter Smithson developed and refined the architectural design. They are well-known for the Robin Hood Gardens public housing in East London, but it never lives up to Smithson's ideal living.
Unite d' Habitation by Le Corbusier | Photo Credit: Archdaily
Brutalism fell out of favor as the 1980s approached. It is partly due to the architecture's cold and austere appearance, which people associate with the dictator. People criticized the raw concrete used in brutalism architecture due to evidence of water damage and decay that detracted from the overall appearance. Again, brutalism is not popular with the general public, who is not convinced that awe-inspiring concrete is what society needed.
In the 1980s, brutalism architecture died when politics turned against public housing by slashing its budget. With skyscrapers started to rise, people left the brutalist housing structures to decay. Some people argue that the reinforced concrete of brutalism never ages gracefully but crumbles, stains, and decays. Brutalism became a representation of urban deterioration and economic troubles. Brutalist buildings became the ideal canvas for vandalism by Graffiti artists, which added to the demise of the design philosophy.
The 5 Brutalist Wonders of the Architecture
The Geisel Library in La Jolla, California | Photo Credit: Archdaily
The library's facade befits that of a science fiction backdrop due to its alien form. It houses a significant collection of Dr. Seuss's work. Inside the library, a massive bronze statue of the Cat in the Hat greets visitors. Architect William Pereira designed several iconic structures that occupy the nexus between brutalism and futurism. The concrete piers and hovering glassy enclosures create an ambiguous persona of massiveness and inventiveness. The library is at the geometric center of UC San Diego. Although it received a fair share of criticism, the library is a valued landmark and campus emblem for the UCSD community. They named the library to honor Audrey Geisel and Theodor Seuss Geisel, popularly known as Dr. Seuss.
The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco | Photo Credit: Archdaily
Pier Luigi Nervi is an Italian engineer-architect who is a master of concrete. We can compare him as to the caliber of Picasso's mastering of paint. His work is uncommon in the United States, yet the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is his most thrilling and significant structure. The interior of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is wonderfully menacing, which has one of the most dramatic interiors. The creative aspect of San Francisco's St. Mary's Cathedral inspires a link between heaven and earth via the harmonious simplicity through contemporary engineering. The hyperbolic paraboloid dome rises and reaches 190 feet, where the four corners form a cross. At its pinnacle, we can see a 55-foot-tall golden cross. Nervi pushed reinforced concrete to its limits and created this masterpiece.
Giant Buddha Statue in Lavender-Planted Hill Temple in Japan | Photo Credit: Archdaily
Tadao Ando is a Pritzker Prize-winning architect who created a massive lavender-covered shrine encircling a Buddha statue in the Makomanai Takino Cemetery in Japan. The Buddha statue was already there when Ando started the project. He opts to conceal it under a gently sloping artificial hill. He made the Buddha's head visible via the open oculus at the top. The shrine has 150,000 lavenders that allow the shrine to change from green to purple in the summer and white in the winter. We can reach the over-44-foot-tall Buddha by foot via a succession of brutalist water features, a prayer hall, tunnels, and walkways. The goal of the design is to create a dynamic spatial sequence that allows the visitor to anticipate the statue by walking through a long brutalist tunnel.
Spomenik Memorials dub as "Yugoslavia Forgotten Monuments" | Photo Credit: Archdaily
For many years, Yugoslavia's futuristic "Spomenik" monuments were concealed from public view in the mountain and woods of Eastern Europe. In the late 2000s, when Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers began photographing abstract sculptures and pavilions and posted them on the internet. People believe that the Yugoslav people's resistance to the Axis occupation during World War II created the memorials. They appear like prized alien sculptures, and hundreds of them spread across the countryside of Europe. Some are the size of skyscrapers, while others are scarcely taller than a human. Various architects created the monuments in the late twentieth century, as what people believed.
The Barbican Estate in London | Photo Credit: Archdaily
The Barbican Estate is a gigantic cultural center and housing development in London's most bombed-out districts in World War. A housing project proposed by Chamberlin, Powell, and Bon in 1955 presented a chance to reverse the population decrease by luring new people into the City's emptiness. They built the complex and envision to be an urban microcosm, with residential units organized around social areas, a style influenced by Le Corbusier's work. The housing complexes and towers were completed initially, but the massive arts center wasn't built until 1982. The idea was to house people in well-designed architectural significance while surrounding them with a utopian dream of art and culture, but it fails to live up the dream. The Barbican is a staple in "London's Ugliest Building" in 2003. It has the same fate to other brutalist structures that received a lot of criticism.
Powerful, imposing constructions with an unadorned and uncompromising appearance that stands out for its stark originality, brutalist constructions are tough to fall in love with at first sight. We can compare brutalism to harsh and ominous techno music of architecture. It is expensive to maintain and difficult to demolish, which is why brutalist structures stand tall in our chaotic and decaying environment due to their permanency. Our reception of brutalist architecture is due to people associating it with the term brutalism, which we perceived as unfriendly, threatening, and even inhospitable. How these terrifying skyscrapers of bare concrete, which were considered the ugliest structures in the world only a few years ago, become immensely desirable and tremendously influential all over again.