Brutalist Architecture isn't cold, harsh and abstract.

in Architecture+Design2 months ago (edited)

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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.


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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


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The Geisel Library in La Jolla, California | Photo Credit: Archdaily


The Geisel Library

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.


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The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco | Photo Credit: Archdaily


The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption.

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.


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Giant Buddha Statue in Lavender-Planted Hill Temple in Japan | Photo Credit: Archdaily


Hill of Buddha

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.


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Spomenik Memorials dub as "Yugoslavia Forgotten Monuments" | Photo Credit: Archdaily


Spomenik Memorials

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.


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The Barbican Estate in London | Photo Credit: Archdaily


The Barbican Estate

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.

Conclusion

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.

Readings

  1. Brutalism: What Is It and Why Is It Making a Comeback?

  2. Brutalist architecture - a retrospective

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Hello @juecoree I greet you from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. A few days ago I was walking, together with my wife, through Caracas and I was able to observe several brutalist structures, I became interested and wanted to investigate more about the term and I tried to publish something similar to what you excellently present us in this publication. Here was a time when this concept of construction prevailed, in the 1950s President General Marcos Pérez Jiménez ordered the construction of many buildings in clean or gray work, as it is originally known here in Venezuela. The cold presence of concrete can also be seen in the following decades by the resistance of the materials. I liked your post. Receive a big hug full of positive energy and lots of light.

Hola @juecoree Te saludo desde la República Bolivariana de Venezuela. Hace unos días estaba caminando, junto a mi esposa, por Caracas y pude observar varias estructuras brutalistas, yo me interesé y quise investigar mas sobre el término e intenté publicar algo similar a lo que excelentemente tu nos presentas en esta publicación. Aquí hubo una época donde prevaleció este concepto de construcción, en la década de los años 50 el Presidente General Marcos Pérez Jiménez mandó a construir muchas edificaciones en obra limpia o gris, como originalmente se le conoce aquí en Venezuela. La presencia fría del hormigón también se puede ver en décadas siguiente por la resistencia de los materiales. Me gustó tu publicación. Recibe un fuerte abrazo lleno de energía positiva y mucha luz.

Thank you for sharing your experience with brutalist architecture, @marcosmilano71! Here in the Philippines, most of the brutalist architecture was erected during the reign of President Ferdinand Marcos. As I have mentioned in the post, brutalist was not enjoyed but most because of its rawness and cold façade, but I can say these design movement standout despite it criticism.

I was able to observe several brutalist structures, I became interested and wanted to investigate more about the term and I tried to publish something similar to what you excellently present us in this publication.

You should publish one. I would love to read it.

By the way, I appreciate the kind words. !PIZZA

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The Thais do Brutalism very well, probably without even realising it! This is where we foreigners go to sort our visa out every 3 months. The picture doesn't do the size justice. Its an immense structure and although many hate it. It is incredible engineering whether you consider it beautiful or not!

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Its an immense structure and although many hate it.

That is a common for brutalist architecture. It is not the people's cup of tea, but it works. What is the name of the building?

In Thailand, as everything is made from concrete, I like to call it 'accidental brutalism'!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaeng_Watthana_Government_Complex

There are two matching buildings

Hey @juecoree I absolutely agree from your point of view as Brutalism isn't that cold and harsh, I love the dramatic and rustic effect of concrete and heavy structures, they are a vital part of society and will always remain so. I have always adored this style of architecture. It's wonderful that you shared your perspective on this subject. It was an interesting read.
Keep flourishing and stay safe!

Brutalist architecture is indeed beautiful but it wasn't favor by most because of its rawness. !PIZZA

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The brutalist architecture features visually heavy edifices with bold geometry, solid exposed concrete features, and a predominantly monochrome palette.

These distinctive characteristics of the Brutalist architectural style definitely ring true. Despite being an old design movement in the history of our built environments, architects and designers today have fallen in love with its core concept again. For instance, I have some architect-friends who have revived Brutalism in their practices, not necessarily as a whole but, on some aspects of their various projects.

Well, they say that architecture is comparable to fashion because artistic styles come and go, become trending, lose their appeal, and are revived again. Hence, I would not be surprised if Brutalism would make a grand comeback.

Despite being an old design movement in the history of our built environments, architects and designers today have fallen in love with its core concept again. For instance, I have some architect-friends who have revived Brutalism in their practices, not necessarily as a whole but, on some aspects of their various projects.

Yes, I think a lot of architects and people still love the core concept of brutalist architecture. I found out an Instagram account, Brutalist Pilipinas, which is a community that that promotes brutalist architectural masterpieces in the Philippines.

Well, they say that architecture is comparable to fashion because artistic styles come and go, become trending, lose their appeal, and are revived again.

I couldn't agree more. Architecture, design and fashion comes and go. We can expect old and deemed unenjoyable design philosophy trends once again. !PIZZA

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Is my favorite 😍

Dear @juecoree, I was new to brutalist architecture.😳
So, I don't understand to your argument! But, your article is interesting!

I appreciate that you like the article. My argument is brutalist is not cold and harsh. It is a misconception since brutalist architecture is often associated with dictatorship and the government.

I appreciate that you like the article. My argument is brutalist is not cold and harsh. It is a misconception since brutalist architecture is often associated with dictatorship and the government.

Does it mean that brutalist architecture is not an architectural structure that makes its residents harsh and cold?😳

Do you feel that brutalist architecture symbolizes dictatorship?

Well done @juecoree! We're happy to inform you that this publication was specially curated and awarded RUNNER-UP in Architecture Brew #28. Congratulations!

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Oh! Thanks for the feature. It's been a week since I posted on the community. I will get back and post new content. Sending some !PIZZA from the outskirt of Cebu (on vacation).

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You’re most welcome @juecoree, and we look forward to more awesome content from you. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday! Cheers!

Although Brutalism is not really my style, what I take away from it is the authenticity and appreciation of the actual materials such as exposed concrete and etc. Great post!

I do appreciate brutalist in that aspect too.