Brutalism in architecture is also known as brutalist architecture. The word brutalism is taken from the French -- béton brut or raw concrete in English. Brutalism design is an act of producing highly expressive forms, emphasis on materials, textures and construction. The design prioritized flashy design over minimalism.
This movement was popular from the 1950s to the mid-70s, back then the brutalist design was often met as the designs for schools, churches, public housing, and government buildings. This "brutalism" term was first used to describe an aesthetic design that showcases bare concrete, brick, and wood. As the continuing of this movement, during the 1960s, the architecture of brutalism was then dominated by the use of raw concrete.
During the 1980s, the brutalist looks happen to be too harsh and too abstract, which leads the style to fell out of favor fast. The brutalist movement in the 80s was vilified, the buildings back then become identical to negative perceptions and menacing. As the raw concrete has a short lifetime for its appearance with the exposure towards the weather, it causes visible damage to the buildings and turn them into an urban decay and affected the streetscape.
But fast forward to a few decades later, however, this movement rises up in trends, roaring back into style. Several brutalist buildings that were supposed to be demolished were saved through the public movement of preservation and some were even added to national heritage lists while others achieved UNESCO heritage status. Many of the brutalist buildings are transformed and renovated to make them less of an eyesore and more fit into the current era.
And did you know, one of the famous American rappers Kanye west's Yezzy HQ is also designed adopting the brutalism style in its concrete walls and furnishings as well.
So what are the main features of brutalist architecture?
Rough surface, the contrast of textures and material
Massive forms, creating a sense of massive, big weight, and solid frames
Unusual shape, a brutalism design can be identified and easily differentiated for their dramatic and barbaric effect
Expression of structure, a powerful and memorable image of a bold structure
Here are some of the iconic brutalist architecture design:
Geisel Library / William L. Pereira & Associates
Built in 1970, a library with alien form adapting both futurism and brutalism design. With 16 massive concrete piers that rise out and branch outward at 45-degree angles supporting the cantilever with a hovering glass enclosure made of giant sheets of coated glass to provide light to the reading spaces.
Harry and Penelope Seidler Home, Killara, Sydney
A family home built in 1967, located in a bushland site looking discreet from street level but from the base of the property it is actually a large scale massing with geometric concrete. The house was designed with exposed concrete complemented by the Tasmanian oak ceilings, Norwegian quartzite stone floors, and blue-grey basalt for the free-standing fireplace. The built-in furniture was also made of exposed materials adding more brutalist design to the house.
Boston city hall / Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles
Government buildings in Boston, completed in 1968. This building has survived many detractors and threats to be demolished. In 2006, the mayor of Boston had filed a petition to destroy the buildings due to the lack of efficiency and was not aesthetically pleasing according to him, but long story short it was canceled. And ever since those cases happened, a group of activists has been able to give the city hall a special landmark status and prohibit any further modifications.
Preston Bus station / Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson
Bus station located in the city of Preston, north of England. It was built in between 1968 and 1969, originally designed by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson. The distinctive curves of the balconies were designed by the building's engineers Ove Arup and Partners. This building was also threateaned to be demolished as part of the city council's redevelopment project but after various rejected applications and consideration it was also canceled. Before that, in 2012 this building was already listed in the World Monument Fund's list of sites at risk, but John Wilson of Fulwood in Preston and a member of the 'Save Preston Bus Station presented a petition with 1400 and more signatures to keep the bus station and investing in it. This building was then refurbished by John Puttick Associates, the interiors has been restored and the layout of the bus station as well has been updated.
Now that you've known about brutalism design, what do you think of it? Does it look aesthetic or vice versa?