Brutalist Architecture or Brutalism is an architecture style that emerged in the 1950s until the early 20th century. It was British architects Alison and Peter Smithson who coined the term “Brutalism” which was later on popularized by Reyner Banham, an architectural historian in 1954. It was derived from the term “Béton brut” which means “raw concrete”, and was commonly used for universities, shopping centers, government projects, car parks, and high-rise flats.
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Brutalism has both the purpose of ideology and aesthetics. Its concept promotes that structural components should be visible; whilst its “aesthetics” show the prominence of building materials, particularly concrete.
This movement was criticized for its unwelcoming and inhuman characteristics and therefore started its decline in the 1970s.
Elements of Brutalist Architecture
Characteristics of Brutalist buildings include their appearance that’s monolithic and massive, and with a lot of blocks. It has a rigidly geometric style and uses a lot of poured concrete. It has rough and unfinished surfaces, heavy-looking materials, with straight lines and unusual shapes, and small windows. It also has modularity where elements form masses of specific functional zones grouped forming a whole.
Aside from the use of concrete, Brutalist structures also use steel, glass, bricks, and rough-hewn stones. These structures are expensive to maintain but difficult to destroy and therefore can’t easily be remodeled. They tend to stay the way the architect intends them to be.
Because of the materials used in these buildings, it creates a solid look and feel, fortress-like, imposing, and also visually heavy. It follows the modernist cry of “form follows function”, where architects pay less attention to decorative aspects of the design.
Iconic Brutalist Architecture
Some of the iconic architecture that uses the concept of Brutalism include:
Built-in 1970 by William L. Pereira & Associates
Located in La Jolla, California
Boston City Hall
Built-in 1969 by Architects Kallmann, McKinnell & Knowles
Located in Boston
Unité d’Habitation of Berlin
Built in 1958 by Le Corbusier
Housing concept used throughout Europe
Built-in 1986 by Lina Bo Bardi
Located in São Paulo
Built-in 1967 by Moshe Sadie
Located in Montreal
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