Avant-garde movement in modern architecture. Grew from the works of Le Corbusier. The name was coined by Peter and Alison Smithson in 1954 ("New Brutalism") and it gained popularity during the 1960s.

Characterized by a preference for strong contrasts and the principles of functionalism. Brutalist architects willingly avoids polish, decoration and elegance in their buildings. Criticized as insensitive on the environment, and due to this its popularity declined in the 1970s.

Important architects include:

Louis Kahn later had sucess using brutalist elements in his works.

Brutalism can be seen as having branched out from the International Style. It was originally started by the Smithsons and its first appearance can perhaps be traced to a design they did for a small house in Soho. This house was to be intended to have the structure entirely exposed and to have no finishes.

Brutalist architecture can be summed up into three principles, the memorability of the building as an image, the clear exhibition of a buildings structure and the valuation of its materials as they occur naturally.

During the middle decades of the 20th century the International style had become incredibly prevalent in architecture. All over the place cheap copies of buildings by le corbusier and other international style architects were being built. Raynor Banham stated that most modern buildings were beginning to appear as though they were constructed of white wash or patent glazing no matter what materials they were actually made of. Brutalism was a reaction to this mindless reproduction of the classic international buildings. Brutalism demanded a functional approach to architecture and advocated the return to functionalist principles in services materials and structure. Brutalist buildings were about truth. If a building was constructed of steel, concrete and glass then that is what it looked to be made of. There was no hiding of electrical or water amenities, the way in which these services were dlivered was not hidden but rather open for all to see.

Whereas the International Style is based on the aesthetics of the machine and expresses mass production through it?s similar elements and plain un-ornamented structures, Brutalism ignores the machine aesthetic and focus? on structural and material truth. Meaning that a building should look exactly how it?s built and what it?s made of.

Brutalism is a architectural movment that was popular in the 1960's and 70's. Brutalism is characterized by the use of heavy, rough, unadorned concrete,(One term coined for it was béton brut ,French for "raw concrete"). Brutalist designs tend to be large, imposing and intimidating. The style is also known for its lack of adornment, either exterior or interior. Brutalist buildings differ from Modernist, Minimalist and Internationalist styles of architecture, due to Brutalism's use of abstract shapes. Brutalist buildings were built when energy was cheap, so they are usually completely climate controlled. In fact Brutalism buildings generally have few windows, and some buildings have windows that were not designed to open.

Brutalism was first employed in Marseilles, France with the erection of the Unité d'Habitation building in 1954, but it had its greatest impact in England and North America. For whatever reason, goverments, universites, public buildings and residental building projects embraced Brutalism for better or worse.

Most people think Brutalist buildings are ugly, cold and unfeeling in nature. That is a matter of personal opinion. It is true that many Brutalist bulidings were very inefficent, and since they were made mainly of huge slabs of concrete, they were very hard to modify in any substantial way. However they are very easy to maintain, and they are very sturdy in nature.

Another interesting aspect of Brutalism was that many service functions (water towers, elevator shafts, HVAC ducting among other things, were exposed, further increasing the abstract nature of the buildings

To me Brutalist buildings look like a cross of a futuristic fortress and a failed utopian experiment. In fact most Brutalist architects wanted their buildings to have a utopian feel, but most people seem to hate it. One thing I like about Brutalism is that their buildings are striking and powerful looking in appearence.

Some Brutalist buildings include:

Bru"tal*ism (?), n.

Brutish quality; brutality.


© Webster 1913.

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