No wonder they say: "New is well forgotten old." Especially when it comes to fashion or arts and crafts. In the case of architecture, there is no style that exemplifies this principle better than brutalism. From the middle of the last century, this trend very quickly became popular, before only 20 years later it collapsed as a model of bad taste. But now everything has changed, the creators with a new interest and from a different angle looked at the once ridiculed style.
1. Is it only a rough appearance that served as a reason to call the style brutalism?
Brutalism as a concept did not come from its harsh aesthetics, but from the material from which structures were built. Béton brut is a French term that literally translates to “raw (raw) concrete”. And it is used to describe an iconic aesthetic known as Brutalist architecture. Followers of brutalism have taken full advantage of the use of concrete and steel to create incredible elements that simply cannot be made from any other material.
Brutalist buildings with a distinct graphic quality and imposing geometric shapes were ideal for institutional buildings. When creating them, the architects compensated for the reduction in material and color in full with the richness of expressive elements and capricious forms.
And the fact that for construction it was possible to use an affordable and economical material and produce modular structures has become a fundamental criterion in the design of multi-apartment buildings in order to meet the need for housing in a short time.
2. The origins of brutalism
There is an opinion that the passion of the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier for reinforced concrete structures laid the foundation for a new direction - brutalism. His first large-scale project, Unite d'Habitation in Marseille (France), envisaged the creation of housing for the working class, in which 1,600 people could live. This complex, which required the creation of a gigantic frame of concrete and metal, devoid of decorative elements, and laid the foundation for future projects of the brutalist direction.
Although the concept itself was introduced by the Swedish architect Hans Asplund when he described a square, however, brick house called Villa Get, built in 1949. It is believed that from this period brutalism began to spread rapidly throughout the world. It became especially popular in dilapidated Europe and the Soviet Union, which actively restored settlements, although in the United States, Canada, Japan, Brazil there are striking architectural examples of this direction.
Reference: The luminaries of architecture, who believed that buildings should be unique and recognizable works of art, to have "austere poetry of complex and powerful acting forces" paid tribute to brutalism. Among the most famous architects are Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn, Alvar Aalto, Alfonso Reidy, Paul Rudolph, Marcel Breuer, Kenzo Tange, I. M. Vinogradsky and others.
3. The fall of brutalism
Despite all the practicality and functionalism of brutalism, not everyone accepted and considered it rude, tough and uncouth. In the 1980s, it went out of fashion very abruptly. This was partly due to those cold and harsh features often associated with totalitarianism. But the main sign that brutalism has outlived its usefulness is the imperfection of the basic material. The raw concrete used in construction turned out to be not a very durable building material and the slightest damage, aggravated by the influence of weather conditions, caused inevitable destruction, which affected the overall aesthetics of the building.
British critic Theodore Dalrymple, for example, called buildings made of concrete "monstrous", pointing out that they "do not age gracefully, but instead crumbles, stains and decays." The critic argued that any of the buildings, created in the style of brutalism, "can destroy the harmony of the entire cityscape."
Brutalism was also accused of the fact that mass development worsened not only the appearance of cities, but also did not allow organizing a decent infrastructure, which led to disorder and an increase in crime. Very quickly, sleeping areas in the countries of Europe and America turned into dangerous zones with a large concentration of not very prosperous citizens. For this reason, brutalism came to be seen as a symbol of urban decay and economic hardship, which were inherent in all countries of the world. It is also worth noting that raw concrete began to attract street artists, becoming the ideal canvas for graffiti artists, whose vandalism only contributed to the decline of these structures.
Countless buildings have been demolished since the brutalist style went out of style, although some of the objects did deserve restoration and conservation, because not everyone considers them ugly or an eyesore. Many people understand that their destruction is an irreparable loss of both history and a part of the beautiful architecture and modern sculpture made of concrete, which has a special aesthetic value.
4. Increased interest in brutalism these days
No matter how hard they tried to destroy all the canons of brutalism, over the past 5 years there has been a new assessment of this style and a rethinking. A new generation of architects and even ordinary people are delighted with its graphic quality, brutal forms, effective minimalism and clear lines without any frills.
Now you can see quite impressive projects with distinct monumental concrete volumes that attract with their severity and minimalism. No one knows exactly why brutalism has become fashionable again, well-known critic Brad Dunning of GQ, for example, voices one interesting theory: “Brutalism is the techno music of architecture, harsh and menacing. Brutalist buildings are expensive to maintain and difficult to destroy. They cannot be easily altered or changed, so they tend to remain as the architect intended. Maybe movement is back in vogue with a roar, because consistency is especially attractive in our chaotic and decaying world."
5. Decent examples of brutalism
Despite the fact that many consider brutalism to be rough, blocky, cold and cubistically minimal, it does not leave anyone indifferent, it will always remain a bold and exciting architectural movement. The authors of Novate.ru have selected some of the world's best examples of brutalist architecture, proving that this style can also turn out to be immortal.
For those who want to understand a little about architecture and its directions, we advise you to start by getting to know 5 design styles, that best reflect contemporary aesthetics.