Here's Everything You Need to Known About Brutalism

2022-06-15 19:41:32 By : Ms. Lola Zeng

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The architectural movement is making a comeback.

The term “Brutalism” might conjure up images of ugly, imposing buildings with rough edges—or a Bond villain’s lair. But despite its menacing sound, the name of the architectural movement doesn’t actually come from its "brutish" nature. It’s simply taken from the French phrase béton brut, which translates to “raw concrete.”

Characterized by their intimidating size, coarse exterior, and mammoth scale, brutalist structures tend to cost more, can’t be moved, and are more difficult to maintain. The term was first used by Alison Smithson in 1953 to describe the aesthetic of an unexecuted warehouse project in London comprising brick, wood, and bare concrete. (The British capital was primed for Brutalism following World War II, when housing was scarce and constructing tall concrete edifices became a fast way to accommodate droves of citizens.)

Among the world’s most noteworthy Brutalist structures are New York’s Breuer Building, Boston's City Hall, Marseille's Cité Radieuse, and London's National Theatre—not to mention Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation, one of the most influential Brutalist constructs of all time.

Another paragon of Brutalism: London’s Trellick Tower (designed by Ernő Goldfinger, the tyrant architect who inspired Ian Fleming to create the James Bond villain of the same name). Once denounced for its tough appearance, the residential complex—completed in 1972—has become a coveted place to live, recently a three-bedroom unit listed for over $1 million.

The movement continued to grow in popularity through the mid-’70s, when countless private and public buildings were built in the stark, monstrous style. Then the architectural trend shifted sharply in the 1980s, veering away from the harsh look and toward postmodernism (marked by curves, bright colors, and asymmetry). Brutalism began to be criticized for seeming too severe, grim, and abstract, while brutalist structures fell into disrepair as dirty, graffitied eyesores. Needless to say, the rugged approach quickly fell out of vogue.

In recent years, however, a new appreciation for brutalism has grown, largely spurred by the rise of social media, where the movement has gained millions of supporters. Gone are the days when the method’s raw nature was vilified for appearing trashy; imperfect surfaces are now regarded as characterful and authentic.

One of the architectural style’s latest and greatest fans? Kanye West, who purchased a $57 million beachfront property in Malibu last September. Designed by legendary Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando, the 3,000-square-foot, three-story residence reportedly required over 1,300 tons of poured concrete and 220 tons of steel reinforcement to build—plus a dozen pylons drilled 60 feet into the ground to keep the colossal structure from sinking into the sand.

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