Have you ever looked at a bizarre building design and wondered, “What were the architects thinking?” Have you looked at a supposedly “ecological” industrial-looking building, and questioned how it could be truly ecological? Or have you simply felt frustrated by a building that made you uncomfortable, or felt anger when a beautiful old building was razed and replaced with a contemporary eyesore? You might be forgiven for thinking “these architects must be blind!” New research shows that in a real sense, you might actually be right.
The British architects Alison and Peter Smithson coined the term in 1953, from the French béton brut, or "raw concrete".
Brutalist buildings usually are formed with striking repetitive angular geometries, and, where concrete is used, often revealing the texture of the wooden forms used for the in-situ casting. Although concrete is the material most widely associated with Brutalist architecture, not all Brutalist buildings are formed from concrete. . .
Conversely, not all buildings exhibiting an exposed concrete exterior can be considered Brutalist, and may belong to one of a range of architectural styles including Constructivism, International Style, Expressionism, Postmodernism, and Deconstructivism. . .
Another common theme in Brutalist designs is the exposure of the building's functions—ranging from their structure and services to their human use—in the exterior of the building. . .
Brutalism as an architectural philosophy, rather than a style, was often also associated with a socialist utopian ideology. . . Critics argue that this abstract nature of Brutalism makes the style unfriendly and uncommunicative, instead of being integrating and protective, as its proponents intended. The failure of positive communities to form early on in some Brutalist structures. . . led to the combined unpopularity of both the ideology and the architectural style.
"Furthermore, because it had a Georgian proportion of window to wall, it did not require air-conditioning and thereby reduced the running cost considerably. "
With Bilbao, Gehry presented a long-awaited solution to one of the most vexing problems in architecture at the end of the 20th century. Modernism, especially when deployed in urban settings on a grand scale, was largely loathed by the general public. . . Postmodernism, a movement emphasizing a return to decoration, historical references, and fewer desolate urban plazas. . . seems in hindsight like a frail fig leaf attempting to cover up the sins of what had gone before.
“Bilbao is truly a signal moment in the architectural culture,” says the Pulitzer Prize—winning critic Paul Goldberger, author of Why Architecture Matters (2009). “The building blazed new trails and became an extraordinary phenomenon. It was one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.”
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