an uncompromising desire to tell it like it is, architecturally speaking
October 6, 2016 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Brutalism Is Back [The New York Times] “But now, like the chevron mustache, Brutalism [wiki] is undergoing something of a revival. Despite two generations of abuse (and perhaps a little because of it), an enthusiasm for Brutalist buildings beyond the febrile, narrow precincts of architecture criticism has begun to take hold. Preservationists clamor for their survival, historians laud their ethical origins and an independent public has found beauty in their rawness. For an aesthetic once praised for its “ruthless logic” and “bloody-mindedness” — in the much-quoted phrasing of critic Reyner Banham — it is a surprising turn of events.”

- Concrete Jungle: Why Brutalist Architecture Is Back In Style [The Guardian]
“Brutalism today has developed a unique ability to cut across class divides. Blue-collar workers and billionaires alike appreciate its charms even if they are sometimes frustrated by its inflexibility; are attracted to its plainness while being inspired by its palpable integrity. t’s easy to see, then, how brutalism is flourishing in the age of Occupy. But there’s another force driving the brutalist resurgence, which is maybe less austere and selfless: photography, in general, and Instagram, in particular.”
- Concrete Trends: How Brutalism Came Back Into Architectural Fashion [The Independent]
“Almost as soon as it was built in the post-war years, most Brutalist architecture was widely regarded with such disgust that it seemed as though crime and ugliness seeped from concrete. How fortunes have changed, as panellists at a sold-out discussion to launch This Brutal World – hosted at the Royal Inistitute of British Architects and attended by 400 people – remarked. Who, apart from architecture nerds and trail-blazing tastemakers, would have bothered to turn up to such an event just five years ago? Now, the National Trust hosts tours of Brutalist estates, while the Brutalism Appreciation Society Facebook page has almost 40,000 members. The style was pioneered in post-war Europe, notably by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier and his 1952 Unite d'Habitation social housing complex in Marseille, complete with utopian “streets in the sky”. At the time, governments were forced to throw up buildings to replace what conflict had erased. During that first wave, architects regarded their task as a moral one, and upheld a socially-progressive vision of society.”
- The Second Life Of Concrete: Brutalism’s Renaissance [The Quietus]
“Three new books about Brutalist architecture, Raw Concrete (Barnabas Calder), This Brutal World (Peter Chadwick), and Concrete Concept (Christopher Beanland) have one thing in common: They all provide a subjective guide to Brutalism, they are compendiums of their favourite buildings chosen because of their own particular experiences within them. That may appear to be a criticism but it isn’t, it’s the recognition that the books are a micro-version of how architectural appreciation operates. Style is a subjective and trendy notion that goes in and out of fashion, and as such all taste is an emotional phenomenon. Unless we accept a future where temporariness is the norm, these books make us see clearly that the survival of a building or structure is related to its potential for universality. When a building is being constructed, should we ask: Will this style likely be relevant in half a century?”
- The Problem With Brutalist Web Design [Kill Screen]
“Just as not every concrete building ought to be deemed Brutalist, neither should every website with sharp edges. The Drudge Report, one of Romano’s examples, may be light on formatting but it does not offer an alternate vision for community building to its era of the Internet in the way “Unité d’Habitation” did. It is simply a dated website that, if it must be architecturally analogized, is a dilapidated-yet-watertight. Suckless.org, another of Romano’s examples, is simply a website without flashing features. That may pass as radical on a site that registers 36 potential trackers with Privacy Badger, but to call Suckless a Brutalist site is to otherwise hold both it and Brutalism to a punishing low standard. This approach only makes sense if one concedes that Brutalism, all forms of modernism, and various forms minimalism are fundamentally interchangeable terms.”
- Reyner Banham’s Brutalism polemic, The New Brutalism. The 100-page book, long out of print. [.PDF]
- “FUCK YEAH BRUTALISM!” [.tumblr]
- @thisbrutallife [Instagram]
- Previously. [MetaFilter]
posted by Fizz (73 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really don't like this style at all. Everything ends up looking like the bunker that will survive World War Three.
posted by freakazoid at 4:10 PM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


My alma mater, Brock University, was primarily designed with the Brutalist ethos. I wasn't a fan of it when I first attended but something about the design grew on me. Either that, or I just got used to it. Another weird random thing about Brock University, the one building: Mackenzie Chown Complex was designed in the 70s in such a way as to limit protests. Each section of the building is able to be closed off and shut so as to isolate particular wings.
posted by Fizz at 4:17 PM on October 6, 2016


Check hashtag #BrutalMonday for a dose of (mostly) Brutalism.
posted by Gotanda at 4:18 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I learned about Brutalism because of the D.B. Weldon Library at the University of Western Ontario, which I had to use regularly when I did my masters there. I always hated going in there, because it was uniformly dark and oppressive (I mean, it looks like a parking garage from the outside). One day I noticed a plaque inside the front door about the history of the building and I was like "So they make buildings this way on purpose? And they called their architectural movement Brutalism? Of their on free will? Huh."
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:20 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh good, more eyesores...
posted by jim in austin at 4:21 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have never been a fan, but I will admit that, flipping through the recent Met magazine Breuer retrospective, I wasn't as put off as I expected I'd be.
posted by praemunire at 4:23 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


At Queen's (where I did my undergrad, 20-something years ago) you could tell the newer and older buildings apart because the old ones looked nice on the outside but bad inside, and the newer (Brutalist) ones looked bad on the outside and inside.

Nowadays you can tell the newest buildings apart because they all look like spaceships crossed with Bay Street banks and you can see right through them.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:24 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Card Cheat, there's something about Ontario and its architecture in the early 70s that seemed to gravitate towards that school of design. Take John P. Robarts Research Library in Toronto, built in 1973.
posted by Fizz at 4:24 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


And they called their architectural movement Brutalism?

It's worth making the pedantic point that the "Brutal" in brutalism refers, or at any rate at least referred originally, to the materials of the building, raw ( or brut in French) concrete. I'm not going to complain about this too much, though, as I doubt the term "Brutalism" would really have taken off in the way it did had the buildings themselves not tended towards looking like the sort of imposing, indelicate, hard edged forms that were fully deserving of the term's other meaning.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:27 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


FYBrutalism is one of my fav tumblrs, along with new-brutalism.tumblr.com, and architectureofdoom.tumblr.com. Also, do a wikipedia search for 'spomenik', and check out Jan Kempenaers' Spomenik, Owen Hatherby's Militant Modernism, and Wolfgang Thaler's Modernism In-Between: The Mediatory Architectures of Socialist Yugoslavia, for more deliciously dystopian architecture.
posted by eclectist at 4:30 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


So doesn't this happen all the time with architectural styles? First it's new, then it's outdated, then it's and eyesore, then it's classic and to be preserved.
posted by clorox at 4:38 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]




Are there examples of concrete aging well? As a material, it seems like every concrete building older than a couple decades is begging to be put out of its misery.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:43 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Robarts is probably the "best" Brutalist building I've seen with my own two eyes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:45 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like the honesty of materials and I feel like I grew up around a ton of it (being an Ontario baby boomer). That said, it's been 35 years and I still remember my reaction to seeing Robarts library for the first time; basically, "Holy fuck! What were they thinking?" It's like a Brutalist version of the castle at Disneyland.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:46 PM on October 6, 2016


*groan*

My undergraduate alma mater, UC Irvine, is this bonkers combination of 60s Brutalist buildings (the old Humanities buildings even made it into a Planet of the Apes film) and more recent, oddly-angled postmodern stuff loaded with glass. The Brutalist buildings are just terrible in terms of classroom atmosphere, as there are no exterior windows, and they're sooooo ugly. (The new buildings, besides not matching, are also...not an aesthetic improvement.) Two jokes from my undergraduate days:

1) "At UCI, we have two kinds of architecture: ugly and functional, and ugly and nonfunctional."
2) [when they started retrofitting Hum 1 and 2, which are connected by a bridge]: "Well, if there's an earthquake, the bridge will stand! Of course, the buildings on either side will collapse, but at least, the bridge will stand!"
posted by thomas j wise at 4:47 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


North gate High School in Walnut Creek is another ugly school. It has all the charm of an abandoned sewage treatment plant. As this site says, there aren't many pictures available, but the one they have gives you a pretty good idea.
posted by clorox at 4:53 PM on October 6, 2016


I love it. There's something very comforting about its solidity and simplicity.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:59 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


If it stops Frank Gehry's sinful hand, I'm all for it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:03 PM on October 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


This is one of those issues that come up now and again where I'm absolutely dumbfounded at other people's tastes. I love brutalist architecture and always have, and I really can't get my head around the hate. It's a clean, modern aesthetic with a shit-ton of room for individual architectural creativity.
FUCK YEAH BRUTALISM!
posted by rocket88 at 5:13 PM on October 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


Based on my commenting history with regard to brutalism: Hurray! There's something to be said for the clean geometric lines and soothing pallete. While it doesn't fit with the brutalist ethos, I would happily live in a Brutalist house. I have to admit to cruising by the brutalist- inspired office park nearby to see if any of the companies there were hiring...

And in the spirit of everything old is new again, we will probably suffer through the gaudiness of the 80s again. *Shudder*
posted by combinatorial explosion at 5:14 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


(being an Ontario baby boomer)

I like the Ontario Science Centre.
posted by ovvl at 5:24 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really can't get my head around the hate

Everything looks like a parking garage at the airport
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:27 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Brutalist architecture is irrevocably linked to oppressive educational organizations in my mind. Yes, I went to Catholic schools built in it's heyday. I'll never love it.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 5:28 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sometimes everyone hates you because you're ahead of your time. But sometimes everyone hates you because you're awful. That many of these buildings were made of inappropriate materials, and built in places where they couldn't survive, is an indictment of the architects, not a saving throw. These structures tend to alienate and be user-unfriendly. This is the opposite of good architecture.

One of the rare exceptions in my opinion is this church, which is OK. Boston City Hall, on the other hand? The worst.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:31 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


1adam12, I think the Boston City Hall looks kind of neat. I like it.
posted by Fizz at 5:41 PM on October 6, 2016


Everything ends up looking like the bunker that will survive World War Three.

Yet ironically it begins falling apart almost immediately. It's rough and permeable so water works its way into all the little crevices and pries them apart with a freeze. It also doesn't lend itself to piecemeal patching, like say wood. Untreated and uncovered (the way Brutalists like it) it's just a terrible exterior surface. Ugly form over function.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:45 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Brutalist buildings are like open floor offices or early modernist houses or chairs before the discovery of ergonomics; they try to cram humans into nonhumane spaces and shapes, thereby failing at their most basic purpose for existing.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:50 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I love brutalism.

I love the materiality. I have yet to see touch two facades that feel the same. Larger pebbles, smoother mixes, different shades - I know nothing about concrete or how it's made, I just wonder at the innovative, imaginative creation of walls from rock and water. Shaping mountains into mountains.

I love the texture. The concrete is molded geometrically, with as much finesse as a potter shapes a vase or a sculptor carves a bust. I love how sometimes there are ripples, or grooves, or lines. All for show. All to add character.

I love the structure. I love how this huge hunk of man-made rock is hanging, dropped in the sky, a huge weight perched atop a small base, often over-hanging or cantilevered, always the inverted pyramid, the balance.

I love touching the walls. I like pressing my ear against them.

I like the honey blossom trees that were frequently planted next to them, in square planters ringed with those iconic grey-brown bricks. The leaves turning golden and falling like a hundred thousand tiny wings.

I don't want brutalism to come back. I don't want more brutalism. folks these days, they would just fuck it up. But I do want the buildings we have to become glorious once again.
posted by rebent at 5:50 PM on October 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


This is one of those issues that come up now and again where I'm absolutely dumbfounded at other people's tastes. I love brutalist architecture and always have, and I really can't get my head around the hate. It's a clean, modern aesthetic with a shit-ton of room for individual architectural creativity.
FUCK YEAH BRUTALISM!


Some of them are cool on the outside but quite a few of them really are pretty shitty on the inside which is more important anyway.
posted by atoxyl at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Someone should investigate the role of the concrete industry in all this. I mean, investigate the role of the concrete industry in building the whole post-1960s-riots urban infrastructure. All through the dysfunctional 70s and 80s, the only thing that seemed to work in American cities were the concrete mixers. We got concrete plazas, concrete waste receptacles, concrete bus shelters, concrete housing projects, concrete prisons, and a whole brute-load of concrete state and community colleges -- much of this stuff built with public money. Does the concrete industry have undue influence somewhere in our public life?
posted by Modest House at 6:10 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Finally, a return to architectural sanity!
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:16 PM on October 6, 2016


Hm. Fits nicely with the ongoing change in western society and politics.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 6:21 PM on October 6, 2016


I can see the aesthetic pleasure of many of these buildings. They are elegant and surprising. But they hold up like shit and the insides are SO DEPRESSING to be in. I hated the old Whitney building; I refused to consider even going to a UC because the campuses are riven with the things. I liked my old New England college with fancy brick buildings and disintegrating wood ones but never a classroom without windows. Sigh.
posted by dame at 7:06 PM on October 6, 2016


"Blue-collar workers and billionaires alike appreciate its charms" --written by someone who doesn't work in one of these bunkers and doesn't know any billionaires or blue-collar workers.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:18 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Growing up, one of the first places I ever really felt at home was a library. The Atlanta-Fulton County Central Library was built three years before I was born, designed by Bauhaus architect Marcel Bruer, and was only a few blocks away from where I lived for the first 7 years of my life. It was where I learned how to read, methodically going through the children's section in the basement, where I'd check out books that told me how pencils were made and how to count in Chinese. I remember reading in concrete alcoves along the wall, of climbing up the majestic staircases to the grown-up sections on the upper levels, of walking down the stairs that looked as if they were hewn from a block of cement wholesale.

It was a funny looking building that didn't really match up with anything else surrounding it, except maybe MARTA's Peachtree Center stop, which only when I was older did I learn looked like a lot of metro stops built nationwide during the 60s-80s (like Baltimore's or DC's).

But to me, Brutalist architecture never really felt alienating, which I assume it must have to those who had to live in the Brutalist-styled public housing projects across Europe. It felt modern, but soulful, like a cross between advanced manufacturing of the future and hand-crafted sculpting.

Which is why when I went off to college, even though I preferred the airiness of Crerar, and liked the Hogwartesque Harper, it was the Regenstein that I have the fondest memories of. That was a purpose-built library.
posted by qcubed at 7:33 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


> Another weird random thing about Brock University, the one building: Mackenzie Chown Complex was designed in the 70s in such a way as to limit protests. Each section of the building is able to be closed off and shut so as to isolate particular wings

The same thing was said about my alma mater, which also is from the 1970s and full of Brutalism, although in Evergreen's case it was that there were gun turrets or something. I wonder if there are any campuses of that style and era that don't have those urban legends.

But at least the Brutalist libraries aren't going to fall down because of the weight in the books in them, which the architect forgot to account for.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:33 PM on October 6, 2016


Oh god. I work on a university campus that is half neo- gothic and half brutalist. It's... not a good contrast. All the brutalist buildings are falling apart, they're impossible to heat or cool, are depressing and dark to work in, and they're so space - inefficient, it drives all the people responsible for classroom and office allocation bananas. And they're just ugly as shit. Especially when sitting directly adjacent to the Cathedral of Learning.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:43 PM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yet ironically it begins falling apart almost immediately. It's rough and permeable so water works its way into all the little crevices and pries them apart with a freeze. It also doesn't lend itself to piecemeal patching, like say wood. Untreated and uncovered (the way Brutalists like it) it's just a terrible exterior surface. Ugly form over function.

Brutalism doesn't just mean shuttered concrete, far from it. The finish and detailing on a brutalist building can be just as well executed as on any building. Also, most parts of the civilised world don't have major issues with freeze/thaw cycles.
posted by wilful at 7:47 PM on October 6, 2016


Probably reducing my Boston cred by saying I've grown to like the way Boston City Hall looks from the outside (and not just as the crate that Faneuil Hall came in, nyuk nyuk). But as somebody who spends several hours a week inside the beast, my loathing for it grows every month. I don't know how the people who spend 40 hours a week in there survive being in a giant concrete tomb. It's dark and depressing. And the main atrium is a giant echo chamber tuned specifically to your head, so a janitor doing something simple like dragging a table across the floor becomes an ear-splitting nightmare that probably takes a few years off your hearing.

To truly appreciate just how horrible this building is on the inside, go in the main entrance on City Hall Plaza, climb up the stairs in the atrium and start walking across the floor (fun fact: Boston City Hall has a third floor and a fifth floor, but no fourth floor) to the next set of stairs. Just before you get to them, stop and look up. Way up. All the way up what's basically a giant cement chimney to tiny window slots that make you feel like you're at the bottom of a well from which there is no escape.
posted by adamg at 8:02 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I refuse to believe that positive views of Brutalism go beyond "the devil you know."
posted by MillMan at 8:02 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


The only Brutalist building that I think "works" is the FBI HQ in DC. The building practically screams "POLICE STATE".
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:31 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


University of Illinois at Chicago, before the 2nd story walkways were removed in the 90s. Unfortunately, the pictures don't convey the ground floor level, i.e., the sidewalks that got the most use. An "under the el track" vibe—complete with pigeons—prevailed.
posted by she's not there at 8:45 PM on October 6, 2016


I love brutalism as well. The University of Guelph has great examples of it.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:08 PM on October 6, 2016


When I see them on university campuses all I can think of is "clear fields of fire."
posted by Pembquist at 10:15 PM on October 6, 2016


Everything ends up looking like the bunker that will survive World War Three.

At my (public) university, several of the brutalist buildings were old Civil Defense nuclear shelters.
posted by JauntyFedora at 10:43 PM on October 6, 2016


Brutalist buildings almost work in climates where it never rains. In anyplace wet, the pristine white concrete gets covered in a layer of slimey green mold within minutes of the first rainfall. This is then followed by the start of the continuous leaks from the flat roof, which can only be fixed by dynamiting the building.

No, I'm not bitter at all.
posted by monotreme at 10:44 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is it still Brutalist if the concrete gets covered by something durable?
posted by The arrows are too fast at 12:37 AM on October 7, 2016


I've been a fan of brutalism for a long time. Like any style, it can be done poorly -- and done poorly, it fails worse than the glass boxes that are popular now. Done well, though, I think it's beautiful.

The heavy geometric lines remind me a lot of some of the West African architecture that I really like, too.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:55 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


When are we going to get an Art Deco revival? I hope it happens in my lifetime.
posted by foobaz at 1:54 AM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


And art nouveaux. Gaudi up the place and all that.

I've been a fan of brutalism for a long time. Like any style, it can be done poorly -- and done poorly, it fails worse than the glass boxes that are popular now.
Was going to say this. Some brutalists make block-long boxes with three windows, which is terrible, but others make imposing buildings that in the right setting fit like a glove.
But, as far as I know, brutalism never melted a car because the architect forgot the big yellow thing in the sky when making another curvy mirrored glass wonder.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:43 AM on October 7, 2016


I've spent most of my adult life studying or working in Brutalist buildings. They're so, so depressing and terrible inside. I am not a fan.
posted by Stacey at 4:47 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ok, so I've always really wished that I appreciated heavy metal.

Partly it's just because my metalhead friends seem to get so much genuine enjoyment out of it. But it's more than that.

Metal feels like a pun I'm not getting, or one of those Magic Eye puzzles that I can't seem to see the sailboat in. I pride myself on being able to appreciate lots of different kinds of music. But to my chagrin, about 90% of it sounds basically the same to me — like, I can distinguish stoner/doom stuff (it's too slow!) and thrash (it's too fast!) but all the other subgenres run together and even macro-level distinctions that fans find perfectly obvious (black metal vs. death metal, say) just don't register with me at all. I wish I had the kind of nuanced perception of its fine points that the real fans geek out on. Instead, all that detail is lost on me ("Yup. It's.... loud?") and I end up bored and frustrated.

And yet! I can't seem to give up on it either! The idea that there's something there that I'm just not seeing fascinates me, and I keep hoping that this time it'll be different and I'll be able to wrap my head around it. I think I probably spend more time listening to extreme heavy metal than any other non-metalhead I know, even though in the end I walk away shaking my head every time.

I kind of feel that way about Brutalism too. I don't Get It, even though I would love to Get It, and the fact that I don't Get It fascinates me to the point where I keep coming back for another try even though I know I'll just end up giving up again.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:52 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Brutalism strikes me as the sort of architecture that would be dreamed up by an angsty teenager who thinks 'honesty' is a synonym for 'ugliness.'

I imagine all brutalist architects going around insulting people and then saying things like "I'm not an asshole I'm just honest" and listening to really angry music that's exclusively about not opening up to people because of your secret abandonment issues.

Come to think of it I'm just imagining them as my roommate from last year but you get the idea.
posted by bracems at 6:47 AM on October 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


But at least the Brutalist libraries aren't going to fall down because of the weight in the books in them, which the architect forgot to account for.

But, as far as I know, brutalism never melted a car because the architect forgot the big yellow thing in the sky when making another curvy mirrored glass wonder.


I need to do a post on spectacular architecture failures. Not just ugly design, or poor layout, but million-dollar buildings that actually fell down, or blew up, or melted a car.
posted by Mogur at 6:58 AM on October 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Are there examples of concrete aging well?

There are examples of roman concrete aging extremely well. As in thousands of years.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:03 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


These are ugly, shitty buildings.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:09 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's worth making the pedantic point that the "Brutal" in brutalism refers, or at any rate at least referred originally, to the materials of the building, raw ( or brut in French) concrete.

Yeah, NYT article kind of lost me when it failed to understand the origins of the name. It's pretty basic knowledge so I fault them for not pointing it out.
posted by Preserver at 7:21 AM on October 7, 2016


The only Brutalist building that I think "works" is the FBI HQ in DC. The building practically screams "POLICE STATE".
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:31 PM on October 6 [3 favorites +] [!]


More like J. Edgar Hoover screaming "Fuck You" at the Justice Department across the street. Having been in it, I can assure you that, architecturally, it does not work. Not at all.
posted by Preserver at 7:24 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I need to do a post on spectacular architecture failures. Not just ugly design, or poor layout, but million-dollar buildings that actually fell down, or blew up, or melted a car.

Yesssss, I need this.
posted by zeptoweasel at 7:31 AM on October 7, 2016


You can start right with the Carbuncle Cup. It's a doozy.

I'm even surprised I didn't make an FPP last month.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:01 AM on October 7, 2016


But, as far as I know, brutalism never melted a car because the architect forgot the big yellow thing in the sky when making another curvy mirrored glass wonder.

It's like no one at the firm ever heard of a parabolic mirror before.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:04 AM on October 7, 2016


I need to do a post on spectacular architecture failures. Not just ugly design, or poor layout, but million-dollar buildings that actually fell down, or blew up, or melted a car.

I'd like to see a 'Terrible Buildings By Famous Architects' post. Start with Frank Gehry: MIT. Case Western. Biomuseo. Then move onto Rem Koolhaas.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:16 AM on October 7, 2016


In defense of the brutal/brutalism connection, it looks like a British person came up with the name (if Wikipedia's to be trusted) so maybe there was a bit of a pun intended. Also brut and brutalism seem to have the same Latin root word (same caveat) so perhaps all is not the linguistic accident it appears to be?
posted by Gravel at 9:12 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you have little kids in London, the Barbican & Southbank are toddler heaven: huge expanses of empty carpet with the occasional bench or superfluous staircase. Plus centrally located, free, & they sell coffee. Atrocious waste of space, and I dislike blackening concrete as much as anyone, but there's nothing better on a rainy day with a 2-year-old.
posted by scyllary at 9:18 AM on October 7, 2016


I love brutalist architecture and always have, and I really can't get my head around the hate.

Because they usually seem to be designed for the purpose of (often illusory) efficiency or abstract philosophical wankery with no thought to the fact that actual humans will have to live and work in said buildings? Is this really a mystery? Take your statement about the "honesty of ugliness" or whatever and make a sculpture off somewhere it can be safely ignored, not something out of 1984 I have to actually use every day.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 2:26 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just have to link to The Egg because it really is a beautiful piece of brutalist architecture. It helps that it is a form for a building type that needs no windows.
posted by meinvt at 3:54 PM on October 7, 2016


I love brutalism but I detest form over function, so I am always conflicted. I would love to see a revival that actually gave a damn about lighting and movement within the space, but retained the style of having clearly exposed stone/brick/metal on the outside.
posted by solarion at 5:43 PM on October 7, 2016


Life imitates Quake.
posted by sneebler at 6:17 AM on October 8, 2016


I love brutalist architecture and always have, and I really can't get my head around the hate.

Me either. I'm not an architecture fanatic or anything, but Fuck Yeah Brutalism has been a site I visit on a regular basis for years. Then again, most of the styles people seem to like I don't get. Tudor or Victorian houses? Yikes.
posted by bongo_x at 3:52 PM on October 9, 2016


Late to this post but all I really want to know is if anyone who defends Brutalism or nitpicks over the meaning of the word has ever actually spent significant time inside one of these living nightmares.
posted by bleep at 8:38 PM on November 5, 2016


Late to this post but all I really want to know is if anyone who defends Brutalism or nitpicks over the meaning of the word has ever actually spent significant time inside one of these living nightmares.

I've never spent significant time in any living nightmare, but I’ve spent plenty of time inside Brutalist buildings. On and off, I've lived, worked, studied, and recreated in them all my life. There are good and bad; well- and poorly-built; and well- and curling maintained buildings in every architectural style known to man.

The only problem I ever had with a brutalist building it was some water damage from concrete that cracked when the balconies what you have a. This could have been fixed or avoided if the owners had been willing to spend more money. But tight fists aren't tied to any one architectural style.

One absolutely gorgeous building I worked in became too small for its function. However, it turned out the original architect had predicted that would happen and had included plans for a future expansion should it be required. It was finished after I left.

I have honestly never had the problems that other people are saying in this thread are unavoidable in brutalist buildings. I don't disbelieve them about the troubles they’ve had; I just haven't had them myself.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:58 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


all I really want to know

If that's in good faith, then yes I too have spent many an hour inside a very practical and sensible Brutalist building.
posted by wilful at 2:57 PM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


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