ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Brutalism and Architecture: 5 Concrete Examples

Updated on September 1, 2017

Do you find Brutalism ugly?

See results

What is Brutalism?

Brutalism was an intentionally tough-looking (and to many, unsightly) school of architecture featuring rough-cast concrete forms that began in England in the 1950’s.

After World War II, Britain required housing for many displaced people and so the government set goals to create 300,000 new homes yearly. These goals were able to be met by utilizing the prefabrication skills so recently learned during the war and the years of arms manufacturing by pouring concrete into frames known as “shutters”.

The Brutalist movement, despite having ended around the 1980’s, still generates plenty of debate between conversationists who admire its logical use of hard-wearing material and visible construction methods, and those who either lived in said buildings and vocal critics of the style who believe it was simply too ugly to exist.

Much of the ugliness came from not the use of heavy-duty concrete, but from it being uncared for – the rainy and often dark skies of England caused moss and dark patches to grow on the material over time, the steel reinforcements to rust, and the scourge of cities, spray paint, was often used to mark up those large empty walls that seemed to be begging for some good old-fashioned tagging.


Robin Hood Gardens

Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in East London, England
Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in East London, England | Source

The Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in East London, England was designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, and for years was unfortunately considered oppressively confining and full of crime as well despite the good intentions of its designers.

But ugly or not, these buildings do exist, and some will for a long time as they have since been endowed with historical significance, some even receiving awards. But there are also those that are in danger of being demolished, like The Orange County Government Center in Goshen, N.Y.

J. Edgar Hoover Building

J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C
J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C | Source

The J. Edgar Hoover Building is one of the buildings that suffers from deferred maintenance and failing components, and is unfortunately now considered outdated for the current work of the FBI. The government plans to demolish all 2.4 million square feet of it and build afresh in a new location.

Having grown up in Queens, NY and taken numerous classes on the CUNY Queens College campus when growing up, the Student Union building will always epitomize the Brutalist movement for me. I fell in love with massive concrete structures early, and for whatever reason even as an adult I gravitate toward these forms, no matter how bunker-like they feel.

And speaking of bunkers, Brutalism is making a comeback in Israel (for example, at student center at the Ben Gurion University in Beersheva), where buildings designed in that style provide people with a greater sense of safety, whether it be true or simply perceived.

“A curved road is a donkey track, a straight road, a road for men.”

-Le Corbusier

Personally (watch out, my inner Le Corbusier is aching to be set free!) I think concrete is a wonderful material, and can be used to express many different styles, not just raw, boxy forms. In fact, many buildings built in the Brutalist style have undergone updates to their concrete facades. For example, the Park Hill estates designed in the 1950s by city architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith has undergone an eight-year renovation to its stained and neglected megastructure. And who can argue with the beauty of that?

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower in West London, England
Trellick Tower in West London, England | Source

Trellick Tower, located in West London and designed by Ernő Goldfinger, was completed in 1973 and is a fascinating example of the Brutalist movement, employing logical design using the harshness and heaviness of concrete… while creating extremely bright and livable spaces inside. I think the detached elevator tower is gorgeous!

National Theatre

National Theatre, London
National Theatre, London | Source
Another view of the National Theatre, London
Another view of the National Theatre, London | Source

The National Theatre, designed by Denys Lasdun, sits on the banks of the Thames and is the proud home of three theatres. Giving the impression of an urban mountain, this structure was expressed in raw concrete.

Western City Gate in Belgrade, Serbia (Genex Tower)

Looking up at the Western City Gate in Belgrade, Serbia (Genex Tower)
Looking up at the Western City Gate in Belgrade, Serbia (Genex Tower) | Source
A head-on view of Genex Tower, Belgrade, Serbia
A head-on view of Genex Tower, Belgrade, Serbia | Source

Genex Tower in Belgrade, Serbia on the other hand, stretches 35 stories into the sky and was intended to serve as a welcoming gate into Belgrade from the west. The towers meet in the middle by a revolving restaurant, and the taller of the towers is a residential (the shorter tower serves as commercial space).

Sources

  • Jonathan Glancey, The Story of Architecture. Dorling Kindersley Publishing, New York, 2000.
  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/dec/30/park-hill-estate
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/j-edgar-hoover-building-f_n_2266882.html
  • http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/07/arts/design/unloved-building-in-goshen-ny-prompts-debate-on-modernism.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey, to each her own. ;) Brutalist architecture is definitely not for everyone. Thanks for stopping by, Brainy Bunny! :)

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 

      5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      I have to say that despite the fact that I am also fond of the QC student union building, in general I can't stand brutalist architecture. The boxiness and repetition in many of the buildings is a real downer for me, and even when a building uses shapes to more interesting effect, as in the National Theatre in London, the materials leave me cold. Good hub, though! ;-)

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great point, e-five. Thanks for bringing that up!

    • e-five profile image

      John C Thomas 

      5 years ago from Chicago, Illinois, USA

      I think that with any architectural form there are good and bad iterations. Industrial brutalism also led directly or indirectly to the adaptive re-use of warehouse buildings and revitalization of many former industrial neighborhoods.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)