Brutalism examined

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The New Brutalism movement takes its name from the French word Brut and has nothing to do with brutality. Brut means raw or unrefined and was used by Le Corbusier when describing his use of raw concrete for some of his buildings (beton brut). The full term Brualism was possibly first made known by architects Alison and Peter Smithson as they sought to reconstruct post war Britain and the welfare state. They were searching for new designs to use in the economically, physically and socially ravaged areas of Britain which were in desperate need of reconstruction in the aftermath of the destructive German bombing raids.

Example of Brutalism

Inspired by the extensive concrete work of Le Corbusier, the Smithsons convinced the London County Council to follow a path of unfinished materials and exposed areas of architectural design such as services and structure. They were seen as avant-garde and forward thinking at the time and were joined in enthusiasm by the architectural magazines Architectural Design and Architectural Review. And so it followed that Brutalism became the de facto standard for large goverment led construction projects in the mid-twentieth century due to its relatively inexpensive construction and design methods.

This style was seen as perfect for for low-cost housing, tower blocks, shopping centres and government buildings. But this came at a cost in later years as it is often used as a derogoratory term for poor quality. Construciton in this style continued well into the 1970s, at which point, Brutalism as an avant-garde had ceased to exist and many cheap so called ugly buildings were developed without thought to the original style they were trying to emulate.

However, Brutalism has many success stories and can be seen in architectural gems such as university buildings, museums and civic centres. Many of these had large budgets and were executed very well. The architects styles are characterised by bulky asymmetrical forms, massive concrete facades, and the seperation of people from the flows of vehicles.

Example of Brutalism