Brutalist Buildings: Innovative or Inferior?

October 29 2020 0comment

Brutalist Buildings: Innovative or Inferior?

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Following in our regular series of articles discussing different architectural styles, we will today go over the controversial brutalist style of architecture. Brutalism, developed in the 1950s in the UK, grew popular due to its reliance on cheap concrete and relatively basic design, reliant on plenty of flat roof demarcation. Sometimes called Heroic architecture by its appreciators, brutalism is controversial as many of its detractors consider it an eyesore - brutalist buildings, with plenty of exceptions, tend to be very bland and grey. Much of the reason for its popularity is down to its simplicity and cheapness, which allowed wartorn nations across post-war Europe to erect new brutalist cities and replace older, more traditional architecture which was destroyed during the Second World War. In this article we will go over some examples of brutalist buildings and the reactions which they have generated.


Barbican Centre and Estate, London

Voted "London's Ugliest Building", the Barbican is actually a fascinating combination of apartments, bridges, gardens, and art centres. Built in one of the most bombed areas of London after the war, the art centre was christened by the Queen herself in 1982, and is perhaps one of the most noteworthy brutalist estates in the nation. The Barbican contains shops, restaurants, a cinema, and even schools. The concrete labyrinth that is the Barbican may appear to be a morass of grey stone at first appearance, but there is much to explore and discover within its many walls. In many ways, including its beautiful fountains, gardens, and bridges, the Barbican is much more like a medieval fort than an apartment complex.


Bank of London and South America, Buenos Aires

A brutalist bank surrounded by neoclassical architecture, the Bank of London and South America instantly sticks out in stark contrast to its environment. The bank itself is primarily a glass box surrounded by warped concrete, giving more dimensions to the building and bringing it to life. The interior of the bank is part of its charm, being a wide and airy space with a high ceiling and plenty of glass and steel to accentuate its unique and textured interior design. While the bank (also known as BOLSA) is certainly different to its surroundings, it still has much to offer, whether it is taking out a loan in its cool interior or passing through the lofty columns which add more space to the streets outside.


Geisel Library, California

Named for legendary children's author Theodor Geiseil Seuss, elsewise known as Dr Seuss, who was one of its main patrons, the Geisel Library in La Jolla, California is an outstanding piece of art which houses thousands of Dr Seuss books, audio recordings, and drawings. The Geisel Library also houses a bronze statue of the Cat in the Hat, which greets all visitors. In terms of architecture, the Geisel Library really is remarkable. On the exterior, four concrete piers splay out over the building's walls, fashioned after two pairs of hands holding up books which are represented by the glass upper floors of the library. If you are a fan of Dr Seuss or innovative architectural design, the Geisel Library is certainly worth a visit.


Habitat 67, Montreal

Possibly the most unique brutalist project on the planet, and certainly the most fascinating on this list, Habitat 67 has its origins in a Canadian architecture student's graduate thesis. Over time, its design was steadily realised, bringing a set of 354 concrete blocks together to form over 100 apartments assembled in much the same way as a child might build a castle out of building blocks. Moshe Safdie, the architect who created Habitat 67, saw the project as an "urban village", a far more pleasant and healthy alternative to the concrete sprawl of urban apartment blocks with which inner-city workers are intimately familiar. Habitat 67 sites along the Saint Lawrence river, allowing its inhabitants to spend some time appreciating the natural environment.

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