Brutalism is a term that often elicits strong reactions, both positive and negative.
It is an architectural and artistic movement that emerged in the mid-20th century, characterized by its raw, exposed concrete surfaces and geometric forms.
While it is often associated with the bleak aesthetic of post-war Europe, its influence has been felt across the globe, from South America to Asia.
In this article, we will explore the origins, principles, and legacy of the Brutalism art movement.
Origins of Brutalism
The term “brutalism” derives from the French word “béton brut,” which means raw concrete.
The movement emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, a time of great social and political upheaval in Europe.
Many architects and artists sought to break away from the ornate, decorative styles of the past and create buildings and structures that were honest, functional, and unadorned.
One of the pioneers of Brutalism was the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, whose designs for the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille (1952) and the Chandigarh Capitol Complex in India (1953-1963) exemplify the movement’s principles.
These buildings featured simple, geometric forms, and exposed concrete surfaces that emphasized the materiality of the structure.
Another influential figure in the Brutalism movement was the British architect Alison Smithson, who along with her husband Peter Smithson, designed the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in London (1972).
This building is considered one of the most iconic examples of Brutalism, with its imposing concrete towers and elevated walkways.
Principles of Brutalism
At its core, Brutalism is a rejection of the ornamental and a celebration of raw materiality.
It is an architectural and artistic movement that values function over form, and seeks to create structures that are honest, unadorned, and expressive of their materials.
The exposed concrete surfaces of Brutalist buildings are not merely decorative, but serve a functional purpose, as they can be used to regulate temperature and provide insulation.
Brutalism is also characterized by its use of geometric forms and repetition.
Many Brutalist buildings feature simple, block-like shapes arranged in a grid-like pattern.
This repetition of forms creates a sense of order and rhythm, and emphasizes the modular nature of the structures.
While Brutalism is often associated with a stark, monolithic aesthetic, it is important to note that the movement is not monolithic in its approach.
There are many variations and sub-styles within the Brutalist movement, ranging from the more austere examples of early Brutalism to the more expressive and sculptural forms of late Brutalism.
Legacy of Brutalism
Despite its enduring legacy, Brutalism remains a controversial and polarizing movement.
Many people find the style oppressive and bleak, associating it with the brutalist architecture of Soviet-era Eastern Europe.
Others see it as a powerful and expressive form of architecture that values honesty and functionality over ornamentation.
Brutalism has had a profound influence on architecture and design, inspiring a generation of architects to experiment with raw materials and geometric forms.
The movement’s influence can be seen in the work of contemporary architects such as David Chipperfield and Tadao Ando, who have continued to explore the possibilities of raw concrete surfaces and geometric forms.
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in Brutalism, with many people rediscovering the beauty and power of the movement’s stark, raw aesthetic.
This renewed interest has led to the preservation of many Brutalist buildings that were once threatened with demolition, as well as the creation of new structures that draw inspiration from the movement.
Brutalism – Wrap Up
The Brutalism art movement is a bold and powerful statement of raw materiality and functionality.
It emerged in a time of great social and political upheaval, and sought to create structures that were honest, unadorned, and expressive of their materials.
While it is often associated with a bleak and oppressive aesthetic, it is important to note that the movement is not monolithic in its approach, and there are many variations and sub-styles within the Brutalist movement.
Despite its enduring legacy, Brutalism remains a controversial and polarizing movement. However, its influence can be seen in the work of contemporary architects and designers, and there has been a renewed interest in its stark, raw aesthetic in recent years.
Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying the power and impact of the Brutalism art movement.
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