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Brutalist Architecture and its current resurgence

A design style that believed in the perfect society

If this architectural style doesn't sound familiar to you, it's not surprising, because since the mid 70s and 80s it was pushed aside by new trends. Its birth and rise were during the decade of the 40s and 50s, as one of the reconstruction projects of the postwar era.

The truth is that Brutalist architecture is one of the most controversial design styles that has ever existed. This is because the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this style is the design of a prison, buildings with exteriors that look imposing and cold.

  • Brutalist buildings have very defined characteristics:
  • Minimalist construction.
  • Structural elements and bare construction materials.
  • Mainly use of concrete or exposed brick.
  • Without paint.
  • Angular geometric shapes and a monochrome color palette.

Brutalist architecture is perceived as heavy energy due to its overwhelming appearance, and the word that could best define it is 'concrete', so it is not difficult to identify brutalist buildings from others, being in general aspects like a concrete fortress.



A particularity of brutalism is that it is considered a reaction against the nostalgia for the architecture of 1940. It was considered by some critics of the time as 'art brut' (art brut), and was developed by architects of the caliber of Alison and Peter Smithson, the Franco-Swiss Le Corbusier, the Estonian-American Louis Kahn, and the German-American Mies van der Rohe. In current years some architects have attempted to wash away the negative connotations of the term 'brutalism', referring to the style as "heroic architecture".



Most brutalist buildings were urbanists, and a large number of low-cost social housing are built under this premise. Likewise, many brutalist designs were used in institutional buildings, such as universities, libraries, courts, and town halls. Its popularity waned as it began to be associated with urban decay and styles such as totalitarianism.

Regardless of what is thought of certain currents of thought, brutalist architecture is known to be part of socialist architecture, this is a result of the idea of building a perfect society.



The minimalist designs of the brutalist style believed that their constructions could help create a better and more equal world, an idea born from the fact of the low costs and speed of construction that were associated with concrete. Of course, not all brutalist structures are related to socialist ideas, but they were intrinsically associated with the vision of the ideal world.

Although out of fashion, brutalist-style structures still exist today and it has even been used in relatively popular films such as the Batman Begins saga, where Gotham City, the characteristic fictional city of the bat superhero, is full of brutalist constructions.



Many see brutalist architecture as functional and lacking in warmth and personality, the reality is that there are buildings that deserve the soulless coldness that only brutalism can guarantee. Nowadays, the resurgence of this style has been perceived in homes, institutional places, and workplaces, but mixing concrete with other elements such as wood and nature, because although the brutalist style has a reputation for having no personality, it is true that correctly applied can help create calm spaces that invite reflection.