From Academic Kids

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Unit d'Habitation, Marseilles
(Le Corbusier 1952)
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Trellick Tower, London
(Goldfinger 1972)
, Burnaby, British Columbia(Erickson/Massey 1965)
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia
(Erickson/Massey 1965)
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Royal National Theatre, London
(Lasdun 1976)
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Regenstein Library, Chicago
(Netsch 1970)
, Toronto(Mathers/Haldenby 1973)
Robarts Library, Toronto
(Mathers/Haldenby 1973)
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Cameron Offices (detail), Canberra
(Andrews 1972)
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Tricorn Centre, Portsmouth UK
(Luder 1964)
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Home Office building, London
(Spence 1976)
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Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon, Springfield, Illinois
(Turley 1962)
, Bloomington, Indiana (Pei 1972)
Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, Indiana (Pei 1972)

Brutalism is an architectural style that spawned from the Modernist architectural movement and which flourished from the 1950s to the 1970s. The early style was largely inspired by the work of Swiss architect, Le Corbusier (in particular his Unit d'Habitation building) and of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The term originates from the French béton brut, or "raw concrete". Brutalist buildings are usually formed with striking blockish, geometric, and repetitive shapes, and often revealing the textures of the wooden forms used to shape the material, which is normally rough, unadorned poured concrete.

Brutalism as an architectural style was also associated with a social utopian ideology which tended to be supported by its designers, especially Peter and Alison Smithson, near the height of the style. The failure of positive communities to form early on in some Brutalist structures, possibly due to the natural urban decay of the post-WWII period (especially in the United Kingdom), led to the combined unpopularity of both the ideology and the architectural style.



Boston City Hall, part of (Pei et. al. 1969)
Boston City Hall, part of Government Center, Boston, Massachusetts
(Pei et. al. 1969)

Brutalism is related and similar to (and often confused with) the Modernist, Minimalist and Internationalist styles of architecture. All of these styles make heavy use of repetition and regularity in their features, but brutalist designs also often incorporate striking, abject irregularities as well.

Another common theme in brutalist designs is the exposition of the building's functions -- ranging from their structure and services to their actual human use -- in the exterior of the building. In other words, Brutalist style is "the celebration of concrete." In the Boston City Hall (illustration left), strikingly different and projected portions of the building indicate the special nature of the rooms behind those walls, such as the mayor's office or the city council chambers. From another perspective of this theme, the design of the Hunstanton Secondary School included placing the facility's water tank, a normally hidden service feature, in a prominently placed and visible tower.

Critics note that this abstract nature of Brutalism makes the style unfriendly and uncommunicative, instead of integrating and protective as its proponents intended. For example, the location of the entrance of a Brutalist structure is rarely obvious to the visitor.

Brutalism is also criticised for its disregard for the social, historic, and architectural environment of its surroundings, making the introduction of such structures in existing developed areas appear very stark, out of place, and alien.


Brutalism gained large momentum in Britain during the middle 20th century, as economically depressed (and WWII-ravaged) communities sought inexpensive construction and design methods for low-cost housing, shopping centers, and government buildings. Combined with the socially progressive intentions behind brutalist "streets in the sky" housings like Corbusier's Unité, brutalism was promoted as a positive option for forward-moving, modern urban housing. In practice however, many of the buildings lacked many of the community-serving features of Corbusier's vision, and instead developed into claustrophobic, crime-ridden tenements. Some such buildings took decades to develop into positive communities. The rough coolness of concrete lost its appeal under a damp and gray northern sky, and its fortress-like material touted as vandalproof soon proved vulnerable to spray-can graffiti.

Brutalist designs were also often initially criticised as eyesores. The current Fodor's guide to London mentions the Home office structure as "hulking." Because the style is essentially that of poured concrete it tends to be inexpensive to build and maintain (but very difficult to modify). However, in the case of Trellick Tower, the design has ultimately proved very popular with both tenants and owner-occupier residents. In time, many brutalist structures become appreciated as landmarks by their communities for their uniqueness and eye-catching appearance.

In recent years, the bad memories of underserved Brutalist community structures have led to their eager demolition to make way for newer, more traditionally oriented community structures. Despite a nascent Modernist appreciation movement, and the identified success that some of this style's offspring have had, many others have been or are slated to be demolished.

"The New Barbarism"

Brutalism has some severe critics, one of the most famous being Charles, Prince of Wales, whose speeches and writings on architecture have excoriated brutalism. The architecture column of Private Eye, "Nooks and Corners", began life as "Nooks and Corners of the New Barbarism", with "new barbarism" clearly intended as a reference to "new brutalism". The column is skeptical about modern architecture in general, but over the course of some four decades has reserved its strongest wrath for brutalism, especially in government-sponsored projects.


Architects associated with the brutalist style include Erno Goldfinger, husband-and-wife pairing Peter and Alison Smithson, and, to a lesser extent perhaps, Sir Denys Lasdun. Outside of Britain, Louis Kahn's government buildings in Asia and John Andrews's government and institutional structures in Australia exhibit the creative height of the style. More recent Modernists such as I.M. Pei and Tadao Ando have also designed notable Brutalist works.

List of brutalist structures

(Structure name, location, architect(s), year built)

See also

External links

he:ברוטליזם pt:Arquitetura brutalista zh:蠻橫主義


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