The new, humane brutalism lifestyle
What has become of brutalism? That groundbreaking, unadorned exhibitor of raw materials and construction materials that gave a human dimension to the formal and essential meaning of architecture.
Its monumental impact may have softened in the twenty-first century, but its influence continues to thrive in developments by various architects and studios, demonstrating how relevant it remains: now adapted to a new, more sustainable and serene perspective.
This seemingly crude approach to architecture, devoid of artifice and visually severe, that emerged from the Modern Movement experienced a boom between the 1950s and 1970s to varying degrees in different countries. It was about breaking with established blueprints, eliminating conventional and formal lines and putting materials at the fore of design, as well as clearly showing the structure of buildings, with a particular penchant for geometry. It was criticised, vilified and rejected – but even so, the imposing appearance of exposed steel and raw concrete spread through institutional buildings, universities, churches, social housing, theatres and sports centres.
From the moment Le Corbusier unveiled his exposed concrete building in Marseille, the simple and blunt constructive style would be accompanied by far from flattering adjectives. The “monstrosity” of brutalism prevailed whilst simultaneously being criticised for its apparent lack of beauty.
But all extremes will have supporters on one side and detractors on the other. Having faced rejection in the 1980s and 1990s, brutalism has returned with renewed vigour in the twenty-first century. This taste for the essential, and the cult of bare architectural truth emerged first as a way of protecting existing works, and second as a “softening” influence for a new generation of architects and projects.
There is renewed appreciation for its rigour and grounding principles and lack of superfluous ornamentation as a response to new social and functional conditions.
What we see today is a more stylised take on brutalism. Volumes, light and materials are highlighted through the use of essential elements, minimising the harsher aspects of brutalism’s beginnings. For some experts it represents a softened approach, but for others it is an expression of the need to return to the essential values of architecture.
Maximum restraint has been achieved through the use of materials which may not be exposed concrete, but have exterior finishes that give off a severe visual effect close to brutalism. The influence informs the pure lines and raw materials that make it so distinctive. A minimalist maxim that acts as a guiding thread to link the interior with the landscaped exterior, which is assimilated into the indoor spaces through large picture windows.
Minnesota ceramic wood by Porcelanosa has been used as a principal material, adding a sensation of spaciousness and warmth.
The fine grain and soft texture reproduce the colours and contrasts of natural wood, and the technical properties of ceramics add increased resistance. It was installed using Butech’s ceramic fitting materials, which ensure the preservation of each piece over time. Durability and resistance: key to brutalism past and present.
Portuguese architecture studio Summary is behind the development of this project in Vale de Cambra (Portugal) that uses solely modular and prefabricated construction systems. The studio used prefabricated elements due to the need for flexible and cost-effective construction that could be changed over time.
Prefabricated concrete has been used for the entire construction – in its exposed state without any additional finishes – representing a reduction in resources, labour and other elements of the construction process. The result? A reduced environmental impact. This is brutalism that seeks a connection with sustainable balance.
This new shop in London captures the influence of elemental Swedish brutalism, the post-modernism that prevailed in the country in the 1970s.
Eytys is a Swedish clothing chain and the interior design was conceived by the company’s own internal team as extension of the company’s philosophy and collections. The 93 square metre space is located in the heart of London’s Soho. The lighting is complemented by an exposed concrete colour palette, and steel furnishings predominate.
The imposing and substantial New Mexico desert is reflected through every line of this house by architect Marc Thorpe.
The architect’s key premise for the development was minimum environmental impact and maximum sustainability. Solar panels and natural ventilation in spaces where the interior is shaped by voids and pure lines.