Brutalism: a harsh style in architecture and design

Strict lines, minimalism, dark colors, and natural materials without sacrificing functionality — we tell you what brutalism is and how designers and architects use it in their projects

Brutalism (from Latin brutus – “rough”) is a trend in architecture that flourished in the 1950s-1980s in England. The founder of the style is the architect Le Corbusier. Subsequently, the direction spread in Europe and the USSR, and in our time this style is also popular in home interiors.

What is brutalism

Brutalism is one of the varieties of post-war modernism, which is based on raw materials. Now this style, like a loft, is in great demand; designers often combine them in the interior. Brutalism is somewhat similar to minimalism with its laconic choice of decor items.

Features of brutalism

The essence of brutalism is in flaunting rough simplicity and ascetic design:

  • Demonstration of the material from which a house is built or an interior item is made: exposed concrete, brick, piles, and communication pipes;
  • Sculptural and strict lines, right angles, lack of smooth, rounded shapes;
  • Exclusion of decor: things in brutalism are primarily functional;
  • Unedited “flaws”: instead of plastering an uneven wall, it is customary in brutalism to flaunt it;
  • Space: the style does not tolerate small spaces and is suitable for large areas;
  • Natural, minimalistic, often monochrome color scheme;
  • Predominant materials: concrete, metal, wood, and glass.

Brutalism in architecture

The history of brutalist architecture begins with destruction. After the Second World War, many buildings in the UK fell into ruins, and building materials were in short supply. Architects began to use cheap raw materials, creating houses with concrete facades. The idea was positively received all over the world, but initially, brutalism was considered acceptable only for administrative buildings. In 1953, the term “new brutalism” appeared for the first time in Architectural Digest. In the 1970s, the style fell out of favor, among other things, due to its strong association with gloominess and totalitarianism. However, in recent years, architects are returning to it again.

Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada

An architectural monument, a residential complex of 12 floors with an ordered structure of 354 modules, united in 158 cells. Each of them is a separate apartment with a garden. Architect Moshe Safdie began work on the project in 1961 and presented Habitat at Expo 67. The concept of the complex is affordable housing with roof terraces, a kind of integration of the advantages of country life into urban reality. In addition to the residents, the parkour who use it for training like the building.

University of Toronto Library, Canada

The building system ranks third in size behind Harvard and Yale libraries. It consists of three campuses – St. George, Mississauga, and Scarborough and 44 libraries with specialized and educational literature. Inside are also information centers that support research on hundreds of programs.

Genex Tower, Serbia

The western gate of Belgrade – a 35-story building 119 meters high – was erected in 1980 according to the project of Mihailo Mitrovic. The building consists of two towers, between which there is a bridge with a revolving restaurant. One of the towers is a residential complex, the second is the office of the Genex company. Now some of the offices, like the restaurant upstairs, are empty.

Chuvash State Opera and Ballet Theatre, USSR

The 1985 building was designed by architects Bubenets and Tenet, who were awarded the State Prize of the RSFSR for it. The building houses the Opera and Ballet Theatre, where the largest creative team of the republic works. The stage hosts the International Ballet Festival, and in May 2022 it celebrated the 90th anniversary of the symphony orchestra.

Brutalism in the interior

Designers often refer to the term “honesty” as the basis of brutalism. The style is used in modern houses and apartments, mainly in new buildings. Concrete ceilings and walls are left without putty and color, at most they are covered with matte varnish. They combine natural materials: stone, glass, iron sheets, concrete and wooden surfaces in one room.

In addition to finishing, in brutalism as opposed to glamour, it is important to pay attention to filling the interior:

  • A limited number of items: they must be functional and without decor;
  • Built-in furniture along the walls, strict geometry of space;
  • Concise colors; bright accents are acceptable, but a maximum of one or two shades should prevail in the room;
  • The furniture is made of natural materials in their natural form;
  • The light in the room is as natural as possible – street lighting is supplemented with lamps in a minimalist design;
  • Metal communication pipes do not hide, but are made decorative elements, for example, highlighting with a Contrasting color. Plants, paintings and photographs are acceptable, but there should be few of them.

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