Is Brutalism Ready for a Comeback?

Steve Rose argues that the time may be ripe for a new respect for brutalism, the mid-century architectural movement that planners love to hate.

"No PR firm would have dreamt up the word "brutalism". The term was derived from Le Corbusier's "Béton brut"- French for "raw concrete", the movement's preferred material - rather than anything to do with brutality, with which it has sadly become better associated. In the popular imagination, brutalism is synonymous with harsh, hostile, ugly architecture (or death metal). Two key examples of the movement are currently under threat, Birmingham Central Library and Robin Hood Gardens, and both have sparked furious debate."

Full Story: Don't knock brutalism

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Modern Architecture Vs. People

"... Robin Hood Gardens ... displayed the worst of public housing design: crime, grime, and societal and material decay. But it was designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, arguably Britain's most celebrated modernist architects. When discussions over its future arose, the architectural magazine Building Design launched a campaign to save it led by heavyweights such as Richard Rogers and Zaha Hadid. As Simon Jenkins pointed out, nobody who actually lives there has joined this campaign."

Boston City Hall is another threatened brutalist building.

I would be happy to see them torn down. I am an architectural preservationist because historic architecture usually provides human-scale buildings that are comfortable places to live in or use. I don't think we should preserve the great mistakes of architectural history, except for buildings that are of real historical importance. Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, yes. Peter Smithson, Richard Rogers, and Zaha Hadid, no.

Charles Siegel

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