There is a popular saying that what is old becomes new again, and that holds true for architectural styles. Once popular in the 1950s and 1970s, brutalism architecture is making a comeback. Characterized by functional reinforced concrete and steel, modular elements, and a utilitarian feel, brutalist architecture is usually associated with buildings such as schools, theaters, libraries, and social housing projects. In the aftermath of WWII there was a great need for construction, and brutalism emerged around the world.
What Is Brutalism?
Brutalist architecture is largely devoid of decorative elements, and emphasizes exposed concrete and reinforced steel. It comes from the French term “béton brut,” which means raw concrete. At the end of the 1970s, the style fell out of favor, with many thinking it cold and austere and associating it with totalitarianism. Raw concrete in construction also does not age well, and water damage and overall age brought down the aesthetic. The style came to symbolize urban decay.
Why is Brutalism Making a Comeback?
Fast forward to the last few years, and a new appreciation of brutalism has swung around. The style has rid itself from its past ideological associations, and people are once again appreciating the raw power of the style. A large part of this comeback is thanks to social media. For example, on Instagram, hundreds of thousands of users post pictures of the style, and actively participate in campaigns to protect brutalist structures at risk for demolition.
Imperfections in the concrete can add personality and character to minimalist spaces, giving an original feeling to any space. The geometric designs lend themselves well to creating a feel that is industrial and unique to any retail space. In fact, brutalist architecture is even making its way into residential dwellings. Celebrities such as Kanye West have embraced the style for their own homes, and many designers are experimenting with concrete applications for tables, chairs, accessories, and more.
Part of the charm of raw concrete is that it does not blend in easily. It’s simply “there,” and feels like a throwback to another time. While making its comeback, brutalism this time around is gentler, with concrete being used to add a certain ruggedness and texture to a design, giving a nod to the past and mixing with the modern designs of today.