- The term "Brutalism" was introduced by the architectural critic Reyner Banham in his 1966 publication The New Brutalisai: Ethic or Aesthetic? This movement was meant to redirect modern architecture toward a more monumental and heroic form and away from what was increasingly perceived as a frivolous, less utilitarian modern mode of architecture. Although the origins of Brutalism are found in Le Corbusier's later work, the style was further established in London by Peter and Alison Smithson, and it flourished through the 1960s and 70s in the concrete buildings of many internationally known architects such as Gordon Bunshaft, I. M. Pei, and Tadao Ando, all three of whom have received the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. One of the earliest buildings in the Brutalist style is Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation, built in Marseilles, France, in 1946-1952. This 12-story apartment building consists of a rectangular structure elevated on piers. Made from reinforced concrete, the grid design allowed for precast apartment modules to be set into the building frame. Le Corbusier's béton brut, or "raw concrete," became the most popular style of material for Brutalist buildings, and is characterized by the appearance of seams and imprints left in the concrete after being processed. Although Brutalism was initially meant to restore honesty to modern architecture, it quickly became synonymous with the more severe and ugly concrete buildings constructed across Europe after World War II.The need for inexpensive housing probably initiated the use of this highly functional, although somewhat severe, architectural style, but Brutalism was later used in many other types of structures such as offices, churches, government buildings, and museums. Gordon Bunshaft's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, built in Washington, D.C., in 1974, typifies this style. Built as a large, concrete cylinder elevated on four wide piers, the building dominates the Mall with a modern grandeur that is in sharp contrast to what was increasingly considered an overly pompous Beaux-Arts architectural surrounding. I. M. Pei's National Center for Atmospheric Research, built in Boulder, Colorado, in 1961-1967, is made from massive rough-cut, block-like concrete rectangles set at 90-degree angles to each other. A complex interweaving of solids and voids provides a visual interest to the building that Pei capitalizes upon further in his design for the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., built in 1974-1978. Here he integrates triangles and pyramids into these concrete block-like shapes to create a building of striking spatial complexity.Finally, Tadao Ando's use of concrete in his Church of the Light in Ibarakishi, Osaka, from 1989 can be characterized as Brutalist in its forceful presence, interrupted only by a thin cross shape cut into the concrete wall that emits two slivers of light into the otherwise unfenestrated room. Here the solidity of the concrete is contrasted with light in order to set up a comparison between the material and the immaterial, and thus to provide a spare, spiritual ambience within the church. Therefore, Brutalism, despite its sometimes negative connotations, has not lost its usefulness today but endures in a great variety of contemporary work.See also INTERNATIONAL STYLE.
Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. Allison Lee Palmer. 2008.