“Mäusebunker,” Freie Universität, Berlin.

Francisco Javier Sáenz de OizaHabitat ’67, Montreal, Canada.The Torre Velasca in MilanWestern City Gate, Belgrade, SerbiaWibautstraat is an Amsterdam Metro statioExamples of Brutalist architecture from the 50s to the mid 70s.

Despite their apparent Soviet Bloc cachet, most were built in the West.

Above: “Mäusebunker,” Freie Universität, Berlin; Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza, Madrid; Habitat ’67, Montreal, Canada; The Torre Velasca in Milan; Western City Gate, Belgrade, Serbia and Wibautstraat Metro station in Amsterdam.

Related: Brutal In Belgrade


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61 thoughts on “Just Brutal

  1. Rob_G

    I love a bit of brutalist architecture, me :)

    – part of the problem is that a lot of the buildings were constructed using concrete, which looked nice and clean and smooth when it is put up first, but manky once it is covered in a few decades of soot.

    1. No more mr nice guy

      So do I actually. I see it as the triumph of ambition and striving for modernity for the sake of efficiency alone. Aesthetics are over-rated and trying to replicate other more conventional forms often tokenistic

      1. louislefronde

        Brutalism is dreadful, devoid of aesthetic beauty and which contributes nothing to the social and visual environment. Brutalism was an unpleasant affliction on the eye, and has left us with ugly cities that were once aesthetically beautiful such as Bucharest.

        Bucharest was once known as ‘Little Paris’ before Ceaucescu and his ilk destroyed a city with amazing Belle Epoque architecture. If Le Corbusier had got his way, Paris would have met a similar fate as Bucharest,especially the the 3rd and 4th arrondissements on the right bank of the Seine.

        When I think of brutalism, I think of Nazi mega structures and communist bunker buildings which were soulless and devoid of charm.

        Dublin has a number of these awful buildings which damaged the historic streetscapes and contributed nothing to the overall beauty of the city.

        1. Rob_G

          “Brutalism is dreadful, devoid of aesthetic beauty and which contributes nothing to the social and visual environment”.

          Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so fair enough there.

          But big tower blocks played a very important role in many cities in 20th century; people who had previously lived in sub-standard accommodation were able to move into clean modern housing that was quick and inexpensive to construct.*

          *I know that there are lots of problems with badly-planned estates, etc, but that was down to bad planning generally than to the actual buildings themselves.

          1. louislefronde

            I note the expression ‘quick and inexpensive’ to build. In other words…. cheap.

            One of course has to factor in, that in the immediate aftermath of the war, many cities in Central and Eastern Europe were flattened or badly damaged requiring urgent remedies such as the building of what we now call ‘Ostblocks’.

        2. rotide

          Good lord you are painful.

          Prague is more commonly known as Paris of the East rather than Bucharest, however many locations go by that name, probably given by insufferable cultural bigots like yourself.

          1. louislefronde

            Prague was never known as the Paris of the East. That’s utter nonsense. The reason Bucharest was, was because of the elegant art nouveau buildings designed in the French Belle Epoque style and the wide boulevards crafted in the manner of Hausman.

            By the way Rotide – I laugh at your ad hominem expression ‘Cultural Bigot’, would you care to define it?

            If you can?

          2. No more mr nice guy

            I want to know also this definition.

            Let me guess – “someone with whom I disagree on stuff”?

          3. Daddy

            Poor Rotide gets all lost when it comes to higher matters unconcerned with the grubby obsession of money.

        3. Spaghetti Hoop

          Maybe Bucharest dropped the ‘Little Paris’ adage simply because it believed it shouldn’t be ‘little’ anything, nor a mirror of another city but just Bucharest.

          If you say that a city is damaged by the architecture still standing, what of the great European cities that lost their medieval fabric to bombs and artillery?

          1. louislefronde

            Perhaps, you’re not aware that hundreds of historical buildings were reconstructed in the years after the war. The area around Warsaw Castle was completely reconstructed following an act passed by the Polish Parliament in 1949. They Poles weren’t unique in that respect, and many buildings and historic centres were reconstructed in Germany most notably in recent times the completion of the Frauenkirche and the Semperopera. The Stadtschloss in Potsdam was completed in 2013 (Potsdammers told the Left who were against the reconstruction to get-lost) and Stadtschloss in Berlin is nearing completion and should be finished in 2019.

            There is a strong case for reconstruction of historic buildings in keeping with the footprint of an area. Something which ironically happened in Dublin after the civil war and rising had taken their toll on the GPO, the Customs House and the Four Courts.

          2. classter

            It is a disgrace what they did in Germany, rebuilding in pastiche entire towns and cities.

            Rotterdam is a far more interesting example and in the long-term far more worthwhile culturally.

    2. Brother Barnabas

      Done well, brutalist can be stunning (some nice examples in Trinity College), but poorly done (Apollo House) can be horrible

    3. classter

      I also love buildings of this vintage.

      In as much as there is a ‘problem’, I think much of it is fashion. In the same way that Victorian architecture was disdained for many decades before becoming popular, my hope is that the same is true of brutalism.

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        I agree. Some I really ogle at, as one would a piece of art. One country glaringly left out of the list of examples is Britain. Check out the Hungarian architect Goldfinger – who designed a lot of the buildings there during that period. Every decade should leave something behind in architectural terms – no matter how unpopular.

          1. classter

            Is that supposed to be the puinchline of the argument?

            UCD is pretty great imo. Library building is so so but the Arts Block is class.

            I am more ambivalent about some of the newer, ‘more sympathetic’ attempts

        1. Jones

          Trellick tower is an abomination. It’s like a car crash in that it’s morbid curiosity draws the eye for longer periods than it should. As well as it’s aesthetic issues, the mass of exposed concrete has become an issue as the building requires around £100 of refurb to bring it to modern standards. It would make more sense to knock it and rebuild had it not become a cultural icon.

    1. bisted

      …Ireland had one of the godfathers of brutalism…Sam Stephenson…the rape of Georgian Dublin for ESB HQ…

    1. Rob_G

      I don’t know about ‘beautiful seaside location’ – it’s in an industrial site, next to some other chimneys.

      1. David J

        Its not beautiful right now but surely if there was some, you know, “planning” in this city then the area of the incinerator would be ideal for a number of apartment block which would have a fantastic view. Move the ports, create a beautiful area beside the sea for people to live close to the city.

    2. Daddy

      “that in any other European city would be the prime housing location”

      Or a prime recreational amenity. It’s not all about giving people with money sea views.

      1. Peter Dempsey

        You might as well say

        “All property is theft. I hate anybody who wants to own a property.”

        You’d love Rabble

    3. classter

      Dunno what you’d call the incinerator but it is very much not an example of brutalism.

      My biggest criticism is that they have placed that absolutely massive structure there with no attempt to give it any design value

  2. Turgenev

    Broadsheet, why is it that your naughty-list notice says “more than two links” trigger it, but it’s always two links when it’s triggered?

  3. Kieran NYC

    I actually like these.

    But the Bunkers in Dublin are still EFFING terrible

    Central Bank is ok.

  4. Joseph Blow

    Just to be pedantic, the building in the last photo is the Cygnus Gymnasium in Amsterdam. The tiny white building on the far left of the photo is the entrance to the (underground) Wibautstraat metro station.

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