I also disagree with the notion expressed midway through the article that brutalism was about "an uncompromising desire to tell it like it is". In fact, most brutalism that I'm familiar with deliberately provokes by its unnatural (or even top-heavy) massing, sheer vertical lines, and dominance of concrete over other materials as a deliberate choice. The claim reads as disingenuous since Le Corbusier used structures featuring beton brut -- raw, exposed concrete -- which is where the term brutalism originates. It was very much an aesthetic choice, intentionally designed to be provocative.
As an aside, to me, the Washington DC Metro  represents the best of brutalism -- a functional design that, albeit stark, is pleasing to the eye solely as an accident of its function. It expresses the sheer human grandeur -- in this case, tunneling through the earth -- without being visually offensive.
As for the rest of DC's brutalist architecture, this piece sums up a lot of my feelings: https://www.buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/the-7-most-heinously-u...
The NYC is subway is old, but it's not like they haven't had any time to work on it. From what I've read, it's mostly attributable to mismanagement at the MTA — misdirected funds, union squabbles, lack of political will, lack of imagination, outright corruption.
NYC is admittedly extremely time-consuming (and therefore expensive) to dig, but all the things that could have modernized the subway and made more it convenient and accessible wouldn't require digging more tunnels.
The other systemic problems — lack of modern signaling, lack of parallel tunnels — are harder and more expensive to solve, especially without disrupting commuters.
Paris is a marvel for its density and well-planned routes. But some of the lines are more like underground light rail compared to e.g. the Lexington line, which on its own carries like 1/3 of the passengers of Paris or London.
The London Tube trains I've been on felt like a subway for midgets compared to the 10-foot wide BMT trains. They stop running at night. One of the only times I've missed a flight was due to a London Tube delay.
The new Chinese subways really put the US to shame, quiet, double glass doors, video screens everywhere, cell phones work everywhere, very cheap, very dense and very crowded.
The NY subway is pretty reliable and fast. Apps like Moovit and Citymapper make it pretty easy to get where you want as quickly as possible. Train Time coverage and wifi coverage could be better, the latter is improving. It could be nicer but all I can say is if you think the New York subway is bad now, you should have tried it in the 70s.
Edit: I'd add that an Oyster-type payment system would be nice. Also, a couple of MTA alumni have led systems in London, Hong Kong, Toronto, other cities, so NY is probably not at the very bottom in best practices. Bottom line is you can get anywhere quickly and reliably at all hours, if not always in luxurious style, and you don't need a car to live here. So I'll take it, until your driverless taxi can deal with NY traffic and get there faster.
There are no escalators or elevators except for a few stations, and the trains rattle and shake as much as NYC. Not to mention the narrow trains running on standard gauge, created like that on purpose so the federal government wouldn't take it over and run their own trains.
Line 14 is the only one which would qualify as a modern transportation system.
So maybe that indicates that more, smaller lines are the way to go? Passengers don't care how many passengers each line carries, they care about being able to make their journeys.
> The London Tube trains I've been on felt like a subway for midgets compared to the 10-foot wide BMT trains.
You get used to it. They're small but again that's not inherently a problem. (Being overcrowded is a problem - I don't know how NY or DC compare on this front)
> They stop running at night.
As of a few months ago there's now limited service on friday/saturday nights. But yeah, all-night running is absolutely something NY has over other subways. How much of a priority that should be is a judgement call of course - it's achieved by four-tracking the lines, so if you didn't need all-night running you could have ~twice as many lines (build the same number of tunnels, but spread them across the city better) for the same price.
> One of the only times I've missed a flight was due to a London Tube delay.
Anecdote != data - how do the statistics on late running compare?
Tube reliability was a bit of a crisis at one time during reorgs but seems to have improved
Indeed, taking luggage on the tube during rush hour is a truly painful experience.
 And it's worse in many ways too, such as the lack of express tracks.
London's Night Tube is a very recent thing (August 2016) and only covers a few lines, Madrid Metro closes at 0130 and reopens at 0600, Paris Metro closes at 0115 and reopens at 0530 (with exceptions: 5 lines are open all night on new year's eve and 2 festivals, and since 2007 it closes at 0215 on fridays, saturdays and holiday eves)
It's possible to retrofit the DC Metro to keep its (arguably) beautiful ceilings , while still making it safe and navigable for commuters.
On the plus side, the campus and the whole area actually looks a lot nicer now. Also, after it's all said and done I have to say I actually got a pretty decent education too (at the very least it was a great deal for the small state school tuition price). Maybe aesthetics aren't everything.
As a subway system, no not smart, but (if the rumors are true) the stops were also designed to serve as fallout shelters. In that regard, perhaps it is smartly designed.
As for brutalism coming back, I haven't seen much new construction. I suspect when it does make its resurgence it will be with some recognition of how it was received in the past and how those structures are regarded today.
The speculation of the article is actually the opposite - that in the era of Bernie Sanders, when young people hear "socialism" and think of a functioning European welfare state rather than an oppressive European dictatorship, the connotations of large-scale government intervention have become a positive.
If you go further east in Europe though both Brutalism and Socialism are scorned.
Perhaps when young Americans talk about socialism they don't really mean socialism in the Marxist sense, but rather a mixed economy somewhere in between the USA and France?
I'm referring to the US associations; I think that's the cultural zeitgeist that the New York Times is more familiar with :-P
Sort of the backlash to the right wing calling both European Social Democrats and American moves to expand the welfare state "socialist" as a term of abuse.
It led to a very strong, very noticeable shift in perception where a much wider group of Americans in discussions would start asking questions about socialism instead of shooting down any mention of it with insults.
Sometimes, perhaps. Soviet brutalism was inspired by anemic budgets rather than the aesthetic. In fact I would speculate this is a driving factor more than anything--concrete is easy to work with and is cheap.
The aesthetic certainly gives the movement its name, though.
Only now we are at the point where 60 year old concrete buildings need to be cleaned and it costs a fortune to do so because they were never designed for it
The article talks about them belonging to "an era of muscular, public-minded development". Later, it says, "Brutalism wasn’t fully popular with a broad public, whose members were never convinced that awe-inspiring concrete dourness was what society was truly missing, and it ultimately depended on the good will of sympathetic planners". So, actually, it harkens back to an era when politicians and planners felt that they didn't need to be accountable.
The worst part of the article is when it argues, "THERE’S NO QUESTION that Brutalism looks exceedingly cool. [author's emphasis]". I think most of the broad public would disagree - and the article basically says that. Brutalism is just gross and dirty to me. There's nothing interesting or cool about it for me. Brutalism means putting a lot of money into something that's crappy. As rayiner points out (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12688217), it isn't honest like the article portrays it as. The buildings are often needlessly complicated or purposely ugly.
If I had a few man-decades of developer time to burn, without any chance of ever seeing adequate return, my dream software project would be a tool that analyzes architectural model data, simulates aging and creates an "aging forecast" version ready for rendering. This could help architects and clients to avoid badly aging designs if they choose to factor that into their decisions. Or at least it could generally promote the idea that sustainable is not just about day to day energy use but also about long term attractivity .
A less sophisticated effort might just try to use image based rendering techniques to normalize before/after photos into flat textures ready to be used as a learning set for some ML magic. Unfortunately, this would completely fail at respecting different aging properties of surfaces that look similar when new. Cleverly alternating between initially similar surfaces could for example be harnessed to get a clean, minimalistic look when new and expose some ornaments that distract from unintended unevenness later.
This isn't a completely theoretical idea by the way: a ca 2005 subway station here that used to get heavily criticised for its bland white walls is slowly starting to expose fascinating watermark-like images embedded in the texture of the walls, consisting of cleverly modulated ribs that seemed perfectly uniform when new.
(I like the software idea, as aging is something that architects would appear to overlook in any buildings built in my lifetime).
Not exactly an example of aging well, but nonetheless deserving of a honorable mention: all the old Flagler Hotels that now form Flagler College in St Augustine. They were pretty much making up the modern use of poured concrete for houses as they went and it does show in many places. Most of the concrete surfaces are looking rather rotten by themselves (despite what i suspect to be quite intensive maintenance), but the crazy playfulness of all the decorations that surround them do a surprisingly good job at distracting from that. You notice, but you don't care.
Funny how people see things differently. For my eye the discolored old concrete buildings look very inspiring and I guess it was the original idea that the buildings show their age...
especially those with a touch of moss, mold and climbing vegetation here and there.
Though I think brutalism is a blight on our cities....
I think that's one reason the article author chose to show black and white photos of the buildings. It masks the discoloration of the concrete.
I'm not a fan of brutalism either, but I don't mind an occasional brutalist building as contrast in a skyline.
Sort of how it's nice to have an ugly friend around to make your own attractiveness more palatable?
The UK is a prime example of it's wrongful use, but there have been some great examples.
Barbican in London is one of those examples, it's the only one I know which I actually really like.
Compare with monstrosities like the old Prentice hospital in Chicago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prentice_Women%27s_Hospital_Bu.... Nothing functional about the tiny windows, or weirdly-shaped circular interior spaces, or wrapping the whole thing in a material (concrete) that doesn't hold up well to a snowy climate. Just architectural wankery.
Mies would have wanted the steel frame to be visible to all; however, American building codes required that all structural steel be covered in a fireproof material (steel, with its low melting point, will fail in fires), usually concrete. This hid the structure of the building – something Mies wanted at all costs to avoid – so Mies used non-structural bronze-toned I-beams to suggest structure instead. These are visible from the outside of the building, and run vertically like mullions in the large glass windows. Now, observers look up and see a fake structure tinted bronze covering a real steel structure.
Wikipedia article for the building: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seagram_Building
UX at its worst.
It's not that I'm against modernist glass and steel. Bunshaft's Lever House sits on the same corner as Mies work and is one of my favorite architectural works. I'm not even against glass houses, though I think Johnson's earlier one is a better design than Farnsworth...if at least for not being built in a flood plain.
Well, they did provide a definition for "honest" - that it looks like it's built with the materials it's actually built with.
Of course, so did stone houses for centuries, and they still managed to look pleasing in the process.
I don't think 'honesty' (and 'functionality') are an improvement on the Vitruvian, 'firmitas, utilitas, and venustas' for no other reason than Vitruvius backed the concepts up with examples and the examples included everything from fortifications to bridges to temples...which in map pretty well as typologies in which each takes priority over the others.
Perhaps it's because Vitruvius honored those generals, the city, and his gods rather than bricks.
: firmness, commodity, and delight
Condensation, airflow and thermal exchange issues are dealt with in any construction engineering curriculum, there are ready solutions to most configurations. If you don't follow them the issue is not with flat roof but with your lack of professionalism: moving condensation to the attic isn't a solution (especially since so many upgrade them to inhabited lofts anyway).
Incidentally, mono-pitched roofs seem oddly rare, people seem to go straight from flat to gabled or hipped, even in relatively temperate places where snow doesn't pile up much and a relatively shallow slope would be more than enough to handle rain and snow.
Wasn't the idea here was that it was cheap and quick to lay out concrete which is why it was so popular the post-WW2 building boom? This seems like a highly functional approach (see cost effective) - for the time period. But clearly not the material one should use when utilizing a brutalist approach in modern buildings.
Not sure why they made the windows like that other than a sci-fi style exterior. Not all brutalist buildings have tiny windows though. Here's one from Toronto (a city full of brutalist architecture due to the era it exploded in growth): http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3026/2410356675_5df008e7f2.jp...
The Gardiner Expressway in Toronto is a good example of this - it seems as it's permanently under refurbishment.
There is nothing 'brutal' or 'brutalizing' about brutalist architecture. I know I'm being a bit pedantic, but words matter. Right?
The term originates from the French word for "raw" in the term used by Le Corbusier to describe his choice of material béton brut (raw concrete). British architectural critic Reyner Banham adapted the term into "brutalism" (originally "New Brutalism") to identify the emerging style.
The very first paragraph of the article is completely wrong:
it was a term of abuse for the work of architects whose buildings confronted their users — brutalized them — with hulking, piled-up slabs of raw, unfinished concrete. These same architects, centered on the British couple Alison and Peter Smithson, enthusiastically took up Brutalism as the name for their movement with a kind of pride, as if to say: That’s right, we are brutal. We do want to shove your face in cement.
This is depressing to think about this revisionist history. This was apart of the modern architectural movement of the 20th century, not some sort of audacious idea of an your face art movement.
Just. . .so. . .wrong on so many levels
If you can find any information about how Le Corbusier coined the term and when, it would be great if you could add it to the Wiki page!
"Beton brut was born at the Unité d'Habitation at Marseilles where there were 80 contractors and such a massacre of concrete that one simply could not dream of making useful transitions by means of grouting. I decided: let us leave all that brute. I called it 'beton brute' [bare concrete]. The English immediately jumped on the piece and treated me (Ronchamp and Monastery of La Tourette) as 'Brutal' -- beton brutal -- all things considered, the brute is Corbu. They called that 'the new brutality'. My friends and admirers take me for the brute of brutal concrete!" 
It is only in french that there are these connections though, in english as well as many other languages it only has the harsh, violent meaning.
This is all discussed in the documentaries I've linked elsewhere in this thread.
I don't think it's clear where Brutalism first came from, or why Le Corbusier coined it. His style was something different again - detailed, sometimes whimsical, but in concrete.
http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/herit... Has a fair summary.
Whether it started as "The New Brutalism" from the Reynar Banham essay or not, it was soon just "Brutalism". That was the architectural style: angles, textures, shadow, imposing mass. A plainer variation without texture or detail. Just ugly slab sided concrete. Both variations co-existed, not just cost-cutting, so probably architect preference too.
It didn't brutalise the users, or shove your face quite in it... yet.
"New Brutalism" was the urban planning movement that Alison and Peter Smithson created after falling out with CIAM. They might have named it more helpfully! "Streets in the Sky" etc. To them it was an impersonal socialist utopia. People were irrelevant. Much of the bad rep of Brutalism is here. The Smithsons seem to have been as good at architecture as they were urban planning (terrible). It's said they led the simpler, plainer variation, but their own buildings had many inconsistent variations from either Brutalist style, they made frequent use of brick. The odd fancy style at variance to everything. Heating and leaking issues were common from new.
Wikipedia conflates Brutalism and New Brutalism too.
We might remember the style less harshly, but it also coincided with significant economy - especially in Europe with post-war rebuilding, and the horrible fad of New Brutalism planning.
The reality was often living in an inconvenient slum in the sky, with poor access, little thought, and nowhere to sit, or let the kids out. They failed quickly as communities and places to live. They often needed repair before first use.
The better examples (most of those we kept) are mostly public buildings, had enough design to be interesting, but worked as buildings. The urban planning of New Brutalism is usually markedly absent. The worst, mostly now blown up, were some combination of the urban planning and cost cutting combined. Usually combined with the simpler slab sided brutalism. No consideration of humans, or life. Often built so cheaply as to need repair immediately. Brutalism of style, urban planning or brutality of life rapidly became indistinguishable.
We arrived at Brutalism the insult. The end of New Brutalism in the UK came with the building of Hulme Crescent https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulme_Crescents (It's an entertaining read - how to get everything wrong.)
Opened in 72, failing in 73, and the final nail of New Brutalism socialist utopias in the sky. Just three years after opening, 96.3% of residents wanted to leave. Later the estate had the highest suicide rate in the UK.
The architects had also given Manchester the universally reviled Arndale Centre, so far over budget it almost bankrupted the city. Numerous refurbishments were done to try and make it work. It improved, but never really worked before the IRA demolished it. No one killed, but hundreds injured.
The rebuild was dramatically better, though took some years to complete. How the architects got a second job in the city has never been explained.
There would still be the odd building with Brutalist achitecture, the urban planning movement was done.
The early Brutalism of texture, shadow, angles is vastly more interesting than modern curtain walled retail and commercial, with a cliche barn clock, or cutesy feature, and cost as first, last, everything.
Source: I'm old enough to remember them still building this shoddy junk, and making promises about brutalist buildings, Hulme Crescents, shopping centres etc. Fortunately never had to live in one.
See e.g. https://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/the-hulme-c...
"First and foremost, the Crescents’ system-built engineering was a disaster. The blocks were erected too quickly and their construction inadequately supervised. Reinforcing bolts and ties were missing; problems of condensation emerged from poor insulation and ventilation; vermin spread rapidly through the estate’s ducting.
Whose fault was that? Local authorities – pressured by central government and driven by their own ambitions to build big and build fast – can certainly take some blame. The Government’s National Building Agency, which promoted industrialised building but failed to provide any effective oversight, is also responsible.
But arguably it is the cartel of construction companies which dominated system-built housing in the sixties and early seventies which is most culpable. The construction industry sold products unfit for purpose and failed to meet even their own standards of quality control."
That site doesn't show the post war town plan for Hulme. Whilst modern it was still a community with amenities, church and I think swimming pool. The first phases of building were typical 60s semis and maisonettes with 4 stories. Amenities central to the marketing and town plan didn't get built at all, the end result bore no resemblance to the plans. That wasn't unique - it was increasingly common for the amenities to never arrive, or arrive as after thought long after people moved in.
That wasn't unique to New Brutalism of course - even Wythenshawe an estate that's far more traditional had issues with inadequate amenities.
There was certainly govt pressure, it was one of the reasons my father left local govt in '74 whilst central gov was reorganising for more centralisation. The bidding war for more housing by all post war govts meant less and less was being spent per family unit, and as you point out they got ever more industrial. For the record father was not town planning. :p
The design, and specifically streets in the sky, and the very limited number of stairways wasn't shoddy construction. Neither was having to walk 1/4 mile to get from your door to three floors below. Those were designed in. Those weren't uncommon features. Many developments with the new town planning suffered from appalling access, or lots of walking to get a hundred yards. It was a feature not a bug.
There's other factors too, like in an age of Police still walking the beat, they never patrolled the decks. They just walked through the middle at ground level. So much for streets in the sky. The Mancunian Way just added to the isolation, yet it would almost be the millenium before a footbridge was built.
Fortunately, whoever bore most blame, The Crescents saw off the last of the town planning cargo cult.
While I don't disagree with any of your analysis, I also believe that somewhere along the line the architects and engineers that design a building have to take into consideration that a building also has to be actually built. It's not enough to simply design something that can be built and can be shown to be structurally sound if built to your exact specs. If you know that your design will be built by lowest bidder, unskilled labor and contractors with no experience in more advanced building technique, then you probably shouldn't design a building that needs to built with very exacting tolerances using cutting edge materials and techniques.
Brutalist concept models must have looked super cool in miniature form though. Blown up to life size? Just a lot of flat, ugly, oppressive, senselessly artless concrete slabs.
I find architecture that slaps old forms onto new buildings to be...gross. There's a couple of skyscrapers just outside of Houston, for example, with fucking red shingles on it, like it's an adobe house in the desert or or something. So much architecture glues on a bunch of columns, ornamental lintels, fancy molding, etc. When placed on a structure that is huge, particularly one that is much taller than it is wide, they look ridiculous.
I think there are good buildings that were built in almost every era; but, some eras are less ambitious than others. Brutalism was, at least, ambitious. I think there's a reason so much scifi and futurist imaginings feature brutalist architecture. It is an architecture that screams "there are no limits to what we can build!" I think that's pretty cool.
It's all subjective, of course, and we all have our preferences. But, calling it "objectively wrong" seems hard to defend. It is only objectively wrong if it fails to function as a building for people to live or work in. If it leaks, if it falls down, if it is difficult to heat and cool, if it inaccessible to the people who need to use the building. Those are ways to measure architectural wrongness objectively. It's safe to say that some brutalist buildings failed to live up to their purpose, but that's true of many architectural projects. Having the style fall out of fashion, due to a reactionary response to the new and very different, and the buildings fall into disrepair because of it, is not really the fault of the architecture. Old buildings get renovated every 20-30 years, or they stop being relevant. This is true of even iconic buildings like the Empire State building.
Anyway, I quite like brutalist architecture; I don't mean I like it with no discrimination. I still just buildings on their own merit and being in the right style doesn't mean I'll like it, any more than me saying I really love punk rock means I would ever listen to Green Day or Bad Religion. But, there are brutalist buildings that I find beautiful. And, a lot of stuff that followed that I find horrible.
And there is no reason at all to restrict yourself to architecture after brutalism. The Romans figured it out. The architects of the art deco era figured it out. Those ideas are still valid, they still make for beautiful buildings, and we should reuse good ideas because, again, we have to live with the damn things, day in and day out. We can pick and choose what few ideas were good since then and also include them. Prevailing construction techniques might not always allow for it, but we should try.
But some ideas, like brutalist architecture, are a failure, and should never be re-used. I'd rather get a bland design in almost any other style than a brutalist design.
That said, feel free to post some examples of your favourite brutalist architecture, maybe I overlooked something. I'll only be judging them from pictures, which is entirely different than actually seeing the thing in person and having to deal with it; the utter bland enormity and lack of detail gets much reduced when shrunk down to a screen, or student model. But it's something.
You could probably save most brutalist structures by covering them in beautiful murals. Then at least the vast expanses of no detail at all works to your advantage as a convenient canvas. The Bierpinsel in Berlin is not a bad effort in this regard: http://berlin.citysegwaytours.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/20...
Personally, I adore the brutalist aesthetic, for example, everything in this photo: http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/5356556-3x2-940x627.jpg
Now I'm sure you'll hate it, and that's not because you've overlooked something, but because we have different tastes, ie, it's subjective.
Nah, it's just one word. That doesn't cancel the rest of my arguments.
You're right, I hate it. It's lazy and bland ("you know what's amazing? gray"). I've even been in a place that has a very similar design. It felt like a dead area to me. Looks like the very definition of soul-crushing. People like blue skies over gray skies for a reason.
It does, because the rest of your arguments are expressing the same attitude.
You're saying "I think it's ugly, anyone that doesn't share my tastes is wrong, and no more buildings should ever be built in this style."
Which would be fine if it was presented as opinion, but you've presented it as fact, which makes you incorrect.
I think that anyone who prefers that to https://www.rhodes.edu/sites/default/files/u321/About%20Rhod... is objectively wrong, in the same sense that someone who thinks Steve Buscemi is more handsome than George Clooney is objectively wrong.
With people, being a good person can be more important than looks; with buildings, being well-formed can also outweigh looks. But that, again, is where brutalism tends to fall down: unlike traditional architecture, it tends not to work on the level of the individual human being. It doesn't prioritise the experience of those inhabiting it, but rather the experience of those viewing it (it is, in that respect, 'arch'), nor those who must maintain it for its inhabitants. It's not situated to receive natural light and heat, but rather to receive natural and artificial light to make an interesting play of shadow in photographs. It's not full of little rooms and cubbyholes and shelves, because those wouldn't look as neat in a model. It's not full of decoration and ornament, moulding and waistcoating, glasswork and patterns of colour to delight the eye over decades, in part because those wouldn't show up in the model and in part because its designers simply don't care.
Brutalist architecture is, in the end, a boot stamping on a human face, forever.
Edit: You're using objective for emphasis, in the same way people use the word "literally", when they don't really mean it literally. There is no "objectively" right or wrong when it comes to matters of opinion or taste, they're by definition subjective. I'm shocked I have to spell this out for you.
No, I'm saying that your taste is objectively wrong, 'in the same sense that someone who thinks Steve Buscemi is more handsome than George Clooney is objectively wrong.' He's simply not (which says, of course, nothing about his value as an actor or a man, just about his value as a model).
Tastes can be wrong. Brutalism is wrong; objectively wrong: it denies life and organic beauty (the only beauty that can exist, because we are living creatures). Some things are indeed matters of taste, but others are not. If one writes the number which consists of adding unity to unity as 2 or II or ٢ or २ or ꤂ or 𐒢 doesn't really matter, but if one writes it as PA͉I͓͍͇͜N̵ ̗̻̗p̴̻͙͚͇̳̹ͅa̦i҉̥̫̥͓n̖̭ ̼͕D̻̤̘̮̼̣͜E̴͇̦̟͚͚A̞͇T̴͎̮͔̣͔H̟̻ ̩̥͕̯͙̘D̶̳̞̘͇̠̳̦e̳̥̖̺̯̺s̤̰̬̺t́r̗̼̳u̲͉͎̩̱c̩̬̮̣̫̭͇͟ţ͉̝i̫̝o̗̞̫n̟̘̹̥̖ ̞̝P̪A͓̞͍̭ͅI͚̲̬͙Ṉ̫͉̥ then yes, one is wrong.
For a similar argument that doesn't make use of the word 'objective', see http://www.paulgraham.com/taste.html
You clearly very strongly dislike brutalism, and that's OK. But, you aren't the dictator of what is and isn't in good taste...some people are going to like things you don't like, and you're going to have to accept that.
I wonder how age factors into this question. I'm just over 40, and I suspect I might be a little too old to be part of the next generation that seems to have a revived appreciation for brutalism (but, I like it anyway). But, my parents definitely didn't like it, and from what I can tell there's a generation that's about my age and older that may always have unpleasant feelings about brutalism, while younger folks don't have the same baggage about it.
So, if you don't mind me asking, are you younger than me, or older?
Today, they're populated almost entirely by Somali immigrants, which really makes for a particular Third-World feel that's not visible from photos. Cedar-Riverside is a lively and densely populated neighborhood, and the towers definitely dominate.
The colour does remind me a bit of a Mondrian, but I think it should be removed from the earth just as one would remove mercury-contaminated soil.
Please no more of that.
You may not appreciate it, and that's a fine opinion to hold. But Brutalist architecture can't be "objectively" wrong, for the same reason that the color red can't be "objectively" wrong.
The ugliness goes away after a while, the ugliness you get used to, the ugliness is a matter of opinion. What didn't go away, what wasn't a matter of opinion, though, was the utter disregard for what James Howard Kunstler calls "human scale". The walls of this building ran, STRAIGHT UP without interruption for 15 stories from the plaza outside of it. You couldn't sit next to it, get in it, see inside of it, or shelter under it. You COULD walk a half block away and sit in a nice park. But the building stood in disregard of and negligence to the humans attempting to use it.
Of course, I'm only just parroting the ideas of Kunstler, which you can read or watch here: http://www.ted.com/talks/james_howard_kunstler_dissects_subu...
The University of Alberta has many brutalist classics that went up during the oil crisis of the late 70s (boom times for Alberta) long after brutalism had gone out of fashion. Edmonton built some nice brutalist courthouses remniscent of Boston City Hall, a brutalist art gallery, and brutalist legislature grounds among other buildings.
I grew up in the north Edmonton suburbs where a brutalist shoopping mall was erected, it was schockingly out of place. At the back was a terraced park plaza that was concrete, lifeless and featured a gigantic fountain (that never worked) that was a labynthine pile of concrete blocks and slabs.
I used to love going there as a kid, it was always desserted because it was so ugly and it served as a generic backdrop and playground to act out my dystopian sci-fi fantasies.
The plaza and fountain has since been torn out and replaced by something less alientating, and now people actually hang out there, which is disappointing.
Speaking of Boston, I must admit that the redone, cleaned-up Brutalist modern wing of the Boston Public Library while, of course nowhere equalling the original Beaux Arts structure, actually feels open, welcoming, and airy. It was truly awful previously.
This building and space feel like something straight out of a Eastern European Soviet bloc country. I think Kim Jong-un would be impressed! It's hard to believe a city so beautiful would chose such ugly architecture for it's government.
That said, it's exacerbated by the huge bare surrounding expanse in a northern city that's cold and windy for a significant chunk of the year. There's work going on at the moment. I'm pretty sure I'll never like the architecture but with a reasonable exterior space it may be more tolerable.
So there's room in the world for all kinds of tastes. Some people enjoy black metal with unintelligible screaming as the lyrics, for example.
However, even black metal fans do not usually force everyone in their neighborhood or their workplace to listen to black metal, and if they did it would be seen as unacceptable.
The Dept of Energy building looks rather similar to Simon Fraser:
Isn't that just sort of an application of Sturgeon's law?
Although I suppose that given how expensive a building is to put up, there's a lot more push back against ugly things.
I think the "international style" has a much better hit ratio though. So there really was/is something uniquely bad about brutalism.
(My pet theory is that it's a style designed to look good in black-and-white photographs - presumably because that's what architects tended to be judged on in those days? - at the expense of looking good in real life)
The concretes building are fairly recent. Not sure there was enough time to have a sort of "return on investment". And breaking down something of that scale is quite an undertaking.
The first thought that struck me when I saw it was "that is a visual expression of Orwellian thought".
Deep down a majority of people prefer to live in houses that look like this:
Do you remember the Shire in the Lord of the Rings? That is a synopsis of what people feel when they think of 'home'. Honest, humble but well crafted dwellings affordable by the average hobbit. As master Bilbo is keen to tell us:
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
Brutalism is quite obviously something that came out of Minas Morghul.
It is an architectural anti-thesis.
Yup, exactly. There is little more care for the inhabitants inside than there is for the ants, the ivy, the birds, the earthworms which could live on & around a homier structure. A Brutalist building spares no more thought for its inhabitants than does an abbatoir for those who enter its confines: they are a necessary nuisance, but mustn't be permitted to intrude upon the happiness of the architect anymore than absolutely required.
The Brutalist Le Corbusier famously said that a house is a machine for living in, but what he really meant is that he thought a home is a machine for performing intellectual labour, consuming calories, excreting waste and engaging in other animal activities as required. In other words, he didn't really know what it means to live; if he did, then he would have known that a house is not a machine, but rather a fractally intricate ecosystem, itself contained within even more intricate interlocking ecosystems.
I don't actually blame him: he lived through the collapse of civilisation that was the Great War, and then the complete nightmare of the Second World War. He had seen so much that was great and good ground up in destruction, so much that had seemed so permanent turned to ash, that I can understand why he didn't think permanence could be found in an organic, human scale of building (it's much the same sentiment which fuelled Hitlerism & Stalinism: the old order had fallen, and the only thing many people thought they could turn to for strength was raw totalitarianism).
Brutalism is a kind of totalitarianism of architecture, a demand that those who build, those who inhabit and those who maintain must constantly bend their wills to the will of the Great Man (the architect), bend without love, without understanding, without hope, without fear, without joy, just mute, abject obedience to a cold and uncaring plan.
No thanks. Give me ivy, give me bricks, give me marble, give me dirt and grass and trees; give me men and women and children; give me sheep and dogs and horses; give me colours and light and ornament; give me emotion and delight; give me, in short, life.
When it doesn't it's horrid:
Maybe that's why I'm not an architect though.
OK you have to admit this really nifty. It's a watertower!!
Another great (to me at least) looking brutalist building in Johannesburg is UJ (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/Universi...)
Edit: The company was great, but I hated being in an anonymous office park. Sad to see that kind of thing built with how much beautiful architecture there is over there.
It is almost the physical manifestation of enterprise software: ugly, minimally functional, uncomfortable to the hapless inhabitants, and impossible to maintain.
The article references the lament of brutalist fans that the near-universal hatred of these buildings results in neglect. The reality is that the prioritizarion of hubris over function translates to buildings that aren't fit to purpose. Wacky sight lines usually translate to complex roof and gutter systems, which fail. Poor engineering practice makes HVAC difficult to deliver, resulting in high costs and poor occupant comfort.
While visually striking, it is a labyrinthine nightmare on the inside and almost impossible to navigate if you have to get to a class.
This is juxtaposed when set next to the Frederick Weisman Museum which was designed by Frank Gehry: https://www.bluffton.edu/homepages/facstaff/sullivanm/minnes...
Overall, the whole campus is a pretty good study in architecture.
Most of SFU (Simon Fraser University) is brutalist.
What crock. If it were about telling it how it is, there wouldn't be a bunch of superfluous, structurally challenging lumps coming out of the buildings.
Basically the campus started with a bunch of kind of interesting brutalist buildings and build around it to house its growth from 15,000 to 60,000 students. They mixed huge modern glass with brick and the campus is spectacular.
But for every Khan there are a dozen insipid and unwelcoming municipal courthouses and depressing tower blocks. This presents some good contrasts between the two in New York City alone:
Well, at least brutalism isn't as ugly or wasteful of money as the HTML/CSS combo, and unlike the latter at least brutalism is not fundamentally wrong, so there's that.
I never got a chance to go inside, or work there, but when I visited a few years ago, and it seemed like the offices had generous windows; however the wood frames were definitely weathered and could have used more care. It's was gorgeous to walk around and I recommend somehow scheduling a tour if you happen to be in La Jolla (San Diego).
It sounds like you're saying "it can't be Brutalist, because it's good." A bit No True Scotsman, perhaps?
(And personally, I've always enjoyed Brutalist buildings; having studied in a few.)
All right, NYT is telling us what to think now?
With this in mind, I wonder what you could do with a 3D printer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQ5Elbvvr1M
It's not pretty, but it is beautiful.
That site has all of his films on there and they're all amazing tbh.
They were overly spacious (i.e. 20 foot ceilings) and ridiculously impractical. If Brutalism is back, we should show it the door again.
They are by far the most hideous buildings in the city.
Is feeling as though one is inside a soulless death-machine a desirable quality in a legislature?