Few architectural styles engender as much hatred as Brutalism. The style flourished mainly from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, and if you haven’t noticed yet, it’s everywhere from college campuses to parking garages to government buildings. Brutalist architecture does not sugarcoat the structure, instead allowing these often hulking, blocky, and yes, brutal looking buildings to display their structural components and reveal their functions.
While most architects and preservationists understand the historic importance of Brutalist structures, the average passerby does not. Architect Magazine even published an article last week about the attack on Brutalist architecture happening in a number of cities, including Chicago, Baltimore, and Goshen, NY. Now that many examples of Brutalism are reaching “middle age,” city governments, hospitals and colleges are asking themselves, “Should we invest the time and expense necessary to update “ugly” buildings?”
For the most part, we think the answer is yes- our Cambridge architecture firm is actually working on a Brutalist renovation project right now. We are helping renovate the Claire T. Carney Library at the University of Massachusetts, under the direction of Austin Architects and designLAB architects. The project is a challenge, but we have designed and remodeled plenty of academic spaces. We think that by designing for people, with an eye to both the emotional and physical function of the space, we can create an environment that may change some minds about Brutalist architecture.
Aside from the historic preservation side of the debate, there’s another very good reason to put the effort into saving these Brutalist buildings. Repurposing and re-designing old buildings is a far more environmentally friendly solution than tearing them down and building from scratch.
Could you respect the honesty of a Brutalist building and even learn to love it (or at least tolerate it) with some updates and improvements? Or are you firmly in the anti-Brutalism camp? We’d love to hear from you, so leave us a comment!
photos: Campus Explorer