Sunday, January 11, 2009

Art Blogging: Brutalism

Brutalism was an architectural movement that was popular in the 1950s through the 1970s. The movement was initiated by French architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, known more popularly as Le Corbusier. The Brutalist approach was marked by an unashamed display of building functions and construction using poured concrete in a way that did not disguise the rough materials with which buildings are made. Brutalism completely rejected the classical norms of beautification and decoration for hard angles, rough surfaces, and exposed plumbing and machinery. I like Brutalism for its geometric flow and confrontational style.

My first conscious encounter with Brutalism was the Bigelow-Rice Building on the campus of my undergraduate school, Ohio Wesleyan University. It has a blunt character in its blocky slabs of poured and raked concrete.

This building is a Christian Science Church in Washington, D.C. Very pretty, in my opinion. The owners, however, disagree and want to tear it down to build a new building. However, historic preservationists want to force the Christian Scientists to keep their old building, leading to a lengthy legal battle.
Brutalism was particularly popular for institutional buildings, such as schools, libraries, government facilities, and churches. This is one of the many Brutalist libraries across the U.S. -- the Orlando Public Library. Its blunt styling makes me think of street gangs of librarians daring any passerby to start a fight.


Dean said...

The building is our neighbor here in DC. I understand the building was built in such a way that the only way to change light bulbs in the sanctuary is to put up scaffaling -- a very expensive process. My wife and I disagree about historic preservation. When it comes to whether to tear down buildings I tend to go with the free market.

John said...

Me, too. It's not like they're trying to tear down Mount Vernon -- just a building that they build themselves a few decades ago.

willdeuel said...

Faner Hall on the campus of my alma mater, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is a good example.

The building was designed to be "riot-proof," sending the message to SIU students that if you're going to hold a riot don't do it at Faner Hall.

The interior routes from one end of the building to the other are very convoluted. The whole thing is concrete, fireproof, and violence is easily contained by design.

rocksalive777 said...

So THIS is why half of UGA is beautiful and the other half looks like an abandoned industrial zone. I'm glad to know there's a name for the style.

Campus makes so much more sense now.

Anonymous said...

I share your appreciation of the building; it definitely appeals to me as a fan of brutalism and is one of the better examples of brutalism I have seen.

However, the fate of the building is up to the christian scientists. They built it, and they can tear it down if they wish.